Red Bean Gyoza for Dessert, Anyone?

anko gyoza lined upWhen I was making gyoza for dinner the other night and had a couple of round potsticker wrappers left over, I came up with a great idea of making dessert gyoza … and thought why not use anko, the sweet azuki bean paste, as filling?

I’ve had ichigo daifuku in the past — a soft mochi with anko and a large strawberry in the middle — so the idea of making anko gyoza wasn’t too foreign to me. I was, admittedly, still a little worried about how well they would turn out but I figured combining two of my favorite ingredients, sweet luscious red bean spread and chewy, fluffy dumpling skin, cannot be that bad.

Anko and anything made out of azuki beans is seriously one of my favorite things in the world. As much as I adore chocolate and consider myself a severe chocolate-holic, if it really comes down to it, I would choose azuki over any chocolate confectionaries. Azuki is what I grew up with and the sweetness and the distinct taste of this dark burgundy spread is embedded in my DNA.

anko gyoza insideI’ve tried many azuki brands over the years but my ultimate favorite is the ogura an made by Morinaga. I prefer the “tsubuan” with little bits of bean still in the paste, instead of “koshian” with smoother consistency, and these azuki cans are usually available in the Asian food section of your local supermarket (unless you happen to live in a city where there is absolutely no Asians in sight).

To make these little dumplings, I followed the same method for regular gyoga.

Well, even though the finished product looked more like Aranzi Aranzo’s Warumono than an appetizing dessert, these little morsels were surprising delicious. I really liked how the azuki paste oozed out after a bite (heavenly). I enjoyed them warm but these can be chilled and enjoyed cold the next day – if they can last that long, that is.

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A Sweet Culinary Playground: Green Tea Cake

One thing I regret to this day is not visiting Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki when I was in Paris a few years ago, to experience his famous Matcha Opera Cake, or any of his world-renowned green-tea inspired desserts for that matter. Ever since I read about him about five years ago in a Japanese fashion magazine, I’ve been smitten by his creativity and the ability to incorporate traditional Japanese ingredients such as matcha (green tea) and yuzu (citrus fruit) into authentic French pastries, and I’ve been inspired to include something similar to my own baking repertoire.

The thing that kept me from making any matcha desserts until now, however, was my inability to locate green tea powder, which is the key component of these desserts. I had tried several Japanese grocery stores in the past but all I could find were “green ice tea mix,” which already included sugar. And when I finally did find them, they were too expensive for me to afford. Then, when I was making my regular rounds to Teavana the other day, I ran into one that was reasonably priced at $16 an once so I snatched up a couple for my pantry. Now fully equipped, I was eagerly ready to enter the Franco-Japanese culinary melting pot.

While visiting Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit a few months back, I encountered this amazing recipe for Green Tea, Lavender, and Honey Cupcake Bombe. I had since filed it away in my baking “to do” folder hoping to someday bring it to life, and I was able to finally wipe off the dust and put this recipe to work! I thought about making the full-blown version of the bombe at first, but after contemplating I decided to just try the green tea cake recipe for more simple dessert.

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Would you like a cake to go with my butter?

I recommend this recipe to anyone who is interested in making a dense, moist, oh-so-heavenly matcha cupcake or a sheet cake as I did here. I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of butter and sugar that went into this beautiful pistachio-colored batter but you will realize when you take a first bite that all the fat and calories are worth it.  And because it is rich, a small slice will satisfy your sweet tooth. One mistake I made was mixing the matcha power with the dry ingredients when the recipe called to dissolve the powder with milk and incorporate it into the wet ingredients.  Oops (but the end result still came out perfect, thank goodness).

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Look how beautiful the batter looks!

My initial plan was to sandwich the sweet red bean (azuki) paste between two heart-shaped cake, but the cake was already pretty thick so I settled on placing azuki on the side, and finished off by sprinkling powered sugar on top. I matched the cake with steaming Japanese green tea, of course!

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I really like the simplicity of this dessert. Keeping everything beautiful yet clean and simple allow the flavors to take center stage, which is what makes Japanese and French desserts truly timeless.