Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Kuri Manju

If you know me, you'd know that I am a sucker for all Japanese goodies and in particular Japanese sweets (aka wagashi). Additionally, if you do the grocery shopping or buy Japanese goods in general, you'd know that it ain't cheap. No sir. Typically different sweets go for at least a dollar a pop so why not make your own? So here is Kuri Manju: a yummy baked confection often filled with some sort of bean paste. Making manju from scratch takes a lot of effort especially if you're making it yourself but it's totally worth it in the end. I sort of cheated in this recipe because I bought premade adzuki paste and precooked/prepealed chestnuts but hey whatever works for you! Next time, I might try and lotus seed paste filling. Unfortunately I did not get to taste these clearly myself because I got hit by the stomach flu the night after making these but according to my grandpa, they were great! I hope you enjoy these as much as everyone else did.

Kuri Manju
200 grams pastry flour (alternatively 150g cake flour + 50g all purpose flour)
50 grams sugar
25 grams butter
1 egg white
2 yolks
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 package adzuki paste
1 package peeled and cooked chestnuts

1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon milk

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Lightly beat the egg yolks and gradually add the mixture into creamed butter and sugar. When incorporated, gradually add in egg white. The resulting mixture should be smooth and velvety. If it is grainy, then you incorporated the eggs too quickly.
4. Mix flour and baking soda and add it to the wet ingredients from step 2.
5. Knead the mixture until it does not stick to your fingers and comes away easily from the bowl. Wrap the dough in plastic and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
6. Divide rested dough into 20 equal portions. (If you have a scale, I think it is best to get the weight of the entire dough and pinch off the appropriate amount as you go so it doesn't dry out as quickly.)
7. Roll the dough into a ball and flatten dough. (I did not use a rolling pin but instead pinched and rotated the dough and flattened it between my palms.)
8. Fill the skin with a walnut-sized amount of adzuki and place half a chestnut in the center.
9. Stretch the dough over adzuki and chestnut and pinch the ends together to cover filling completely. Shape as desired. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
10. Arrange the manju on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes or until tops are browned as desired.
11. Serve with tea!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Takikomi Gohan

Although I prefer plain white rice with my meals I will make an exception if the dish is light and simple; this recipe is just that. I present you with my newest creation: takikomi gohan with edamame! According to wiki, takikomi gohan is "a Japanese rice dish served with dashi and soy sauce along with mushrooms, vegetables, meat, or fish." You will typically see this made with mushroom and carrot, however my recipe includes edamame and hijiki seaweed instead. Oddly enough, I got this idea from a Trader Joe's advertisement. Never heard of hijiki seaweed? This is actually my first time working with it. It is fairly neutral in flavor but serves to add texture and a certain nuttiness to the dish. It is also beneficial in that it is high in fiber. Did you know, a diet high in fiber lowers cholesterol? This was literally an experiment but I think it turned out well. As my Japanese coworker would say "very helsy!" Please enjoy.

Takikomi Gohan
2 cups japanese rice (haiga rice was used in this recipe)
3 cups water (amount of water may vary depending on the rice used)
1 1/2 cups shelled edamame
1/4 cup dry hijiki seaweed
4 abura-age pouches cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sake
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dashi powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 green onion for garnish

1. Follow instructions on package as to how to prepare hijiki seaweed. I used the welpac brand hijiki seaweed so I soaked it for 30 minutes and then strained it. Try and squeeze as much excess water out as possible. 
2. In a sauce pan over medium heat mix soy sauce, sake, mirin, and brown sugar together. As the mixture begins to heat up, mix in abura-age strips and hijiki seaweed. When the mixture starts to simmer, turn off the heat. 
3. In a separate pot or your rice cooker, add rice, appropriate amount of water plus dashi powder and salt. (Some varieties of rice require some soaking time before cooking.) Mix well and place contents from step 2 evenly on top of rice. Cook as usual.
4. When rice is cooked, add edamame and gently mix ingredients together with a shamoji (aka rice scooper). Garnish with green onion and serve.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cream Scones

Hurray for my first post! I actually made these back in January after having been inspired by the scones I had at Chado Tea Room. Flaky, decadent, light; they were simply divine. Having said that, I was set on recreating these flaky morsels and I've found a recipe that comes pretty close. This recipe is an adaptation from Smitten Kitchen. Since I did not have heavy whipping cream on hand, I used normal whipping cream. In addition, I painted a cream wash on top of the unbaked scones for a golden finish. It was actually not as nicely browned as I would have liked so maybe next time I will try an egg yolk egg wash. I have yet to try, but I am pretty sure this can be a base for all varieties of scones. Please enjoy!

Cream Scones
2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoon chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 in cubes
1 cup whipping cream

1. Adjust oven wrack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F
2. Whisk dry ingredients together in large bowl (flour, baking powder, sugar, salt)
3. Using a pastry scraper (alternatively you can use two knives or a food processor), cut in butter until it resembles a course meal.
4. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula until dough begins to form ( approx 30 seconds).
5. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead dough by hand until it just starts to come together. At this point you can either make triangular scones or round scones.  To make triangular scones press the dough into an 8 inch cake pan, then turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 wedges and voila! Alternatively, roll out dough and cut with biscuit cutter.
6. Place rounds or wedges on ungreased baking sheet, paint on eggwash, and bake until the tops are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on a wire wrack for 10 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy.

You can serve these with jam, honey, or whipped cream as I did here. Homemade whipped cream is super duper easy to make so don't buy the canned stuff. Yuck! It takes less than 5 minutes so just make your own!