Relive sweet memories with manju
Darrel Higa is homesick in Seattle, particularly for the taste of a sweet potato treat. "On a recent visit back home, I finally had a chance to taste -- or more like devour Mistuba's Okinawan sweet potato turnovers. A close second is Home Maid's sweet potato manju."
Now back home, he's hoping to replicate one of them, to help ease the pangs of separation, no doubt.
At the risk of overdosing on Okinawa today, it did seem like a convenient time to look into Higa's request.
The pastry for this recipe comes from Muriel Miura's "Japanese Cooking Hawaii Style" (Mutual Publishing, 2007, $26.95). It is truly an ideal manju dough, baking up light and flaky. You can use it with any type of filling, from the basic an (red bean paste) to pie fillings.
The filling is improvised, based on a recipe in "Chimugukuru" (see article). Your results will depend a lot on the type of sweet potato you choose (anything from the purple Okinawan type to yams can be used). The important thing is to taste and adjust the amount of milk in your filling to account for differences in the moisture content and sweetness of the potato varieties.
I was surprised at how mild the sweet potato flavor turned out. I'd suggest you cook the sweet potato with a pinch of salt to bring out the flavor, and over-sweeten the filling a little. After baking, it all balances out.
I've found the best way to cook sweet potatoes for mashing is to cut them in chunks and microwave them with about 1/4 cup of water (use high heat for about 8 minutes). Peel them afterward, once they've cooled a bit.
Boiling or steaming work fine as well, I just find the microwave to be neater and quicker.
Sweet Potato Manju
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
6 tablespoons cold water
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 cups mashed cooked sweet potato (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
To make filling: Combine sweet potato with milk. If mixture is dry or bland, add a little more milk. Filling should be moist, but firm enough to hold its shape when formed into a ball.
Combine flour, salt and sugar; blend thoroughly. Add oil and water; mix.
Shape a portion of dough into a golf-ball-sized round. Press with fingers to form a circle, about 3 inches wide (or use a rolling pin to flatten the round). If dough is crumbly, add a little more water (do not add more oil). It's OK if the edges are a little ragged.
Roll filling into balls of about 1 tablespoon. Place a ball of filling in center of dough circle. Gather edges of dough around filling and pinch at the center to seal. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and press to flatten. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Brush tops of manju with beaten egg. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until golden. Makes about 24 manju.
Nutritional information unavailable.
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