simple cold dessert recipes for Japanese junior high school students
July 4, 2016 1:14 AM   Subscribe

I'm teaching English in Japan. I help with English Club and the students (ages 12-15) have asked to cook something with my help. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at cooking.

Details and Limitations:
- some ingredients will be hard for me to find (this is a smallish city), and others I will probably have to substitute things in (other types of crushed cookies for graham cracker crumbs, for example; not sure how easy to find cornstarch is; and so on)
- some ingredients will be a bit expensive. I definitely don't want to ask the teacher in charge to buy 8 ounces of cream cheese for 15-20 students each when they're like $3-$5 each and he's paying out of his own pocket. (I asked him about asking the students to bring ingredients. He had a sort of non-response which I think means it isn't really an option, and it would be kind of a logistical problem anyway.)
- as I mentioned, I'm not very good at cooking. I have almost no experience baking and I have messed up things like making smoothies, if that gives you any idea of my lack of instinct. The recipe needs to be fairly simple for my sake as much as, maybe more than theirs. For all I know they're amazing chefs who cook all the time.
- The proposed date for this cooking lesson is 7/19.

Potential issues:
- Not sure if I can let them store any food in the school cooking room's fridge or freezer overnight (and I think delayed gratification would be a disappointment anyway)
- Not sure how many are coming. 15-20 is the average attendance.
- How to portion out ingredients so that each student can make their own dessert? Most recipes give you the serving size, so I can go by that sometimes, though I'll have to translate measurements.

So I would appreciate any recipes, tips, or things not to do. Recipes for individual desserts seem promising, but I run into the portioning problem again. Plus all of those desserts need to be refrigerated for a few hours at least, a thing I'm not sure I can/should do. (I could ask them to bring a jar? And they could take it home to refrigerate??) A milkshake or smoothie they could eat right away but it seems a bit ... silly, and I'm not sure how I would make that individualized. Maybe some kind of fruit crumble thing that they could put over store bought ice cream?
posted by automatic cabinet to Food & Drink (17 answers total)
How about some konnyaku jelly desserts? It would be also something familiar enough for them (so they can help you too!) and easy enough for you to get the supplies (sample recipe). aside from the jelly and sugar part, everything else is up to you, since it's very versatile.
posted by cendawanita at 1:42 AM on July 4, 2016

Can you use heat to make it? If so, one of my favourite childhood desserts was cornflake cake - we used to ad a little desiccated coconut at the end, which just soaked up any remaining chocolatey mixture and helped clean the pan.

You can either make individual portions or have them work together and then divide into bags or cupcake liners, or jars, or bowls, or whatever works for you. It can be eaten warm or later while cold. It's snacky but indulgent.

In the UK the ingredients are super cheap - you'll need to check availability. You can probably google substitutes for golden syrup as I know that's not available everywhere. Good luck!
posted by kadia_a at 2:36 AM on July 4, 2016

How about an ice cream sundae bar? Or even simpler and cheaper, ice cream floats. Two kinds of ice cream and two types of soda to let the kids make their own combination. The ice cream may be expensive, but in a float a little goes a long way. One scoop per person should be plenty.
posted by defreckled at 3:18 AM on July 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If its doable, you'll need a fridge or freezer for an hour or so for chocolate coconut balls, but they're pretty simple to make?
posted by speakeasy at 4:01 AM on July 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if you asked for a cold dessert because the cooking room doesn't have any stovetop burners or because you think it will be easier for you if there is no baking or heating involved. Something I made often as a kid that has simple and relatively easy to find ingredients is caramel. Condensed milk and corn syrup are not traditional in east Asian cooking, but thanks to the U.S. military presence in Japan and Korea, fairly easy to find even in smaller towns.
I would suggest making caramel apples, but it's summer and from what I can tell, out of season fruit is super expensive in Japan.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:22 AM on July 4, 2016

Trifle is very English, it's cold, customisable to ingredient availability and if you make it in individual servings, doesn't need refrigeration. Buy premade plain cake of any variety, premade pudding or custard if available, or skip if not, tinned fruit of any kind, jam of any kind, whipped cream, and chocolate. In the individual bowls, layer cake, spread with jam, pour over custard if you have it, then fruit, then cream. Grate chocolate on top if fancy. Eat.
posted by lollusc at 4:32 AM on July 4, 2016 [10 favorites]

I have a few ideas - choose the one that fits the ingredients requirement best. But all of them are fairly simple technique-wise and pudding-y in context.

1. Fruit fools. This involves just making some whipped cream and folding either mashed or stewed fruit into it (mashed if it's a super-soft fruit like any of the berries; stewed if it's a sturdier fruit like rhubarb). "Folding" things is a careful form of stirring - you gently stick the spoon down to the bottom of the bowl and scoop stuff at the bottom up to the top, and just keep doing that again and again until things are as mixed as you want them. Even better, with a fruit fool they don't need to be 100% uniformly mixed - streaky looks good in this case.

2. Trifle. Store-bought cake, pudding or custard, jam or fruit, and whipped cream. Maybe juice or liqueur. You cut up the cake into chunks, dump it into a glass bowl, sprinkle a couple spoonfuls of liqueur or juice over if if you're using it, then pour jam or fruit on top of it, pour custard on top of that, and then maybe a little more fruit or jam in that and then whipped cream on that. Let it sit for about an hour and then dish it out. You can totally use store-bought cake, custard, and jam if you want. And the flavor combinations based on what you choose will make this (nigella Lawson once made a Black Forest cake inspires one I dream about - chocolate cake, chocolate custard, and cherry jam.)

