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torakris

Japanese foods--Wagashi

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Shiratamako – flour made from mochigome that has been soaked in water for a few days

Mochiko – flour made from dry mochigome

Jyoshinko – made from nonglutinous rice

I'm not much of a wagashi maker, so I can't give you any good advice. One caution, however:

Not all shiratamako are the same. Inferior brands contain uruchi mai (or uruchi gome), i.e., non-glutinous, regular rice.

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I tend to think of shiratamako as better quality than mochiko, but maybe that's only hype.

Texture depends largely on cooking method - steam for chewiness, boil for softness.

Helenjp and Hiroyuki - thanks for your input. I think I will do a kushidango or something like it just to see what flours, steaming vs. boiling result.

Also Helenjp, I just found your foodblog thanks to link within this topic; still learning to navigate around here. It's wonderful and just what I was looking for.

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... popular in the summer because they resemble ice, so they have a "cool" connotation...

They're really easy to make. Break up and soak one stick of kanten, then transfer to 275ml of water and heat gently until melted. Strain, return to pan, mix in 300g sugar, and heat to simmer. Cool a bit, tint, and flavor as you like, then cast in a mold (appropriate-sized flat pan will do).

The thicker, broken edged version mentioned already is one version, but it's also nice to cast them about 4mm thick and use small cookie cutters, too (maple leaf, plum blossom, that sort of thing). It's best to wet the mold and cutters. The cut shapes can then be transfered to a rack; allow them to dry until tacky and dredge in caster sugar, or allow to dry longer until they have a nice crust (as you describe; as they are thinner this won't be much longer than a day). Pack them up until ready to serve.

My tea instructor tends to flavor with mint, lemon, and so forth (not too much), but I've had entertaining results with other flavors - add some cardamon pods or saffron to the mix when you simmer it.

Best,

John

Thanks for the info, I'll have to try that. The ones I had were unflavored, and I never even thought of including a flavoring but that would be good. I have a surplus of saffron right now... hmm :biggrin:

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Decided to try the experiment with the different rice flours. I was not expecting to be able to tell much from the test, but it turned out rather surprising (and quite entertaining as I try to ignore hurricane Ernesto's projected path...)

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At first glance, things look fine. Dough textures are definitely interesting to compare!

I used just the flours, water and food coloring so I could keep track of the batches:

pink = plain shiratamako

white = plain mochiko

green = 70% shiratamako and 30% jyoshinko mix

I decided to steam the batches at the same time - no reason other than a bit of laziness, but after seeing the results, I'm glad I did :huh:

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The shiratamako was very bubbly and airy - made me think of cake flour. Of course, once the steaming was done and I took them out of the steamer --

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--the shiratamako ones totally deflated. Probably why it might do better being boiled than steamed? The mochiko held its shape the best and the mixed batch came up second.

Taste & texture:

pink = very smooth and very chewy, almost like bubble gum. Took a long time to dissolve on the tongue.

white = grainy texture, a little less chewy, quicker to dissolve on the tongue

green = smooth, but by far the nicest bite, very little gumminess, fastest to dissolve.

I was amazed that the jyoshinko addition to the shiratamako would make such a difference. It really places the mix between the two extremes.

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Thank you for sharing your experiment with us, Cheeko.

Which texture did you like the best?

What texture do you expect from dango?

I think I like dango made from joushinko only (although I'm not sure whether regular, store-bought mitarashi and other dango are made from joushinko only).

Here is a recipe for sanshoku dango, if you are interested.

You can view the video by clicking PLAY.

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Thank you for sharing your experiment with us, Cheeko.

Which texture did you like the best?

What texture do you expect from dango?

I think I like dango made from joushinko only (although I'm not sure whether regular, store-bought mitarashi and other dango are made from joushinko only).

Here is a recipe for sanshoku dango, if you are interested.

You can view the video by clicking PLAY.

Hiroyuki;

Thanks for the link - I am always reminded that there are so many ways to make things like dango such as the steaming, boiling and flours used. Your link was the first time I've seen jyoshinko used exclusively. Then again, its all new to me :huh: .

When I eat mitarashi, I like the mochiko dango - probably a call back to my memories of New Years day.

When I eat sweet dango, I prefer the jyoshinko/shiratamako mix, especially in daifuku.

My least favorite texture from this experiment was the plain shiratamko. Just a bit too "glutinous-gooey" for me. I will try it boiled next time around.

