Kurogoma (Black Sesame) Shortbread Cookies

Guess what, y’all? Last Saturday, NYC raised $4644 for Peace Winds America/Japan in our Bake Sale for Japan! And the Bake Sales across the nation have raised over $120,000! I wasn’t as involved as I wish I could have been, but I hope my shortbread cookies helped raise a tiny sum towards this awesome amount. Another BIG thank you goes out to Lillian from Sweets by Sillianah and Celia from Cookbook Archaeology for coordinating a wonderfully run bake sale.

Check out their posts for pictures and details of the sale at Brooklyn Flea.

For the bake sale, I chose to make matcha, azuki, and kurogoma shortbread cookies because they are all prominent Japanese flavors that I love working with. Matcha, azuki, and kurogoma are simply the Japanese terms for green tea, red bean, and black sesame. I’ve made all varieties of the cookies before, but the kurogoma shortbread cookie happens to be one of those recipes I never got around to posting. Until now, that is.

The ingredients I used to flavor the shortbread cookies: black sesame paste, sweetened red bean paste, and green tea powder (tried out a new green tea product – not bad!).

And here are the wrapped shortbread cookies!

Kurogoma (Black Sesame) Shortbread Cookies
adapted from previous recipe

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup flour
1 cup butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup black sesame paste

Directions:
1. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is smooth.
2. Add flour, cornstarch, and salt to butter mixture, until flour mixture is incorporated into the dough. Be sure not to overwork the dough.
3. Fold in black sesame paste.
4. Transfer the dough to a gallon-size plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and using a rolling pin to flatten the dough into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Roll carefully, making sure not to leave creases in the dough. Seal the bag after rolling into proper size and press out as much air as possible. Place in freezer for about 30 minutes, up to 2 days.
5. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or Silpat.
6. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 2 inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one four times with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet.
7. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool. Yields 20 cookies.

Azuki (Red Bean) Filled Mochi

新年快樂! Happy Chinese New Year! I wish you all a prosperous year, and may your celebrations be filled with lots of food and warmth!

It’s been terribly frigid here, and in the city that never sleeps, I’m still expected to go into work as long as the subways are running. Luckily my commute only involves strapping on my boots and walking (though with this week’s weather, ice skates would have been more fitting).

In these frosty conditions, nothing warms me up like food, friends, and family. Tonight we will feast on lots of Chinese food, and I’ll be snacking on this azuki mochi throughout the day.

Tiny Urban Kitchen featured a post of Chinese New Year recipes, and the nian gao (年糕) post spoke to me. I love making (and eating) mochi, but I usually cook it using steam. So I thought I’d try out a baked mochi cake, stuffed with red bean paste. Thanks for the idea and the recipe, Jen!

If you haven’t eaten anything like this before, think of it like a super-chewy-Asian-flavored-brownie. Or blondie. It’s super easy to make, and even easier to eat!

Azuki (Red Bean) Filled Mochi
adapted from Tiny Urban Kitchen

Ingredients:
1 lb sweet rice flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups and 1 tablespoon milk
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 cups azuki (red bean) paste

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9″x13″ baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt.
3. Add 2 beaten eggs and 2 cups milk into flour mixture and stir together until well combined.
4. Spread about half of the mochi batter into greased baking pan. Spoon the azuki paste on top of mochi layer and spread evenly. Cover with remaining mochi batter.
5. Whisk together egg yolk and tablespoon of milk to make egg wash. Brush top of mochi with egg wash.
6. Bake in oven for 60 minutes until golden brown.
7. Let cool 10-15 minutes then slice into squares.