In Okinawa, Japan, roughly half of the prefecture’s farmed land is dedicated to sugar cane or “uuji” cultivation. The crop makes up about 20% of the prefecture’s total agricultural output, owing to Okinawa’s tropical climate and rich history of processing the canes into kokuto. 

Kokuto, or Okinawa black sugar, is an unrefined and naturally nutritious sugar product. While kokuto is often sold in chunks to enjoy on its own or ground up to mix into baked goods, it is also often turned into kuromitsu, translated as “black honey” in Japanese. 

Kuromitsu is similar to molasses (a byproduct of refined sugar) in color and texture, though the taste is not as smoky or heavy. Furthermore, it retains the sugar cane’s high levels of calcium, potassium, and magnesium, making it a healthier syrup alternative than most. 

In Japan, kuromitsu is often drizzled over warabi mochi and mitsumame, two notable wagashi (Japanese confectionery). Or, consider a little over your morning oatmeal for all-day island vibes! 

This Simple Kuromitsu Syrup is a part of our Fruit Mitsumame or Mizu Shingen Mochi recipes, both featured in our Baking: “Amai” Care Package. 

Focaccia is a classic Italian bread easily identified by its dimples and airy center. It’s fun to make, with endless topping combinations. Our focaccia not only adds a fun Japanese twist, but it comes out perfectly moist and chewy with the help of a lesser known soybean product: okara

What is okara

Okara is actually a byproduct of soybean processing. When making soy milk or tofu, soybeans are mashed and pressed out, leaving a pulp – okara. To avoid waste, tofu and soymilk manufacturers repackage okara alongside their primary products. For longer shelf life, it’s also dehydrated into okara powder, like the one featured in our Baking: “Amai” Care package. Okara is not only packed with protein, but also dietary fiber and calcium, making it an extremely nutritious, plant-based product. 

Okara as a protein supplement

Like many breads, focaccia usually requires high protein bread flour in order to achieve a chewy bite. For casual bread bakers, purchasing another bag of flour may seem tedious and wasteful. It’s why we combined all-purpose flour with okara powder. The okara helps form the gluten necessary for a bread without needing to purchase bread flour. 

With the base of the focaccia done, we like to top it with beautiful pink sakura blossoms. Since they are salt-pickled, a little goes a long way! They go wonderfully with sweet caramelized onion and luscious camembert cheese for a uniquely Japanese style focaccia that would impress anyone! 

Nowadays in the western world, “jelly” is often associated with one product, – usually grape or strawberry – and spread on sandwiches. In Japan, however, “jelly” is a broad term for anything that appears gelatinized. 

Jelly desserts have been historically popular in Japan but with one caveat – oftentimes, there’s no gelatin inside. Instead, Japanese jellies, especially traditional ones like yokan, are solidified with kanten, Japanese agar. Derived from seaweed, kanten was supposedly discovered in Japan in the 17th century on accident by an innkeeper. In recent years, agar has gained popularity amongst vegans and vegetarians as a gelatin alternative. That said, it’s also loved by chefs around the world because it’s odorless and tasteless (and mostly colorless, too!), so it blends seamlessly into a dish. 

The easiest and simplest way to start using Japanese agar is in the traditional jelly dessert, fruit mitsumame. Dating back to the Edo era, mitsumame uses the jelly cubes as a refreshing backdrop for a combination of sweet fruit, kuromitsu syrup and red adzuki beans. Since agar sets at room temperature and doesn’t melt down until over a stove, fruit mitsumame makes for a perfect (and transport friendly!) summertime treat!

While it’s not quite eggs and ham, this brunch option is plenty green. Our quiche crust gets its unique hue from yomogi powder, which you can purchase here.

What is yomogi? 

Also known as Japanese mugwort, yomogi is a native herb packed with antioxidants and vitamins. For centuries, traditional Asian medicine used yomogi to treat common health issues like inflammation or improve blood circulation. In modern times, yomogi is brewed as tea or added into confectionaries and soups.

What does yomogi taste like?

Yomogi tastes somewhat grassy and earthy because of its wild forest floor origins. It’s a little bit sweet, a little bit bitter, and very aromatic. As a result, the vegetarian filling of this quiche contains mushrooms, leeks, and goat cheese to complement the crust. 

For best results, bake the quiche filling on the top rack of your oven to prevent over-browning the surface. Remove it from the oven when it is just set, as it will continue to cook as it cools. 

This recipe and the yomogi powder used are featured in our Baking: “Amai” Care Package.

