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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sakura Cookies - The Macrobiotic Way

Sakura Cookies 3

Sakura Cookie Collage 2
Sakura Cookies 6

Something wierd happened when I was traveling to Korea and Japan for business 2 weeks ago. It was mid April, early spring weather that ought to be warm enough for the Sakura (cherry blossoms) to start blossoming in full glory. On the day I was supposed to touch down in Korea, it started snowing in the morning and temperature dipped to 5C when it really ought to be in the 15-20C range. Luckily when I touched down in the evening, weather had become quite normal. My trench coat was enough to keep me warm. Then 3 days later, when I was supposed to move from Seoul to Tokyo, I saw with dismay that it too started to snow in Tokyo - the latest snow in history, according to NHK news. The weather fairy must have been  exceptionally partial towards me on that trip for by the time I touched down at Narita that afternoon, blue skies and temperate weather greeted me.

The Sakura was blossoming in full force when I was in Korea. I was at a reknowned reserach institute to do a technical discussion and the whole campus was bathed in the powdery pink softness of the blossoms. Utterly breath taking. Unfortunately by this time, Tokyo has already seen its Sakura blossom season come and go. However, the celebratory mood for the arrival of spring is still very evident. Food, pastries and fashion items with sakura motifs are prevalent.

During my trip to the fine baking supplies store Cuoca, I picked up a new sakura cookie cutter, sakura extract and Sakura flakes. While searching for a recipe to play with my 'new toys', I had really wanted to make something that is healthier - to experiment with something along the macrobiotic line - after I had spent 2 hours in a bookshop in Tokyo poring over their collection of macrobiotic recipes. I found my recipe reference eventually in my trusted Okashi Cookbook by Keiko Ishida. She had published an eggless green tea cookie recipe based on unbleached flour and ground almonds. Instead of sugar, brown rice syrup and maple syrup were used. Grapeseed oil replaced butter. I tweaked the recipe for my Sakura Cookies.

Sakura Cookies 2

The end results is a subtly fragranced cookie with a slight saltiness from the Sakura flakes (the sakura flowers are usually salted in Japan for food garnish). The cookie has a firm snappy texture which I was a little unused to. When one has always been striving for the melt-in-the mouth texture in cookies, this cookie started me wondering if this is the way dog biscuits taste. It took a few more cookies for me to get used to the firm snap but I really don't mind to keep a bunch of these around for healthy munching.

Sakura Cookies 1(100)

Unbleached plian flour            100g
Baking powder                       pinch
Ground almonds                     50g
Brown Rice Syrup                  15g
Maple Syrup                          45g
Sea Salt                                 pinch
Grapeseed Oil                       25g
Sakura Extract                       10 drops
Sakura Flakes                        for garnish


1. Preheat oven to 150C.
2. Sift flour, baking powder and ground almonds and chill in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
3. Combine brown rice syrup, maple syrup, sea salt,extract and grapeseed oil in a bowl and mix well. Add the chilled flour and fold in with a spatula, then rub dough quickly with your fingers until crumbly.
4. Roll out to 5mm thickness and chill in the fridge before cutting.
5. Cut cookies with cookie cutter and garnish with Sakura flakes.
6. Bake at 150C for 15mins or until firm. Remove from heat and cool on a wire rack.


Angie's Recipes said...

How lovely they are! I think these would make a perfct crust for a cheesecake!

wendyywy @ Table for 2 or more..... said...

DO they taste as hard as those traditional mung bean biscuits 炒米饼?

I won't mind that, if it has nuts and have a good crunch to it, works out my gums :)

And you purposely bought some grapeseed oil for this.. hahaha!!!
I'm not the type of person to do this sort of stuff. I'll subtitute it straightaway. Salute you man!!!!

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

:) Wendy, actually I can't remember since when but I have been using grapeseed oil/canola oil in my kitchen for the longest time. It was the brown rice syrup and maple syrup I had to get for this -but I know there will be many more chance to use them... Actually, they just taste firmer not like the mung bean biscuits- those are really dry and threatens to break your teeth. hahaha...

thecoffeesnob said...

What odd weather indeed for both Korea and Japan this time of the year. I'm glad the weather stopping wrecking havoc just before you arrived- I imagine it would have been horrible to arrive underdressed.

Anyway these cookies are gorgeous! I'm particularly intrigued by the sakura extract and flakes. Do they impart any flora notes at all?

Quinn said...

I didn't know sakura is edible!!!! And I doubt I can find sakura extracts and sakura flakes anyway here in Australia! And love grapeseed oil, have been using it in place of canola oil for a long long time!

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hi Coffeesnob/Quinn,the flakes area little salty - it is quite common in Japan to find salted sakura flowers. (桜塩漬け)They are normally used in soups or just as a garnish. The extract has a mild sweet smell.

Quinn : I use both Canola and grapeseed oil- because they are very neutral.

Trissa said...

Shirley you are so lucky to be able to travel (I am willing to overlook weather troubles!) and buy new kitchen toys to make such beautiful creations!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I really like the sound ofthe snappy texture and the slightly saltiness! You know I haven't tried that many sakura flavoured items! Lovely cutter too :)

zurin said...

It sounds good to me Shirley. I like snappy...some cookies shd be snappy while some shb be melt in the mouth..theyre just different but equally good...n saltiness is what I like in sweet stuff. It brings out the flavours very well. Sakura sounds exotic...wish we had some here!

Passionate About Baking said...

Hi Shirley,
Sakura cookies sounds special and I'm sure it tastes great too! The only Sakura I've tasted so far is the Sakura Kit-Kat. I love it's flavour. I'm sure your Sakura cookies tastes fantastic too! Wish I could try it someday... ;)
Thanks for sharing!

hannah! said...

dogs shouldn't be spoilt with good stuff like these. ;) said...

Those look AMAZING, but honestly, so does your camerawork. I love your assemblies & composition, and your pictures come out so crisp and real looking. I can almost taste the food!

May I ask what camera model you're using to produce such high-quality pictures?

M. said...

they look beautiful....definitely spring like... :)

tigerfish said...

They look so pretty and esp the nice sakura touch :D ...the hue of pink is lovely.

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hi nomspot - thank you for your compliments. I am still struggling with my photos but recently I have just bought a Canon EOS 500D(Rebel TSi, I believe) and am having alot more fun and control over my photos :)

Tigerfish, I am so glad that you can detect the hue of pink- I actually added a tinge of pink colouring (extracted from beetroot) but thought it didn't show through..

Swee San said...

They looked really pretty and I doubt I could find sakura flakes or extract here in M'sia. :(

Jared said...

nice looking cookies. I didn't know they have sakura extracts. What does it taste like. I wonder if it would be a good idea to make panna cotta or ice cream out of it.

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) said...

The sakura cookies are so pretty! Too beautiful to eat them :)

carrie said...

i came across your blog while searching for madeleine recipes & now i got an idea for my next batch of madeleines =D i had bought a jar sakura flakes & now i know what to do with them. yay!!!

Eater and Meeter said...

I've got a question regarding baking or using sakura leaves.

Can you just pick them off a tree and use them in baking or will i die from them? haha!
i love sakura, but am wanting to know how to use them... fresh!


Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Michelle, I really wish I know the answer to your question... I have only seen Sakura leaves sold in the wet/vaccum packs... these are normally used in the preparation of steamed rice / cakes (as wraps). I wouldn't suggest you pick from the tree and eat them straight away... I will ask my Japanese friends next time..


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