Right now, I am struggling with making a gyuhi that I remember having a long, long time ago. Time has probably idealized that experience. Recipes and techniques are differing quite a bit so I wanted to know the flours a little more before I try understand what has gone wrong with each of my batches.

Helen;

I really enjoyed reading whole your blog. Of particular interest to me was your posts on making koshian - something that I've become strangely fond of for stress-management :wacko: I was wondering what your thoughts are on the process of the soaking after the first boil and then bringing the beans to a boil and then changing the water several times. I've done it because I'm afraid not to, but is it supposed to have an affect on the flavor? Or is it for texture?

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Sarashi-an has relatively more changes of water and soaking time than koshi-an - it is paler and more delicate in taste. To tell the truth, a lot of people feel that it is too delicate in taste, especially if they are used to the very dark color of canned, commercial an.

I would change the water once while boiling even if I were in a hurry, but more than that is up to you! It does make a difference - you get less scum with each change of water. However, if you do it more than 2-3 times, I think the flavor becomes insipid.

As for allowing the sieved beans to settle, you can short-cut that if you are making koshi-an rather than sarashi-an.

A mix of shiratama-ko and joushin-ko is normal - thanks for steaming them all together, it was very interesting to see the differences side by side. When I said that boiling creates a softer texture than steaming, I meant "when the same flour is used". I think the mochi-ko may not be so finely ground?

I like to use a kombu-dashi in the sauce for mitarashi dango - motly nostalgia for my time in Kansai, I think.

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I like to use a kombu-dashi in the sauce for mitarashi dango - motly nostalgia for my time in Kansai, I think.

The word "mochiko" is mainly used in Kansai, right? I wonder if your friends in Kanto understand you when you say "mochiko".

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I like to use a kombu-dashi in the sauce for mitarashi dango - motly nostalgia for my time in Kansai, I think.

The word "mochiko" is mainly used in Kansai, right? I wonder if your friends in Kanto understand you when you say "mochiko".

Hiroyuki,

I am used to mochiko from the time I spent in Hawaii, where it is used for everything, but it took me months of searching to find it here in the Kanto area. I did finally find a bag labeled mochiko, so what is it called in this area? Or is it just not used here?

Cheeko,

Thank you for taking the time to do the experiments for us! :biggrin:


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I like to use a kombu-dashi in the sauce for mitarashi dango - motly nostalgia for my time in Kansai, I think.

The word "mochiko" is mainly used in Kansai, right? I wonder if your friends in Kanto understand you when you say "mochiko".

Hiroyuki,

I am used to mochiko from the time I spent in Hawaii, where it is used for everything, but it took me months of searching to find it here in the Kanto area. I did finally find a bag labeled mochiko, so what is it called in this area? Or is it just not used here?

Cheeko,

Thank you for taking the time to do the experiments for us! :biggrin:

I can never be sure about these things, but I think shiratamako is invariably used in households in Kanto to make wagashi that call for glutinous rice flour. Anyway, I wasn't familiar with the word mochiko until this thread!

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I've never been sure if there is a difference between "mochiko" and "mochitoriko" (which is used for dusting surfaces when mochi is turned or kneaded). Since the labels just give the ingredients, and don't state different grades or levels of starch/protein, fineness of grind etc., it's hard to know.

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Sarashi-an has relatively more changes of water and soaking time than koshi-an - it is paler and more delicate in taste. To tell the truth, a lot of people feel that it is too delicate in taste, especially if they are used to the very dark color of canned, commercial an.

I would change the water once while boiling even if I were in a hurry, but more than that  is up to you! It does make a difference - you get less scum with each change of water. However, if you do it more than 2-3 times, I think the flavor becomes insipid.

I've been tinkering with the process, too. I still change the water once, after an initial evening boil. They sit at room temp overnight, then simmer the next day until done with really only enough water to cover (suplement as needed). I'm strongly given to the impression the latter will help preserve the color and flavor. The folks that instructed me have always said that the repeated changes of water make the final product less bitter, but I am no longer convinced. I've given up on more than trivial amounts of salt, baking soda, and whatever. I have also been told that the final koshian, while still gathered in cloth, shold be sprinkled wiith water and re-wrung; again, to reduce bitterness. I remain unconvinved but imagine that this probably is the 'delicate taste' thing mentioned above.

John

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A mix of shiratama-ko and joushin-ko is normal - thanks for steaming them all together, it was very interesting to see the differences side by side. When I said that boiling creates a softer texture than steaming, I meant "when the same flour is used".  I think the mochi-ko may not be so finely ground?