Across the world, most sugar is called brown or white, determined by its refinement and molasses content. Sugar from Okinawa, kokuto, is literally defined in Japanese as “black sugar” – set apart by a very dark, chocolate-like hue and unique processing method. As the star ingredient of this recipe, kokuto lends a deep, defined malty flavor in a soft but crispy-edged cookie. 

How is sugar processed? 

Common brown and white sugar is processed as such: the sugar cane is stripped and crushed, then boiled in water to crystalize. Afterwards, it is processed again to remove impurities and by-product molasses. To make brown sugar, the molasses is added back in. Regardless, this method of repeatedly refining the sugar into a crystalized form strips the final product of the cane’s natural vitamin and mineral content. 

How is kokuto different?

Instead of following widespread sugar refining techniques, Okinawans make kokuto by extracting sugar cane juice and then boiling it down slowly. The juice is only boiled down to a point where impurities are skimmed off before the liquid is poured into trays to cool and solidify. The result is dark brown slabs, broken into smaller chunks or ground up before packaging. Due to the limited processing, kokuto retains a high amount of calcium, magnesium and potassium. As such, kokuto is touted as a nutritious sweetener in Japan that maintains strong bones and relieves fatigue. 

Our Kokuto Cookies bring out the best of Okinawa’s famous sugar, pairing its complexity with rich, browned butter. On the face of the golden cookie, specks of larger kokuto grounds remain visible, just like freckles after a day on one of Okinawa’s beautiful beaches! 

Our ground kokuto comes from Okinawa’s Hateruma Island and is featured in our Baking: “Amai” Care Package. 

What started as a novel confectionery out of Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, is now well-recognized around the world. Mizu Shingen Mochi, otherwise known as Raindrop Cake, took the internet by storm in 2014 when it was launched by local confectionary shop Kinseiken. The company, already well-known for its sweet rice cake, shingen mochi, wished to highlight the region’s tasty mineral water. 

What is Raindrop Cake? 

The result of Kinseiken’s creativity was a jiggly, clear mound topped off with kinako (roasted soybean powder) and kuromitsu (a Japanese syrup). Because of its brilliant clarity and shape, the dessert was nicknamed “Raindrop Cake.” Mizu, or water in Japanese, and vegan agar agar are the main ingredients – immediately apparent with one bite as it rushes into your mouth just like a sip of water from a glass. 

Make Raindrop Cake at home

Now a viral sensation that has reached as far as Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg, you can now make the Raindrop Cake easily at home with the right ingredients from our Baking: “Amai” Care Package.  Be warned, however! Though it's a simple enough process (no raindrop mold necessary, just use a rice bowl!), the result is a fleeting one. Prepare to consume the “cake” on the spot after releasing it from the mold, as the entire concoction will melt within minutes. 

Nama Choco (or Chocolate) is rich, creamy, and silky smooth chocolate that you can savor as it melts in your mouth. It's a popular Japanese treat and the addition of matcha adds a nice slightly bitter complement to the rich chocolate - a perfect pairing!

These buttery rosettes combine vanilla and matcha for the perfect bitter sweet taste!

Clafoutis is a French dessert of fresh fruit baked within a sweet batter. Because the batter has more  liquid than dry ingredients, the final consistency of the clafoutis is less cake and more solid pudding – moist and soft inside, with an easy-to-scoop consistency.

This recipe takes the best of clafoutis and makes a few adjustments. For one, the batter eliminates wheat flour for mochiko, or glutinous sticky rice powder, making it a gluten-free clafoutis while retaining the traditional structure. Mochiko is a core  ingredient in many Japanese wagashi confectioneries due to its bouncy, chewy texture.  

A traditional clafoutis incorporates cherries, but much like pie, any firm fruit that holds up in baking will do. We selected apples for this recipe to create a fall-themed clafoutis with warm spices like cinnamon and allspice. They are elevated by another Japanese ingredient, kokuto – Okinawa black sugar. Kokuto gives a nice licorice taste while also incorporating a rich sweetness. Pre-cooking the apple with the spices allows the flavors to meld to the fruit before incorporating the batter. While the walnuts are optional, they add an a crunchy contrast to the soft, sweet batter and fruit. 

Enjoy our Spiced Apple Mochi Clafoutis while still warm, either with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a sprinkle of powdered sugar. 

You can find the mochiko and kokuto used in this recipe in our Baking: “Amai” Care Package

If you are looking for an easy gluten-free dessert, look no further than our delicious baked mochi donuts!

Mochi donuts are made with glutinous rice flour known as mochiko. They are often associated with the Pon-De-Ring style donut that originated around 2003 from Japan’s Mister Donut franchise. 

