I've always had a special place in my heart for Japanese bakeries. I like how Japanese desserts in general are not nearly as sweet as their European/American counterparts. I also love Japanese flavors, like matcha (green tea) and azuki (red bean).
A couple weeks ago, Foodbuzz invited us to develop a recipe using King's Hawaiian rolls. I actually grew up eating these sweet rolls and loved them as a kid. It has been years since I've tried some, mostly because I thought they didn't sell it in Massachusetts.
I was thrilled to find out that these rolls are actually all over the place. In the spirit of my tribute to Japan, I decided to use my favorite Japanese desserts as inspiration for my creations.
I decided to make two fillings - green tea and red bean.
I had never made whipped cream filling before, and I was floored how insanely easy it is! Just take some heavy whipping cream and a sweetening agent (I used agave syrup) and beat using an electric mixer on high. After about 1-2 minutes, the cream will aerate and become reasonably stiff. At that point, stir in matcha (Japanese green tea) powder (about 1 tsp). Careful not to beat for too long, or else you'll make butter!
That's it! So easy, and so delicious! The flavor of the whipped cream is strongly affected by the quality of the green tea powder you buy. I used the expensive stuff ("Ceremonial Quality" by Maeda-En on the left), which cost close to $20 for the tiny little can. You can also use their normal stuff ("shiki matcha"), which costs $12.99 and is still very good.
For azuki, you can purchase canned sweetened azuki (red bean) paste at many Asian grocery stores.
King's Hawaiian rolls are very moist and have just the right amount of sweetness that I find them to be quite similar to the bread sold in Japanese bakeries. They are not quite as refined, but I still think they are the closest substitute you'll find in an ordinary American grocery store.
Azuki and Matcha Buns!
Another favorite of mine is the Japanese "An-pan", a slightly sweet bun filled with red bean paste. An-pan is so popular in Japan there is even an animation character, called An Pan Man, named after the bread.
Here's a picture of An-Pan Man buns I saw in Japan.
I decided to make my own rendition of An-Pan (plus a Matcha Pan!) using these sweet rolls. It's really quite straightforward - cut open the rolls, cut or spoon out a bit of bread, and then fill with either azuki paste or matcha whipped cream. You can also mix the azuki paste with some whipped cream and fill the bread with azuki whipped cream instead.
It was sooooo good and ridiculously easy.
Matcha Whipped Cream
½ cup whipping cream
1-2 teaspoon agave nectar (or 1-2 teaspoon confectioner's sugar)
1 teaspoon matcha powder
Combine heavy cream and agave nectar in a bowl. Beat on high speed with an electric mixer for about 1-2 minutes, or until the cream is stiff. Gently fold in the matcha until incorporated.
Matcha and Red Bean "Napoleans"
1 4-pack of King's Hawaiian Sweet Dinner Rolls
Matcha Whipped Cream
Azuki paste (1-2 tablespoons)
Optionally remove crusts from all sides of the King's Hawaiian Rolls. Slice each roll into 1 cm thick slices (about 3 per piece of bread). Alternating slices, spread one with matcha cream and another with red bean. Stack the "creamed" slices in alternating order. Serve.
As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program, I received a stipend to cover the cost of supplies for this post
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