Do you look forward to springtime? I can tell you that actually spring has just started according to the old lunisolar calendar. The period of the beginning of spring is called ‘Risshun’ in Japan and it’s between the 3rd – 18th February this year. I must say that Japanese are the nation who’d like to celebrate any seasonal occasions so of course we never miss the chance at this particular time of year, however, it’s not for the beginning of spring.
The one day before the beginning of spring is called ‘Setsubun’ (the 2nd /Feb this year). It’s not a national holiday, but rather significant day for most Japanese and there are a few customs we do on this day depending on the area. One of the customs widely done on this day is ‘Mame-maki’. It’s the getting rid of demons and bringing luck into the house ritual. Quite often one of the family members wears a demon face-mask and stands at the entrance of the house and other people throw roasted soybeans (peanuts in shell instead in some area) at him/her from inside the house by shouting ‘Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!’ which means ‘Demon’s (Oni 👹) out! Luck gets in!’. Another popular custom is eating a futomaki sushiroll with seven fillings called ‘Ehoumaki’ by facing to a certain direction (it’s west-south-west this year).
Ehoumaki Sushirolls & Mame-maki Sweets
I created miniature versions of Ehoumaki sushirolls (cut version) and Soybeans in wooden cup for Mamemaki with Japanese sweets.
During the first lockdown in the UK, I made Babka twice. One was with Cinnamon and the other one was with Chocolate. When I was eating it, I thought that babka must go well with some Japanese ingredients. I’ve been thinking to try making my Japanese Babka for a while but didn’t have a chance … until recently.
Just before the UK went into the second lockdown, I started participating a virtual Bake-Off competition that is hosted by my local deli shop. The first task was Babka so it was the great opportunity for me to try creating my imaginary Japanese Babka.
Matcha Babka with Sweet Azuki Bean Paste & White Chocolate
I added Matcha green tea powder to the brioche dough to give the pastry beautiful green colour and also, sweet but a little pungent green tea flavour. For the filling I spread ‘Tsubuan’ sweet Azuki (red) bean paste all over the stretched dough and then scattered some white chocolate pieces on top. What I aimed to create was a great contrast in colour as well as flavour.
How was your Easter? It was very nice that we had great weather for this Bank Holiday weekend. About one week before Easter time six people gathered in a Tea shop in Soho London and my Workshop in April finished successfully. It’s great the daytime is becoming longer now and when we started the Workshop at 7pm the outside is still bright.
Wagashi Making Workshop (April/19)
This time all the participants had tasted my sweets before and we had two workshop repeaters amongst them.
Look how smiley everybody in the workshop is. Of course they looked very serious when they had to concentrate on making the shape of the sweet but quite often we all went in bursting a laughter! It was such a relaxed great atmosphere. It’s great to see everyone was enjoying the time being there.
Two weeks ago I hold a ‘Wagashi’ Japanese Sweet Making Workshop. It was at a Tea specialty shop in Soho London and the workshop was combined with a Japanese Tea tasting session. This time we had six participants and they were composed of two friends with a daughter, a couple and a French lady. They all had been to Japan or lived there before so everyone knew what we were going to create so I could start the class very smoothly.
Wagashi Making Workshop (03/2018)
These are the Wagashi sweets I planned to make together with the participants.
We are in March now and going to have one of the Japanese customs tomorrow on the 3rd of March. It is Girl’s Day called ‘Hinamatsuri’ and we pray for the health and happiness of girls by decorating special Hina Dolls in our houses on the day. This day is also called ‘Momo no Sekku’ which means Peach Festival and we place peach flower in a room or eat peach fruit or peach flower shaped sweets. I have created some sweets in a shape of Hina dolls in the past but I made a simple dessert for the coming event this year.
Momo-Mochi Matcha Zenzai
I created ‘Momo’ (Peach) flower shape in a bowl and had it with Matcha tea in ‘Zenzai’ style. Zenzai is a sweet soup type dessert that we normally make with sweet Azuki (Red) bean paste during a cold season. I created this Matcha version to make it suitable for spring. It is very easy to make at home so I am going to share how to prepare this dessert.
This post became a much delayed report but last month I had an opportunity to hold another ‘Wagashi’ Japanese Sweet Making Workshop in London. This time it was at the very posh lovely Tea speciality shop My Cup of Tea which is located near Piccadilly Circus. Maybe because it was a weekday and also in the early evening we had two male enthusiasts amongst female participants. It is great to see many people from both gender getting to know about Japanese sweets culture and being interested in even making them.
Wagashi Making Workshop in London October 2018
The theme of the sweets we made in the Workshop was Flowers. I planned to make three sweets that are visually pretty but not too complicated to produce for beginners. After a short introduction the workshop commenced.
During the Easter Holiday I make Hot Cross Buns almost every year. I like the spices and dried fruits inside the buns and of course plenty of clotted cream on the halved and slightly toasted buns too. However, this year I wanted to make something a little different. Something a little more Japanese … so, I decided to add a Japanese ingredient into buns.
Western people might think that Japanese are eating rice all the time but actually we love bread. In Japan we have all sorts of bread from savoury to sweet. One of the Japanese favourite sweet bread is Anpan which is a bun filled with ‘An‘ (Sweet Azuki Bean Paste) in the centre. I decided making this Japanese nation’s favourite buns for this Easter by mixing with one of the most famous Japanese flavour ‘Matcha’ Green tea.
Matcha Hot Cross Anpan
As this was for the Easter I made a cross on top and call it Matcha Hot Cross Anpan!! It went fairly well, apart from … it’s overbaked. The batteries for my timer ran out so I did not time the baking. I distructed using the computer and forgot about the baking. It turned out that the top became too dark and hard to see the cross. It also dried up a little and the Sweet Bean Paste is not as moist as it should be.