These muffins ROCK

A few weeks ago I had a most inspiring green tea muffin with azuki beans at Fresh Flours, a wonderful little Japanese/French bakery up here with me on Phinney Ridge. It reminded me that I bought a package of azuki beans at the Seiyu in Yokosuka, Japan with Hilary almost exactly two years ago. (Akk! Just found out Seiyu is owned by Wal-Mart!) They’ve been sitting quietly in my cupboard ever since (they even made the move with us). I’ve been meaning to explore with them a bit; they’re a staple in Japanese pastries and make a wonderfully sweet, earthy filling.

Anyway, when I had this particularly moist muffin, its interior had the unearthly flourescence that matcha gives almost anything. The beans looked like chocolate chips, and had a similar sweetness and mouthfeel, but obviously a completely different flavor. I vowed to recreate it.

Fast forward to last week, when I tasted Trader Joe’s boxed green tea muffin mix at an in-store sampling. It made my food memory spasm and triggered a must have response.

Green Tea muffin mix

I’m not usually into boxed stuff, but I had this wild fantasy of recreating the Fresh Flours muffin with minimal work and research, right in the privacy of my own home. (It might be worth admitting here that I walk my dog daily to a turn-around spot exactly one block from Fresh Flours; it would be quite simple for me to pick one up every day.)

So. I got out the azuki beans. This is what the package told me:

Azuki beans from SeiyuAzuki bean instructions

Very helpful. But instead of going to the trusty internets to find out how to cook them (I only knew they needed to be boiled with sugar), I logically decided that guessing blindly would be the quickest, surest way to success. So I soaked them overnight, which did not change their appearance or texture in the slightest, and cooked them for a few hours with some sugar. The plan was this: I’d make the muffins according to the package instructions, using green tea instead of water to boost the flavor a bit, folding in some perfectly-cooked azuki beans like you would with blueberries, and topping them off with plenty of turbinado-style raw cane sugar.

When the beans seemed soft enough, I did all these things. I put the muffins in the oven, and they came out beautifully:

Green tea muffins with azuki beans

Then I looked down at the liquid I’d drained out of the azuki beans. It wasn’t so much a liquid as a caramel: a deep mahogany-colored, bean-flavored caramel.

Azuki bean caramel

It was beyond delicious; I wanted to dip anything I could get my hands on into it, bananas, chocolate, anything. But there was a problem: the leftover caramel meant that I had in fact cooked the beans in a sugar solution that had cooked too far; the beans in the muffins would have a caramelized coating on the outside, rather than a soft, fluffy exterior that would allow a little muffin batter to soak in.

Sure enough, when I bit into the first warm, steaming muffin, I got a wonderful green tea flavor and a mouth full of rocks.

Back to the drawing board.

2 Comments

Filed under bread, failure, recipe, Seattle

2 responses to “These muffins ROCK

  1. You might try saving your time on the anko (by buying some from the refrigerated case at Uwajimaya). I have a recipe for matcha anko muffins on my blog, though I left out the part about making anko.

    http://blog.jagaimo.com/archive/2005/07/04/matcha-anko-muffins-some-with-shiratama.aspx

    I don’t think they were selling these yet when I made that recipe. My recipe is probably a little less sweet than the ones at Fresh Flours.

    You only need to cook azuki for about an hour, though. Once tender, you can drain them and coarsely mash them with sugar to taste, which is ogura-an. The finer “koshi-an” is pushed through a sieve. If only gently mash them for a slightly-less-than-ogura an, you’ll still get chunks of azuki.

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