I remember when my family and I first came to the states back in the 80s, it was virtually impossible to find delicate, French-inspired confections what rivaled those available in Japan. Dense sugary cakes topped with thick buttercream (with artificial colorings) and overly sweet and brick-like brownies filled the supermarket bakery counters, and those airy sponge cakes that we were so accustomed to were nowhere to be found.
That’s when my mother learned to bake at home. I think she baked almost every day one year. I looked forward to coming home from school every day, knowing that lemon-infused madeleines (she baked them in cupcake tins because she didn’t own a shell-shaped pan) and heavenly chocolate vodka cakes (yes, vodka!) would be waiting for me upon my return.
The dessert landscape has certainly changed in recent years. It’s now possible to bring home wonderful, high-quality cakes, cookies, macarons and any other confections imaginable, from even as close as your local neighborhood grocer. But there’s something still very empowering about baking things you crave at home, in your own kitchen, whenever you want, however much you want.
My recent empowering moment – making dorayaki, one of my favorite Japanese confections, at home! When the craving strikes, but a trip to a nearest Asian supermarket is out of reach (with a little bebe sleeping in the crib), we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do to satisfy the urges!
(Makes 12 pancakes; 6 dorayaki)
Recipe taken from Cooking With Dog; I doubled the recipe to make more
160 g granulated sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
100 ml water
260 g cake flour
5 tablespoons water (to adjust the thickness of the batter at the end)
18 oz (1 large can) Azuki (sweet red bean paste)
① Beat eggs, sugar and honey with a whisk. Beat the mixture for about 15 minutes. I used a stand mixture with a whisk attachment.
② In a separate bowl or a cup, dissolve the baking soda with water. Add it to the egg mixture, and mix.
③ Sift cake flour and add it to the egg mixture; mix but be careful not to over mix.
This is the consistency of the batter.
④ Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and set aside for about 30 minutes.
⑤ Adjust the thickness of the batter by adding water, one teaspoon at a time, to achieve the perfect consistency. This is the consistency that you’re looking for. You want the batter to flow down the whisk effortlessly without being too runny.
⑥ Heat a griddle or a non-stick pan. Drop the batter onto the griddle or pan; it should naturally form a circle when you drop the batter gently.
I noticed that the surface will come out perfectly brown (without any inconsistent spots) if you don’t oil the pan. Make sure to use the non-stick kind so the pancake slides right off the surface.
⑦ Flip the pancake when the bubbles form on top. Cook the other side for about 20 seconds.
⑧ Get the pre-made anko (sweetened azuki beans) ready. You can get this at most supermarkets (in Asian grocery aisle) or at Asian stores. You can always make your own but I found the canned version to be too delicious to pass up. I can eat the entire can by myself in one sitting!
⑨ Scoop about 2 tablespoons of anko and layer it onto one side (the “wrong” side) of the pancake.
⑩ Take the second pancake to sandwich the anko. You’re all done!
These dorayakis are amazing. The cakes (called “castella” in Japan) are perfectly bouncy (different from a regular breakfast pancake) and the combination between the sweet cake and azuki is simply divine. I might like the homemade version better than the store-bought ones! If you store them in the refrigerator, it’s best to bring them to room temperature before you eat them by leaving them out for about 15-30 minutes (they are much softer at room temperature).
I’m glad I found a YouTube cooking show called, “Cooking with Dog,” that shows viewers how to make Japanese food and desserts. Each show is narrated by an English speaking dog, Francis, with thick Japanese accent. It’s hilarious and informative – do check it out!