While wildly popular for their unique shape and mochi-like texture, the Mister Donut Pon-De-Ring does not actually include mochiko and is not gluten-free. Instead, wheat flour and other secret ingredients are used to achieve the crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside fried donut. The confusion around the donut may be attributed to the term “mochi mochi,” which Japanese people use to describe chewy foods. Keep this in mind if you are gluten restricted and traveling around Japan! 

This donut recipe takes inspiration from Hawaiian butter mochi bars, though they are not as dense. Instead, these donuts bake up lighter while keeping that classic mochi mochi (but gluten-free!) bite. For the sake of simplicity and health, they come together in a quick, pourable batter that is baked in the oven in a donut mold. The result is a golden donut with a soft, chewy center. Decorate these donuts with a yummy and easy matcha glaze and sprinkles for a fun, Japanese-inspired treat!

This recipe, as well as the mochiko and matcha powder used are all included in our Baking: “Amai” Care Package.

Move over Morning Glory – here’s another breakfast muffin for your consideration. This muffin has nearly everything: freshly grated carrots, sweet raisins and crunch walnuts combine with the warm spices of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. But what makes this recipe memorable is the addition of two special ingredients from our Baking: “Amai” Care Packageokara and kinako.

What is okara

Okara is soybean pulp, pressed out in tofu or soymilk processing. Sold fresh or  dehydrated for a longer shelf life, okara mixes splendidly into batters for cakes, muffins, or tart fillings. The addition of okara powder in this muffin batter provides three benefits: plant-based protein, dietary fiber, and moisture.

What is kinako

Kinako powder is another soybean product in which the soybeans are roasted and ground up into a light brown, delicate and nutty flour. Kinako is popular in many wagashi confectioneries like warabimochi and also makes for a unique ice cream flavor or smoothie addition. In this recipe, kinako is mixed into the oat streusel topping as a delightful accent complementary to the muffin batter’s warm spices. 

For that “cafe style” domed muffin result, bake these muffins at high heat for five minutes before turning the oven down. The high temperature start will cause the batter to rise upwards rapidly and form the domed crust, while the center will cook off normally at a lower temperature after. 

Whether for a quick snack or a consistent refill at parties, crackers can be an underrated essential in most kitchen pantries. While there’s no end in sight to the average supermarket inventory of crackers, there’s nothing like making and baking your own crackers. Not only can you incorporate your own toppings and styles, but you have absolute control over the ingredients inside. 

Our freestyle cracker recipe has only 5 key ingredients, four of which are already in your pantry. The fifth ingredient is okara powder, which you can find in our Baking: “Amai” Care package

What is okara

When making soy milk or tofu, soybeans are mashed and pressed out, leaving a pulp called okaraOkara is usually repackaged fresh and sold at low prices in the tofu section of Japanese supermarkets. For longer shelf life, it’s also dehydrated into powder. Okara is not only packed with protein, but also dietary fiber and calcium, making it an extremely nutritious, plant-based product. Okara is good for ensuring that your baked goods, whether it be cake, crackers, breads, or crusts, all contain a complete protein. 

These freestyle okara crackers come together easily and allow for you to make them your own. Play around with different cookie cutters and toppings to add your own personal spin! 

These beautiful no bake sakura jelly cheesecakes are the perfect size for a floral treat.

Sanshoku dango is an iconic Japanese sweet rice cake treat - so iconic that it even has its own emoji! 🍡

Sanshoku dango is often sold in the spring as the colors represent Japan’s world-renowned cherry blossom (sakura) season. You may see it called hanami dango, a term roughly translated as “flower-viewing”. For generations, families and friends across Japan partake in hanami, laying tarps out under blooming sakura trees. They enjoy one another’s company while sharing seasonal food and drink, such as sanshoku dango. 

What do the dango colors mean?

The term “sanshoku” translates to “three colors”. It’s a straightforward name for a treat that carries considerable meaning. The beautiful colors - pink, white, and green - symbolize the sakura life cycle.

Pink represents the young buds that emerge on bare branches in early spring. White represents the five-petaled blossoms at their peak. And finally, green symbolizes the leaves that grow out of the branches once the last petals have fallen off the tree. 

Dango is made from glutinous rice flour. This recipe uses mochiko, as well as silken tofu to achieve the bouncy, chewy texture. The pink dango in this recipe uses salt-pickled sakura blossoms and an optional dash of food coloring. The green dango is flavored with yomogi (Japanese mugwort), a medicinal herb native to Japan and historically appreciated for its anti-inflammatory properties. The combination of these traditional ingredients makes for a chewy, sweet, and floral treat.

While traditionally a springtime treat, we won’t blame you if you make these year-round! Don’t forget to pair them with a hot cup of green tea for a perfect afternoon snack.

