No discussion about amazing food creations can go without mentioning traditional Japanese desserts known as wagashi.
(101 Ways to Play With Your Food, ideas #31 to 40)
Oh little hanamidango, so cute and plump…what better way to celebrate cherry blossom season!
These tiny sweets take the art of beautiful confection obsession to a whole new level. Flickr member jam343 shares a slideshow of some awe inspiring treats that he made while Blogger Lovescool came up with her own daifuku recipe. Her favorite NY shop Minamoto Kitchoan has a good wagashi faq.
The intense sweet flavors of these little desserts are meant to be paired with a slightly bitter tea, such as matcha, and are traditionally served during a Japanese tea ceremony.
Wagashi come in many flavors and shapes and often take inspiration from nature. One type (called higashi) is made from a glutinous rice flour, sugar and starch mixture and then pressed in molds to form dry sweets. My favorite Ping Mag design writers recently found a market stall in Kyoto selling vintage candy molds, including a large number of flowers and leaves.
If you live near San Francisco you can sign up for a wagashi workshop. The Urasenke tea practitioners association has collected a large number of wagashi recipes which you can view online. Including… Koshian (sweet bean paste), plum shaped Aoume, chrysanthemum like Kiku, and space age Ajisai kinton.
Toraya is Japan’s oldest confectionary company, providing the Imperial Court with many exclusive sweets. Journalist Hilary Hinds Kitasei was lucky enough to take a class with their master chefs. Her first lesson of the day was “laboriously boiling beans at exactly 50 degrees Centigrade but no higher… straining, re-boiling, and finally squeezing out all of the liquid. Then sugar is added, no less than 60 percent of the beans by weight.”
Clearly, Toraya chefs understand that to create a masterpiece the artist must know their medium.