Tht is my impression as well (shiratama-ko is finer and whiter than mochi-ko). I'm also using (as instructed) kanbai-ko (maybe aka mijin-ko in some places and uses) exclusively for higashi-style sweets (rakukan and variations like un-pei). It is also from sweet/glutinous rice and is extremely fine.

I further have the impression, actually, of the japonica rice flours, that joushin-ko is finer than kome-ko (aka uruchimai-ko, mentioned earlier in thread). The latter is nice in dango, but not manju. There is also jouyou-ko, further finer than joushin-ko, which is nice for manju.

I can probably dig up kanji for the less everyday -ko if helpful. Kanbai-ko is a little difficult to obtain, but a helpful confectioner shop would know.

mochitoriko ...

Hmm. Good question.

John

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Helen - thanks for your input. The process is time consuming, but for me there is something a little ritual-like in taking the time to do these sort of steps. Sort of like making coffee with a french press in the morning versus the coffee maker :smile:

John - are you able to get these flours in the Boston area or from Corti Brothers? If you have pictures of some of the wagashi you have been working on, would you share some if you have the time? Otherwise I will have to torture all these nice people with my gyuhi disasters :biggrin:

Hiroyuki - Blue Star mochiko is the only rice flour that I new of until recently. Mom always used it when she made daifuku -- therefor, I have a lot of sentimental attachments to the flour and even its box. It hasn't changed in 30 years!

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are you able to get these flours ... Otherwise I will have to torture all these nice people with my gyuhi disasters ...

I am sadly unaware of a convenient source of kanbai-ko in the US (at the moment, and it hadn't occurred to me to check with the lot at Corti - thanks!). It's not trivial to find in Japan, for that matter, but there are currently a couple of folks here in the Boston tankokai that are kind enough to return with it for me upon traveling.

I have to confess that taking pictures of my efforts (or the nice things that come to our tea classes, for that matter) has only recently occurred to me. I'll work on that, and I'll look through the current collection, such as it is.

Regardless, please keep up with the torturing! Your experiment is terribly interesting, and besides, you get to pick your mom's brain, too. I'm am mostly working on higashi, kuzu-manju style stuff, and fun variations of yokan at them moment, and have only a cursory exposure to dango. Let me dig through my notes for the recipe, though ...

John

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A snack along the way during my walking tour of Odawara. It was a little bit decadent to buy two, but honestly, I planned on only buying the fish. But I couldn't resist the perfectly shaped mizu yokan! I had tried to make mizu yokan on my own earlier, and it looked nothing like this, so I bought it out of admiration. :biggrin: It was so hot outside and both were perfect! I don't know what the fish wagashi is called. Isn't it so cute? :wub: I can't find any similar pictures on any wagashi website so I wonder if it is a local specialty?

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A snack along the way during my walking tour of Odawara.  It was a little bit decadent to buy two, but honestly, I planned on only buying the fish.  But I couldn't resist the perfectly shaped mizu yokan!  I had tried to make mizu yokan on my own earlier, and it looked nothing like this, so I bought it out of admiration.  :biggrin:  It was so hot outside and both were perfect!  I don't know what the fish wagashi is called.  Isn't it so cute?  :wub:  I can't find any similar pictures on any wagashi website so I wonder if it is a local specialty?

That is really cute or should I say it's really beautiful. I don't know if its a local specialty, but I have seen version of this on Flickr: Kingyo Sukui and goldfish bowl.

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After struggling with understanding gyuhi I think I’ve come to understand and appreciate patience.

I purchased a kashigata about three months ago and I really wanted to try it out with a nerikiri recipe. I stumbled through a few gyuhi attempts with some success; a strawberry daifuku and an improvised autumnal-themed…something.

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Although I didn’t feel as if I fully understood what I was doing every step of the way, I felt I could make a decent enough gyuhi to go ahead and make a nerikiri. Suffice it to say, I was very wrong.

Even though many wagashi do not involve flour, leaveners and baking, I’m constantly amazed at how similarly unforgiving the process can be when one step, however small, is slightly off.

Well, in all honesty, my first attempt at nerikiri was riddled with many off-steps; the first being my overuse of the microwave. I had dried out my shiro koshian in step one, but things went from bad to worse when I added that small portion of gyuhi to the dough. The gyuhi that I had made for my as-yet-to-be-determined autumn wagashi was probably a bit too dry and tough to add to an already too dry batch of shiro koshian. I really should have stopped, but I was determined to try my kashigata.

