Japanese food has always been close to me. One of my closest cousins used to cook delicious Japanese food, and also near my home there was the best Japanese restaurant owned by a Japanese man who was not only a great chef, he was great company, whilst one being in the other side of the bar he will have great conversations. One time I went with Yoko, my Japanese friend, and she admitted that was a very good Japanese restaurant. So I knew that I was going to the best in town. When I visit Monterrey, the first thing I want is to eat my mum's food, and then, Sushi!!!! I live in a small town here in England, and although there is plenty of foreign food, there is no Japanese, lots of Chinese, Indian and Italian, specially!!! In all of this time of being in contact with Japanese food, I have never eaten Japanese desserts, nor even Japanese bread. What I learnt was that all bread making is of western influence, but Japanese have managed to make their own version of of them.
I have a lovely Japanese neighbor who shares with me the passion of learning new creative things, her name is Yoshie Allan. She is very creative, and makes lovely things with her hands: http://shieshie.exblog.jp/ she does not like cooking much, but she likes eating, specially those things that remind her of her home land. We decided to "shoot two birds in one bullet" as we express in Spanish and use the time it takes for the dough to rise, so that I can teach her how to make crochet.
We made the children play and dance and took care of sweet baby Melody, we spent a lovely Japanese-Mexican morning of sharing and learning!!!
Anpan is a very traditional snack for Japanese people. As Yoshie mentioned, everyone loves them. And it is very common for children to take them to school. It is not surprising as the main flavor of it are a kind of bean called Uzuki (which is rich in fiber and minerals: magnesium, potassium, iron, folic acid) which are made into a very sweet paste called koshian that Japanese are crazy of! For me it was a very interesting experience and experiment. As a Mexican, I love beans, any form!!! but have never really tried them sweet, actually very sweet!!! I can say that the paste for me is too sweet, but combined with the bread, it makes a perfect match. Yoshie explained to me that this beans taste very sweet when hot, but the sweetness fades a bit when cold, and it is true. So in this recipe, I will not add measurements for the sweetness as each one could do them the way they feel is better for their taste likes.
For the bread I have used a method taught to me by my beloved friend Monica Isabel from Colombia, who also likes to make bread and is very skillful in everything she puts her hands in, she also told me that it was a Japanese trick that I never saw before but that leave a very nice texture in the bread.
Uzuki beans soaked over night. Cook them next day with enough water until very soft, than put them in the mixer to liquidize them, do not put so much water. Then put them in an extended pan to cook them again in low fire. this is the moment that you can add sugar or a sweetener. It has to be sweet. So if you try them and feel it is good, add a bit more sugar as the taste change when cold.
35 gr. flour
Mix the water with the flour well and then cook it in medium fire until thickened. This mixture has to be left aside for 3 hours covered, or it can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.
570 gr. flour
60 gr. sugar
10 gr. salt
60 gr. butter
140 gr/ml milk
1 large egg
In a pan put the milk, the butter salt and sugar and warm it, it should't be too hot, just enough to help the butter soften. In a plastic bowl put the sifted flour and make a hole in the middle. and add the mixture of the cooked flour with water, the egg and the milk-butter mixture and star mixing the ingredients with a wooden spoon first and then with your hands until the dough becomes soft and firm. If needed add more milk in case of being too dry or a bit more flour in case of too sticky.. but the mixture is almost perfect and I will suggest instead to keep kneeling until its firm (around 10 min.). Let it rest for 1 hour or when it has doubled its size.
Lovely Yoshie knealling!!!
PREPARING THE BREAD
Preheat the oven at 180 grades.
When ready, expand the dough on a surface and then roll it into a sausage shape.
Let them rest for 5 minutes and them flat them and add the koshian paste in the middle and close them making a belly bottom in the center and rolling them into a ball and place them in the tray.
Preheat the oven at 180 grades and let them rest for 30 before placing them in the oven. Brush them with a mix of egg and milk with a bit of salt and put a pinch of black sesame seeds on top.