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Bento Recipes: Manjuu


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Manjuu (or manjyuu, depending on which romanization scheme you use) are basically steamed bunlike cakes. They can have fillings or not. There's lots of different kinds. The filling I've seen the most - and, naturally, the first one I used - is anko, sweet bean paste.

Note: if you tried this recipe and the manjuu came out brown and bitter-tasting, that's because I wrote baking soda in the ingredients list instead of baking powder. That's how it was in the recipes I found, and I corrected for it when I cooked them, but for some unknown reason I didn't copy the right one here. Why, yes, I am a natural blonde, thank you for noticing. Anyway, it's fixed now, and my apologies to anyone who tried the "broken" recipe!

What you need: 

    1 cup of all-purpose flour
    2 tsps of baking powder (double-acting, preferably)
    1/2 cup of sugar
    1/4 cup of water
    1/2 cup of anko (sweet azuki beans), or whatever you want as filler. Can be left out.
    A steamer
    Parchment paper, cut into 2" squares

To make plain manjuu:
Mix the sugar and flour in a bowl. Mix the baking powder and water in a cup. Add the powder-water to the sugar-flour. Mix. Then knead for 10-15 minutes or more. (You can't overknead this by hand, but you can underknead it!) Pinch off bits of dough and roll them into balls (makes about a dozen). Put the finished bits on the parchment paper squares. Place them in the steamer, leaving at least an inch between them as they will puff up. Put a paper towel under the steamer lid so condensation doesn't drip down on the manjuu. Steam for 15 minutes on high heat.

Manjuu with fillings (an manjuu, et cetera):
If you want to make manjuu with filling - say, anko, but it can be something else - then instead of forming the dough into balls make about 12 rounds, not stretching the dough too thin or it might split while cooking. Put some anko on the rounds, then pinch them closed. Put them on parchment paper and steam as above.

I recently tried this with Nutella, a chocolate & hazelnut spread, and it was delicious.

Chocolate chip manjuu:
Something I came up with on a whim. Roll each bit of dough - the same amount you would use for each manjuu in the above recipes - out into a snake, then flatten the snake into a ribbon about 3/4" to 1" wide. Place chocolate chips along the line flat side down, about one every 3/4 inch, then roll it up again. Gently roll this between your hands to form it into a ball. No chips should be poking through the dough. Put them on parchment paper and steam as above. This is especially tasty with dark chocolate chips!

Chocolate-Wigged Manjuu:
Chocolate comboverAnother whim creation. I was trying for chocolate-coated manjuu, but the dipping chocolate never got to the right consistency. Make some plain manjuu and then melt some chocolate - chocolate melts or dipping chocolate - according to the instructions on the package. When it's soft enough to stir with a fork but not yet liquid smear it thickly onto the top of the manjuu and then "comb" it with the fork tines to create the look of a wig.

Drupe Manjuu:
Drupes are fruits with edible flesh surrounding a single pit or seed, for example peaches or avocados. So, these are manjuu with pits. Not actual pits; that wouldn't be very appetizing. I make these by putting a sweet, non-salty nut in the center, for example a chocolate covered macadamia nut. To make these, simply follow the directions for an manjuu, using the nut in place of the anko.