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Poor things never stood a chance...

I was so disgusted by my last attempt and was beginning to convince myself that it was out of my grasp. Usually when that starts to happen, it triggers the stubborn cells in my blood to boil. After a few weeks of trying to avoid another dry and tasteless nerikiri massacre, I went back to the drawing board and tried a different approach. Although I stuck to the original recipe, I referred back to the Waka-Ayu video I watched on this website. I noticed the consistency of that gyuhi was much softer, more gelatinous than my other gyuhis. I tried again with a little more water and a little more starch syrup and the result was a gyuhi that was soft and gelatinous, but much harder to handle as a skin for daifuku.

Again, I can’t say that I know what I’m doing, but this time, the nerikiri dough came out the way I thought it should. The softer gyuhi transformed the bean jam into a very delicate dough that melted on my tongue like a marzipan candy. Although it was easy to handle, it was a constant battle to keep the dough from drying out and cracking (even in tropical Florida).

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After struggling with understanding gyuhi I think I’ve come to understand and appreciate patience.

I had no idea that making wagashi is so difficult...

Your plate looks wonderful, by the way.

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That looks wonderful! It's at least 20 years since I made nerikiri, so you're way ahead of me in technique but I do remember that the slightest change in moisture made a big difference. Maybe try putting a thoroughly wrung-out damp muslin (teacloth or something) over the main portion of dough as you work?

It is an addictive process though, isn't it? The texture is so fine and silky, and the flavor is delicate but definite.

I think you're right to aim for the texture you want, rather than adhere 100% to the directions. If you are using Chinese mochi-ko, or even an unusual brand of Japanese mochi-ko, it will absorb a different amount of water to what your recipe states. You can use almost any bean to make the shiro-an, but again, you might end up with a slightly different texture. More sugar = "wetter" an too!

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... an improvised autumnal-themed …

Hey, that's a great idea! I bet one could still see the leaf shape tucked under the top layer, too (yeah, I see hanabiramochi everywhere, neh?).

Here's some fall sweets:

Rakugan molded from kanbaiko, johakuto, wasabon, and mitsu. Colored with mattcha and paste dyes. It's probably a tiny bit early for the color mix, but we're supposed to anticipate, so what the heck.

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Kuzu (arrowroot) and dark brown sugar (kurosato) cooked in a pot and then molded and steamed until translucent. It has slices of lily bulb (yurine) in it. This tea sweet historically has the poetic name 'hatsugari' (first goose); the yurine are meant to remind one of geese in the fall sky. There are also versions of this made with yokan or wafer cookie (geese are branded on the wafer).

I think it's shinier in the photo than in real life. Hmm.

gallery_46599_3588_10248.jpeg

John

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Thanks for those photos John! I'm really enjoying the mention of rakugan in this thread. In Tokyo, it seems to be so firmly associated with altar offerings that my Japanese friends are rather astounded if I mention any kind of higashi. That wasn't the case when I lived in Osaka, though times have no doubt changed.

So many westerners can't be wrong though! I guess without the associations these sweets have for Japanese, they are just a pretty sweet with a delicate flavor for us. I often make rakugan with a small round measuring spoon, because my rakugan molds are rather large, but it's tempting to go and buy some new ones :smile: . Anybody care to share pix of their rakugan molds (I promise I'll post one/some later).

Yurine: this is also an ingredient I associate with Kansai - rarely see it on sale here in the Tokyo area. Can you tell me where you came across this sweet?

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I had no idea that making wagashi is so difficult...

Your plate looks wonderful, by the way.

I think its difficult more for me because these ingredients are very new and "foreign" to me. It can be like baking in that if one ingredient is out of balance with the others, then the whole architecture collapses. Even my mom is not that familiar with the kinds of wagashi I want to make - she admits that for the most part when she was growing up, wagashi was bought or received as gifts. Her contribution to me during this recent battle was "Yes, gyuhi is hard to get right." :hmmm: In a way we put our notes together (her taste memory, my kitchen disasters) and take it from there. When I back up north to visit next summer I look forward to the critique I will receive from my eager tasters.

One thing Mom did teach us all - plating matters :rolleyes:

It is an addictive process though, isn't it?

There is nothing better than that moment of "...wow, it actually works." Yes, it really is addicting and so much more than something that you can eat. I think that's what really keeps me coming back to wagashi.

yeah, I see hanabiramochi everywhere, neh?

