In Japan, sakura (cherry blossoms) signal the arrival of spring. As they bloom, many people participate in the tradition of hanami, which translates to “flower viewing” in English. Hanami festivals are often held at public parks, where friends and families gather to enjoy picnic foods under the beautiful sakura trees.
Characterized by their delicate pink petals, sakura are an iconic symbol of Japan. They bloom for just one or two weeks out of the year and then gently fall to the ground, linking them closely with the idea of change and renewal. In Japan, this time of year also coincides with the new school year and hiring season, further contributing to sakura’s association with new beginnings.
Our recipe for sakura butter cookies is the perfect way to usher in spring and celebrate this exciting time of year.
We start with a classic shortbread-style base. Because the dough is so simple, the flavor of the butter can be perceived. Accordingly, it’s best to use high-quality butter to ensure a rich and pleasant aftertaste. Next, we garnish each cookie with a salt-pickled sakura flower. Salt-pickled sakura are preserved in salt and vinegar for use year-round. The pickling process preserves their fragrant floral tones, as well as their bright color. Highly aesthetic, the deep pink flowers contrast splendidly against the pale, lightly-browned shortbread.
Depending on the time of year, these gorgeous cookies make for a wonderful hanami treat or a sweet way to reminisce on springtime. Serve alongside a cup of green tea for a delightful afternoon snack.
Servings: 16 cookies
- 30g salt pickled sakura
- 80g of unsalted butter (softened)
- 50g of sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 150g of flour
- Pinch of salt
- Soak the salt pickled sakura in water for at least 30 minutes to remove the saltiness.
- In a separate bowl beat the butter with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer until light and creamy.
- Add the sugar to the butter and mix.
- Add the egg yolk and continue to mix.
- Gradually sift in the flour and the pinch of salt. Mix until the dough is smooth.
- Remove the sakura from the water. Gently squeeze to remove excess water and pat dry. Mince half into tiny pieces and mix into the dough. Put the other half aside.
- Shape dough into a cylindrical log about 1.5 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1-2 hours until firm.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Remove and unwrap the dough from the fridge. Slice into ¼ inch pieces and place on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
- Gentle press the remaining sakura onto the top of the cookie rounds.
- Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the outer edges turn golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Enjoy with a cup of the sakura green tea!
Introduction courtesy of Britney Budiman
Britney Budiman (@booritney) is a writer, minimalist, aspiring effective altruist, and runner-in-progress with a penchant for saying “yes.” Previously, she has worked in Cambodia at a traditional arts NGO, in Brazil as a social sciences researcher, and in San Francisco at a housing start-up. She currently lives in the countryside of Kagoshima, Japan, where she teaches English. Her favorite thing in the world is good conversation.