There is a kid’s cartoon character in Japan called “Anpanman,” translated in English as “Bean Bun Boy.” He’s a superhero version of a popular Japanese confection anpan — a sweet bread roll (pan) filled with red bean paste (an) — dressed in a dandy cape. He helps the needy by letting them eat a part of his head (don’t worry, the new head is subsequently replaced by his creator and baker, Uncle Jam). His friends are Currypanman (curry bread man) and Shokupanman (white bread man), and his enemy is Baikinman (bacteria man).
I once heard that many Japanese baby’s first word is not “mama” or “papa” but is “anpanman,” because kids respond to all things round, like Anpanman’s perfectly circular face. I’m not too certain how scientific that study is, but I can totally believe it. Go up to any kid in Japan and show them the picture — they’ll definitely know who he is.
I’m excited to find out what Pon Pon’s first word would be. I hope it’ll be mommy or daddy, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if it’s food related, considering who her parents are.
I tried making this popular Japanese sweet from scratch the other day, by making the bread and red bean paste at home. I must admit that the baking universe is extremely complicated and often humbling. The moment you think you’ve got the hang of it, the yeast God drops you down to earth and make you modest.
My anpan came out a-okay but certainly didn’t have the light fluffiness and the golden surface that make this confection so special. Mine came out pretty dense and flat, and totally pale. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong here (my other bread attempt came out pale as well ) but it never comes out the way I like. It’s not that my bar is high – it’s just that bread-making is a complex art that takes years to master — and I’m still a complete rookie. But I think that’s why I’m so intrigued by it.
You can find the recipe for Anpan bread from Runnyrunny999’s Youtube video! My breads didn’t come out perfect, but his did on the video so the recipe must be good! I won’t re-post the recipe, but here’s the recipe for the homemade red bean paste instead!
Inspired by another wonderful online cooking show, Cooking with Dog
Note: What you see in the following pictures are for a larger batch. I tripled the below recipe so I can freeze the rest and use it later. If you’re not a crazy anko lover like me, the single portion should suffice your sweet tooth.
200 g dried azuki beans
180 g sugar
700 ml water
A pinch of salt
Put the azuki beans in a large saucepan or pot and cover with water.
Bring the pot to boil in high heat, then reduce it to medium-low heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Dump the water using a mesh colander. Return the beans to the pot and add enough water to cover. Bring the pot to boil again in high heat, then reduce it to medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Repeat this one more time.
Add the measured water and cook the beans until tender. You should be able to smush it with your fingers. The Cooking with Dog’s instruction directs to use a drop lid while cooking the beans but I skipped the step because I was too lazy to make one …
Drain the water, reduce the heat to medium-low, and add in ½ batch of sugar. Stir constantly until the sugar melts. Add the remainder of the sugar and stir. Add a pinch of salt. Be careful not to burn the beans (or yourself, as the beans are piping hot from sugar). After the beans soften, turn off the heat and let it cool completely.
Optional: After the beans cooled, I mushed the beans using a hand-held blender. If you like anko strained with no lumps (koshian), blend completely. I like mine with some texture left (tsubuan) so I left half of the beans unmushed.
Make anko balls by taking a small amount and rolling it in your hands. Make eight anko balls to be used for anpan. I froze the rest of the balls, along with the leftover anko in a freezer, for future use.
(Please follow the video’s instruction for the next steps!)
Still waiting for Anpanman to rescue me …