:raz: I really love Autumn -- the first delicate hints are showing down here so I had to do something. Plus I had no saikyo miso or gobo so I thought what the hell. I might have been better off using a yatsuhashi style dough, but I wanted that transparency. I actually tried to put a leaf underneath the white layer, but the more I handled the gyuhi the more I lost the transparency.

Beautiful rakugan! Since I am an autumnal freak, I don't think its too early to reflect on the changing foliage. That is one thing I truly miss about the north. They don't change color here in the south. They just fall off the trees without ceremony.

I guess without the associations these sweets have for Japanese, they are just a pretty sweet with a delicate flavor for us.

That reminds me of the topic of Shokuiku. At least for me, I never gave much thought about food other than beyond the "I-am-hungry" point of view. The fact that it could have more meaning than simple nourishment is something that I am drawn to more and more as I learn these recipes. Another "addictive" factor.

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I'm really enjoying the mention of rakugan in this thread. In Tokyo, it seems to be so firmly associated with altar offerings that my Japanese friends are rather astounded if I mention any kind of higashi. That wasn't the case when I lived in Osaka ...

So many westerners can't be wrong though! I guess without the associations these sweets have for Japanese, they are just a pretty sweet with a delicate flavor for us. I often make rakugan with a small round measuring spoon, because my rakugan molds are rather large, but it's tempting to go and buy some new ones  :smile: . Anybody care to share pix of their rakugan molds ...

I gotta say up front that anything you put it front of me before giving me a bowl of tea, it’s for eating. Still, the pressed sugar higashi are pretty common in chanoyu circles, both here and in Japan (though, of course, my experiences in Japan are mostly in Kansai and were often influenced by chanoyu). I am talking about the smaller ones (as shown), not the larger works which, as you point out, do have a more ceremonial presence. Still, one of them shows up at class, we’ll figure something out (the rarely-heard sound of knives being sharpened back in the mizuya). That whole delicate flavor and seasonal forms has tea written all over it (as it were). I decided for the ones shown to forego any flavor, so that the (newly-acquired) wasanbon flavor could come through.

As an aside, I ran across the large molds (antique but fine for use) at the basement tea shop at Takashimaya in Manhattan. Pricy, but there have been a few on sale on several trips. Apparently, they are in demand as household decorative items (sigh).

I like the spoon idea! (I am a little slow sometimes). You can also press them into those lift out molds for yokan and such and cut them to size. I’ll take some pictures of molds soon.

Yurine: this is also an ingredient I associate with Kansai - rarely see it on sale here in the Tokyo area. Can you tell me where you came across this sweet?

Yeah, imagine how hard it is to find around here – yurine does come lightly blanched, vacuum sealed in plastic and covered with Chinese in the monster Chinese/Asian store here. It wasn’t so much a matter of “come across” as it was one of my instructors suggesting that I bring some to one of the smaller local study groups when I went (guinea pigs, but polite and enthusiastic ones). The one pictured was from last fall; I took a photo at home, but never thought to photograph it on a tray once I was at class (obviously, I remedied that with the higashi, but that was just this past weekend – I’m learning). That batch of hatsugari were slightly over-steamed – they get a little gummy in texture when that happens, but I was still working on getting a feeling for the cooking time. All kuzu-mochi will also get gummy when under refrigeration, which probably limits their availability in places that don’t make them close-at-hand.

Naturally, though, the sweets I’m taught through Urasenke teachers are going to be weighted towards Kansai regional tastes. Although as mentioned this particular one does have several incarnations, it’s a pretty old tradition.

...admits that for the most part when she was growing up, wagashi was bought or received ...

Yeah, that’s the problem though - I'm happy to buy wine, say, from the winemaking experts, but they do sell wine here in Boston. When asked about yokan recipes, one of our instructors actually did pretty seriously answer "Nobody makes it - we just buy it". That works for folks living up the street from Toraya in Kyoto, but otherwise it’s a little more complicated. Naturally, it’s nice to make tea sweets for your guests yourself, anyway.

Since I am an autumnal freak, I don't think its too early to reflect on the changing foliage. That is one thing I truly miss about the north. They don't change color here in the south. They just fall off the trees without ceremony.

Yup – there’s something to be said for seasons. It really isn’t too early; it cooled off over the weekend so the end of summer is on everybody’s mind (and besides, Urasenke is sort of on the old lunar-solar calendar, so fall started last month). The ones I took to class were chosen to have more green than orange and red, just to not be too blatant about it.

John

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