3. Eton Mess. This is as easy as trifle, and very British, but I am not sure if you have pre-made meringue cookies there. If you do - go with this, because this is super-traditional in England and that could make for a cultural discussion. All this is, is - crushed meringue cookies and sliced strawberries mixed into whipped cream.

4. Pots de creme. There are a lot of recipes for this online, but generally this just involves putting egg yolks, chocolate and very hot milk in a blender, blending the whole mess up good, and then pouring it into serving dishes and chilling it for a couple hours. If you are uneasy about your ability to heat milk in a saucepan without scorching it, the microwave works too.

5. There is this recipe I just found that is nothing more than mixing melted chocolate into yogurt and using that as a topping for raspberries.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:37 AM on July 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Ice cream in a bag!
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 4:39 AM on July 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

D'oh! It isn't hot milk in pots de creme, it's hot coffee. This recipe for pots de creme from Ree Drummond is not just easy, it has lots of pictures and is fun to read.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:42 AM on July 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Why does it need to be cold? Because summer? Because no stove? Those things make a big difference.

When I taught over there one of the teachers insisted on making cookies with the kids, which was an unmitigated disaster since the school didn't have ovens, and we tried to bake everything in those 'Oven Range' convection oven/microwaves. I don't think one batch came out 'right.'

I did have a lot more success with sauteed peaches over vanilla ice cream with my students. (peaches, brown sugar, butter - put in pot, get hot, put on ice cream. Bam) Though I can't remember where I got the canned yellow peaches anymore. Do you have a Kaldi Coffee Farm near you? Those can be a godsend of western foods. And if not, Rakuten or Amazon Japan have pretty much anything you need.

If you have access to multiple stovetops and it doesn't absolutely have to be cold, I'd suggest doing something where you can break into different teams and have people do different things. Like pancakes. One team can make pancakes for everyone. One team can cut up some strawberries, add sugar and cook it down a little to make a strawberry topping. One team can make whipped cream, etc, etc, until you have a bar of different toppings, then you all sit down and eat together. ( You could do this with ice cream toppings too, I guess)
posted by Caravantea at 6:17 AM on July 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Rice Krispie Treats. You do need a heat source to melt the marshmallows and butter together, but that can be a microwave, a hot plate, anything. After that it doesn't even need to be baked, just allowed to set up. Can be cut into individual portions easily.

edit - I wouldn't worry about having them each make their own - just grab volunteers for the very simple steps (melt, mix, press into pan, cut.) And of course this is American, not English - not sure if the club is a culture club or a language club?
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:07 AM on July 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was going to say Rice Krispie Treats also. I used to make them with my after school kids and they 're incredibly easy, highly customizable with chocolate chips and M&Ms and dried fruits, you can mold them into weird little shapes and they are absolutely delicious.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:31 AM on July 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

that's true yesIsaid!! Now that I think of it, you can make them individual - instead of pressing into pan, you can just scoop out a portion for everyone and they can mold them into whatever they want.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:34 AM on July 4, 2016

I'm not sure if you asked for cold for simplicity or lack of oven, but assuming you have a means to melt chocolate, either by microwave or stovetop, my suggestions are:

Oreo cookie balls. Yes, there is cream cheese, but an 8oz package makes 48 balls. I think you could divide the ingredients by 4 and then each student can make 12. Bonus: there is only 3 ingredients! (Note: you will need to borrow the refrigerator for an hour for this one.)


Puppy Chow. I think it would be fun explaining the name to your English Club and, again, really simple (and tasty). Only 4 ingredients!

I think it would be best to break up your students into teams (maybe about 4 per team, any larger and I think the portions they are working with would be too small) and give each team enough ingredients for a whole recipe. Then give instructions for the recipe with the original recipe's portions divided by 4. Dividing into teams would simplify the pouring/mixing chocolate step as you would only need to melt 4 bowls of chocolate instead of 16, for example. (Or I guess you could just melt enough chocolate for the whole class and portion it out individually.)
posted by sevenofspades at 8:50 AM on July 4, 2016

Best answer: In high school in US one of our classes did the ice cream in cans thing (officially we were exploring tcp/ip computer protocols) it's common at kids camps. You get two coffee cans, one smaller than the other, ice and salt in between them. Fill inner can with ice creamningredents, roll until frozen. A team of four can make ice cream by taking turns and split it. So you would need 10 cans.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:27 AM on July 4, 2016

Response by poster: Oh, sorry -- I said cold because that's what the students requested (we're all dying of humidity right now). The school has a kitchen/cooking room specifically for the students to use which I have not inspected thoroughly, but I'm sure there are both ovens and stoves. The regular Cooking Club seems to make a lot of soups, and the previous English Clubs have baked cookies and cupcakes before.

And yeah, it's English Club as in the language, not the culture, but that's fine, they will be interested in making "western" foods anyway.

The suggestion about breaking up tasks is really useful, thanks.

I have not seen any rice krispie like cereal in the supermarkets around here, but I know you can do it with other cereals, so that's still an option! Thanks everybody.
posted by automatic cabinet at 2:47 PM on July 4, 2016

Hey neighbor, I'm in Korea and done similar activities. You can make rice krispie treats with puffed rice (which is basically what rice krispies are). I am not like 100% on Japan but I know it's pretty common here in Korea as like an old people's snack. And the cultures are pretty similar, so it's something to check as well.
posted by FakePalindrome at 5:54 PM on July 4, 2016

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