This recipe, along with the mochiko, pickled cherry blossoms, and yomogi powder used, are all included in the Baking: “Amai” Care Package.

Neri goma and tahini add a buttery and nutty flavor to these moist and fluffy cupcakes.

Is there a more popular baked good than banana bread these days? With the ingredients already in your pantry, it seems everyone has a recipe they swear by. 

If you’re looking for an elevated version of classic banana bread, look no further. This recipe is kid-friendly (have them mash the bananas!) with easy-to-follow steps. But, it also makes a great impression amongst adults for its unique dark brown hue, simple-yet-fancy banana cross-section, and perfectly moist center.

Best of all, our banana bread recipe incorporates a timeless Japanese condiment: silkyblack sesame paste.

Known asneri gomain Japanese, sesame paste is like tahini, but has a key difference. Tahini uses raw or lightly toasted hulled sesame seeds that result in a slightly bitter taste. Sesame paste, on the other hand, uses unhulled, deeply toasted seeds that grind into a richer spread that isn’t as sharp. Black sesame seeds have an even deeper, earthy flavor than white seeds, and pairs perfectly with the sweet and creamy bananas in this bread. 

Coincidentally, banana bread is a great way to “mottainai” – a Japanese term to express regret over wasted goods and the collective effort to repurpose them. It’s no secret that the best banana bread is made with overripe bananas left on the countertop for too long, as they become sweeter, softer, and juicier. Instead of tossing them in the garbage can, simply remind yourself “mottainai!” and break out the loaf pan and this recipe.

Find this recipe and theneri goma used in ourBaking: “Amai” Care Package. You can also find the neri goma sold as a single item in ourMichi no Eki Market.

Bread puddings are usually made with cream set with egg, but in this version, I've opted for yuzu juice in place of the egg. The acid coagulates the protein in the cream giving it a rich cheesy texture that's tempered by the refreshing zing of yuzu. It's not difficult to make, but it does require some time to let the bread soak up the yuzu cream, so this is a great make-ahead dish that you can pop in the oven when you're ready to eat it. 
Ice cream is usually made by churning a base while chilling it. The churning action prevents ice crystals from forming while also aerating the mixture. Using a high butterfat cream and partially whipping it makes it possible to make a velvety smooth green tea ice cream without any special equipment: all you need is three simple ingredients.
Pancakes are a treat any way you look at it, but adding matcha to the batter takes them to the next level. To ensure they're moist and fluffy, I like to use yogurt as the primary liquid. This makes for a thick batter, and the acidity of the yogurt combined with the leavening ingredients ensures a good amount of lift. To ensure a smooth green surface on the pancakes, I use a non-stick pan without oiling it, but if you use a regular pan, you'll need to wipe the pan with an oiled paper towel.

Sweet, nutty, and refreshing! Kuzukiri with kuromitsu sauce is a traditional Japanese dessert from Kyoto. Considered a delicacy, this dish is served cold with clear, jelly-like noodles, and a sweet and nutty caramelized black syrup.

This dessert is very easy to make! Simply boil the kuzukiri until soft, rinse under cool water, and drain. Then, mix kokuto, sugar, and water in a pot. Boil down the mixture until it thickens into a syrup. Set aside to cool. Serve the kuzukiri with syrup drizzled on top or on the side as a dipping sauce! If you have kinako powder, you can also lightly powder the dish for extra nutty flavour.

What is Kuzukiri?

Kuzukiri is a clear noodle made from the starch of kudzu root. Kuzukiri starch (kuzuko) is considered the highest grade of starch in Japan and it is used to make wagashi (Japanese sweets). The kudzu root is obtained from 30-50 year old vine roots in the mountainous areas of Japan. The root is prepared through a long and delicate process where a small amount is extracted into starch. Kuzukiri does not have much flavour. However, it is appreciated for its silky-smooth texture, and its delicate, translucent appearance. This clear noodle is commonly enjoyed as a sweet dessert in the summer and in savoury hot pots during the winter.

What is Kuromitsu and Kokuto?

The kuromitsu is a syrup made with water, sugar, and kokuto. Kokuto is a black sugar from Okinawa. It has a rich, smoky, caramel-like taste, with hints of maple and licorice. Similar to brown sugar, kokuto is great for creating deep and bold, caramel flavours. Unlike brown sugar, that consists of adding molasses to refined white sugar, kokuto is made by slowly boiling down natural sugarcane juice. This cooking style maintains the high nutrient profile found in natural sugarcanes. This sugar is used for both desserts and savoury dishes. Kuromitsu has the bold, nutty, caramel-like flavours of kokuto and is commonly used as a syrup for Japanese sweets! Besides kuzukiri, this syrup is used with shaved ice, warabi mochi, and in baked goods!

