Friday, May 15, 2015

Kuri Manjū 栗饅頭 (Chestnut buns)

Today's coffee: Spring-colored blend (春色ブレンド)

I have lots of things on my bucket list of stuff I want to do before home assignment. A few of these are cooking projects—making sure I can make from scratch certain foods that I can easily get here but not so easily in the US. (If you come over to my house while we are on home assignment, you will likely benefit from this.) Although it is possible to get wagashi (Japanese sweets) in Seattle, they are expensive and would require a special trip into the city… so I definitely want to be able to make a few simple sweets myself—wagashi are an important part of tea ceremony!

I’ve long admired Mrs. Haga, a church member, for her delicious kuri manjū, so I asked her to teach me to make them. Last Saturday, Noriko and I spent the afternoon at Mrs. Haga’s house, learning to make kuri manjū… and of course, taste testing! I have translated the recipe below.

Kuri Manjū 栗饅頭 (Chestnut buns)

Ingredients, for 15 manjū:
  • 50g sugar
  • ½ large egg, beaten
  • 10g butter, chilled
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 100g flour, sifted
  • 240g shiro an (白あん, sweet white bean paste), chilled (I'll try to post a recipe for this soon...)
  • 15 sweet stewed chestnuts (栗の甘露煮, kuri no kanroni)
  • For the glaze:
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 1 teaspoon mirin
  • White poppy seeds (けしの実, keshi no mi) (If you can’t find these, normal poppy seeds should work fine; they’ll just look a bit different.)

Remove the chestnuts from the syrup, and remove excess syrup with a paper towel.

These are the store-bought stewed chestnuts.
These are the ones I made.
Divide the shiro an into 15 equal portions, and roll into little balls.

Measuring the shiro an
"Make sure it's chilled. Otherwise it's too sticky."

We actually made 16, so we split the shiro an into four equal balls, which we checked with the kitchen scale. After that, we did our best to divide each ball into 4 equal portions (didn't bother to weigh those.)

Spread out each ball to form a little pancake shape, and set a chestnut in the center. Wrap the shiro an around the chestnut; roll around in your hands until the outside is smooth. Cover in plastic wrap and set aside.

Put the butter and sugar in a bowl; break up the butter with a wooden spoon and work it into the sugar. Add the egg and mix.

Put the bowl over a pot of simmering water (you can use a double-boiler if you have one). Stir continually until the sugar has melted somewhat.

Set the bowl in a larger bowl of cold water and chill it a bit.

Dissolve the baking soda in a bit of water; add to the butter-sugar-egg mix. Add the flour and blend. (It’s probably best not to over-work this dough.) When it’s just blended, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Now it’s tea time! Go take a break.

We were joined by enthusiastic taste-testers, Mrs. Suzuki and Mrs. Aizawa (Mrs. Haga's younger sister and daughter)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).

On a lightly-floured work surface, divide the dough into 15 equal portions. Roll each one into a ball; using your flour-covered fingertips, spread them out to little pancakes. You want the center to be thicker than the edges.

Put one of the chestnut-shiro an balls into the center, and wrap with the dough and pinch shut. Round the bun in the palms of your hands; the shape will somewhat depend on the shape of the chestnut, but generally you want to aim for an oval shape. Make sure the shiro an is completely covered.

Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. Brush with just a tiny bit of the glaze; really, just a little, since you want it only on the top, not the sides. Sprinkle with some white poppy seeds.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Now it’s tea time, again! Kuri manjū are delicious hot, or you can keep them for a couple weeks.

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