Japanese "Desserts"
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Sakura Association routinely organizes seminars and courses on various aspects of Japanese Culture. This time the seminar was about Japanese traditional sweets.

(Personally I am not a great cook, and I doubt I should invest in that direction, but it was something that looked like potentially fun, and I also wanted to take my mother with me... and she is a great cook).

Before the actual practice we got a bit of theory: basically Japanese meals don't have a "dessert". Sweet food is at beast treated as a snack, or may be served as a side when drinking tea.
This also means that - in order to correctly underline the tea taste without overpowering it, they tend to be blander than western people would expect.
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The seminar was held by Muramatsu Nori (link takes to her site, in Italian), who lives and works in Turin, where she teaches Japanese cooking, trying to realize a good "fusion style" merging Italian taste with traditional Japanese recipes.

Most of the things we tried our hands at (literally) needed some sort of jam/marmalade made with Azuki or other types of beans. This necessarily meant that most of the basic stuff was pre-prepared by Nori herself, otherwise the three hours would have been mostly devoted to basic ingredients pre-processing.
Not to mention that we would have needed one stove or fireplace for each participant.



Below I show some of the stuff we worked on.
DSCN0117Shiratama Dango - (roughly: "white pearl dumplings") - you start with a special glutinous rice flour and mix it with water.
DSCN0119... and work it in small balls, no larger than a marble. They should be more regular and spherical than this, hopefully
DSCN0121Then you cook them in water. As soon as they surface you drop them in cold water to cool them down.
DSCN0132They don't have any particular taste, so they should flavoured somehow. Here you can see a "glaze" made of powdered toasted soy and sugar.
DSCN0145Another possible use is a sort of "soup" (called Zenzai) made with sweetened Azuki. Can be served warm or cold.
DSCN0128Mochi sweets. These had been prepared beforehand - we tried these too but the results were less "proportioned". It's basically a sort of "ravioli" made by putting a bit of sweet azuki paste in the middle of a mochi disk and then wrapping it up. The leaves in the picture were used to show the traditional way to prepare these, but are not edible.
DSCN0147Green Tea Biscuits - these were closer to our own ways, and I must confess these were my favourite. These had been prepared in advance, too.
DSCN0140These are traditional sweets made of Azuki paste. You shape it in a sort of sphere, then sculpt it a bit and highlight it with coloured sweet pastes (they can be made, among others, with saffron, green tea, beets, pumpkin...)