This delectable cake combines some of Japan's most treasured favors: yuzu, Japan's beloved citrus fruit with a sweet citrus flavor that's best described as a cross between a tart lemon, a sweet mandarin orange, and a fragrant grapefruit, and amazake, a traditional sweet sake made from fermented rice that contains no alcohol and is natural sweetened from the rice. 

Sweet, zesty, and refreshing! Yuzu citrus sherbet is a creamy, sweet, and tangy frozen dessert. This recipe adds a Japanese twist by infusing Japanese yuzu syrup to give the sherbet unique sweet, bright, citrus, and floral flavours. The milk-base gives the dessert a creamy and silky mouthfeel, while still being light, cool, and refreshing from the tangy citrus tones!

This recipe is very simple, and it can be prepared in under 5 minutes! It is also a great healthier alternative to ice cream, or if you’re someone who likes fruity desserts! Simply mix milk and yuzu syrup in a bowl. Place the bowl in the freezer and serve when frozen! Add some mint on top as a garnish! 

What is Japanese Yuzu Fruit?

Yuzu is a tangy citrus fruit originating in East Asia. It’s not commonly eaten on its own due to its vibrant and tart flavour. However, its aromatic, floral taste makes it a staple ingredient in Japanese cooking. As such, you can find yuzu in savoury meals, desserts, drinks, and sauces! Its versatility makes for a great addition to the kitchen when elevating dishes at home.

Yuzu syrup, made from yuzu and honey, is a great way to add bright, tangy, and floral flavours to any drink or dish! Yuzu fruit can be difficult to find depending on the season and region you’re in, so having yuzu syrup ready on hand is a great way to enjoy these citrusy tones year-round! In addition to sherbet, you can use this syrup to sweeten your hot/iced teas, cocktails, baked goods, salads, and sauces!

You may have encountered green shiso when eating sushi, but have you heard of red shiso? 

Red shiso is a variety of perilla, an herb in the same botanical family as mint. In terms of flavor, red shiso is noted for its mildly minty and earthy aroma and has been compared to bitter dark red cherry. Though it is far less commonly used than its green counterpart, some popular applications of red shiso include making aka shiso (red perilla) juice and dyeing foods a red color. Umeboshi (pickled plums) and pickled ginger get their signature pink hue from red shiso! 

This simple recipe for red shiso syrup jelly uses just three ingredients plus water and only requires a microwave, making it ideal for those living in dorms or cooking with children. To make these refreshing jellies, start by preparing your gelatin mixture. Combine 5g of powdered gelatin with 2 tbsp of water, then microwave it for 30 seconds. For a vegan alternative, use agar-agar in place of gelatin. Separately, dissolve 2 tbsp of sugar into 50ml of red shiso syrup. Lastly, combine the gelatin and syrup mixtures into 200ml of water and stir well. Pour into the molds of your choice and set in the fridge until firm. 

When you’re ready to serve, pop the jellies out of their molds and enjoy! For extra flair, feel free to add fresh fruits inside or on top of the jelly. These vibrant, rose-colored desserts are the perfect pick-me-up on hot summer days.

Okaki are crunchy rice crackers made from sweet glutinous rice, the same variety of rice that is used to make chewy mochi treats. While packaged okaki can be purchased in Asian grocery stores, the homemade version is lighter, fresher, and can be enjoyed while still warm. 

To make okaki at home, you need kirimochi (rectangular rice cake). Kirimochi can be found in most Japanese grocery stores and is sold in large, hard blocks. When heated, kirimochi puffs up, softens, and becomes stretchy and pliable. Kirimochi can be prepared using a variety of cooking methods including toasting, baking, grilling (yakimochi), microwaving, frying, or boiling. In this okaki recipe, we use the baking method. 

Cut your kirimochi into small, bite-sized pieces. We cut our kirimochi into 1cm cubes, but you can also cut them into strips or punch out small circles or decorative shapes - whatever suits your fancy! Bake the kirimochi on a parchment paper-lined tray for 15 minutes at 180°C/356°F. In the meantime, prepare a glaze of soy sauce, sugar, and water. Remove the hot kirimochi pieces from the oven and toss them in the glaze until well-coated. Then, place them back on the tray and bake for another 5 minutes at 150°C/302°F. Turn off the oven and let sit for another 5 mins. During this time, the kirimochi will dry out and take on a crunchy texture, while the glaze will caramelize and harden to create a thin sweet and savory coating. 

Serve okaki fresh out of the oven, or cool completely and store in an air-tight container.

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