Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pie Crust Manju

Are those chocolate-filled biscuits? Nope--pie crust manju!
It's no secret that Japan is teeming with a scrumptious selection of sweet treats: Portuguese-inspired castella cakes, chocolate-stuffed butter biscuits stamped with Hello Kitty and other epically cute animals, and decorative blocks of jelly-like yokan, just to name a few.

But if there's one Japanese dessert you've got to try, it's Pie Crust Manju.

Imagine biting into a tender, buttery bun made of crisp, flaky pie crust. You then discover a generous dollop of sweet red bean paste, or an, cleverly hidden in the middle. Smooth, yet grainy, the an offers a gentle sweetness that marries perfectly with the slightly salty pastry shell. It's a modest, unassuming dessert. And it's something foodies and newbies will both like. After all, what can be so bad about pastry crust packed with sweet filling?

Traditionally speaking, manju is a small steamed cake filled with red bean paste, a cousin of another Japanese classic dessert, mochi. In Hawaii, they like to change it up a bit by baking manju and even making manju filled with sweet potato.

The recipe I used is from an old KTA supermarket ad that my grandma cut from the paper years ago. I used to love the Pie Crust Manju from the KTA bakery when I was growing up, so I thought it was only fitting to try their recipe. It doesn't produce exactly the same results, but gosh darn it, is it ever good. If you've ever made any kind of Asian dumpling or bun (manapua, siu mai, etc.), then you can definitely make this.

The one change I suggest is increasing the size of your dough balls. Although the recipe instructs you to make them golf ball-sized, I followed this step and ended up with a lot of extra dough. The manju then proceeded to crack open in the oven because there wasn't enough crust surrounding the an. Sad, but nonetheless tasty. I also omitted the egg wash at the end of the recipe just because I didn't have any eggs in the fridge. It's a skippable step, but the beaten egg will add a nice glossy sheen to the manju. Enjoy!

Pie Crust Manju

1 lb. (4 blocks) butter
1/2 C sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
5 C flour
3/4 C condensed milk
1 pkg. Shirakiku Brand Koshian or Tsubushian, 17.6 oz. (sweet red bean paste)
1 egg yolk (beaten)

Cream butter and sugar. Mix dry ingredients and add alternately with condensed milk. Shape dough into ball, size of golf balls. Then flatten and using a spoon fill with Koshian or Tsubushian. Cover completely and pinch underside to seal. Brush manju with beaten egg yolk. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees (preheated) for 30-40 minutes or until slightly brown. Let cool.
Will make approximately 18-20 pieces.

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