Matcha and more: meet the trending flavours of Japan

Matcha and more: meet the trending flavours of Japan

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Sushi, ramen, gyoza... Japan’s rich culinary traditions are popular around the world. Now, pastry chefs are turning towards this Asian cuisine for inspiration as well, combining captivating flavours from Japan with traditional European patisserie. Matcha, for instance, has been at the centre of numerous pastry product innovations around the world. But there’s more to it. Meet the trendy flavours of Japan:

Matcha

What is it?

Matcha is a powdered green tea made out of steamed and dried tea leaves. This premium tea is consumed on special occasions and comes with its own ritual: the matcha ceremony. The tea tastes delicate, it has a grassy flavour, a sweet nuttiness, slight umami notes and pleasant bitter undertones.

 

How is it used in patisserie?

Matcha-flavoured products are hard to miss: they have a beautiful green colour that makes the ingredient popular not just for the taste, but for the aesthetic as well. Matcha can nowadays be found in products around the world, from soft drinks and ice cream to macarons and desserts. There’s even a matcha-flavoured KitKat. In patisserie, matcha is often used to flavour cream and icing.

 

What is an example?

Sadaharu Aoki is a Japanese pastry chef working in France. In his work, he combines the rich culinary traditions of both countries – see, for instance, his mâcha azuki. It’s a beautifully layered pastry with layers of chocolate biscuit, praline and matcha tea cream, topped with a tiny matcha macaron. 

 

Matcha and more: meet the trending flavours of Japan

 

Azuki

What is it?

The red azuki beans are boiled, mashed and mixed with sugar to get anko, or red bean paste. This paste comes in chunky and smooth varieties. The thick texture is an important aspect of the taste of the red bean paste, which is sweet, deep and complex.

 

How is it used in patisserie?

In Japan, anko is so widely used for pastry that some even claim it’s the Japanese equivalent to chocolate. Mostly it serves as a filling for cakes, mochi and buns. Sandwiched between two pancakes, it forms the famous snack dorayaki.

 

What is an example?

An Australian bakery which specialises in Japanese pastry is such a fan of the ingredient, they even named their business Azuki. They use the red bean paste as a filling in their azuki pan buns.

 

Matcha and more: meet the trending flavours of Japan

 

Sakura

What is it?

Japan is famous for its cherry trees, which grow beautiful pink flowers each spring. These flowers, along with the cherry tree leaves, are used as an aromatic ingredient. They give confectionery and desserts a floral and slight cherry flavour. 

 

How is it used in patisserie?

Each springtime, sakura mochi is sold throughout Japan. It’s a pink mochi filled with a sweet red-bean paste, wrapped in a salty pickled cherry blossom leaf. The cherry blossom is also a popular flavour for creamy mont blanc pastries and cheesecakes – both light and delicate treats, so that the sakura flavour is not overshadowed.

 

What is an example?

Kihachi bakery combines the sakura flowers and the pickled leaves in this lovely pink cake roll. The sakura is combined with strawberries for the cream filling and the cake is decorated with whole blossom flowers.

 

Matcha and more: meet the trending flavours of Japan

 

Kinako

What is it?

Kinako is one of the most uniquely Japanese flavours. This roasted soybean flour has a nutty and slightly sweet flavour, and is considered a superfood. Before sugar was brought to Japan, it was the ingredient used for sweetness. 

 

How is it used in patisserie?

Traditionally, kinako is used with dango (rice flour dumplings) and mochi, but it also serves as an ice cream topping.

 

What is an example?

The goma kinako mochi roll from the patissiers at Luna in Singapore uses kinako as a topping. A fluffy roll with black sesame is decorated with chewy mochi cubes coated in kinako and sesame streusel, giving the roll a hint of nuttiness. 

 

Matcha and more: meet the trending flavours of Japan

 

Black sesame

What is it?

Black sesame seeds are white sesame seeds still in their husk. So they're similar in taste, but black sesame seeds are a little nuttier and have a bitter note that white sesame seeds do not have. When used in large quantities, the flavour becomes richer and more earthy.

 

How is it used in patisserie?

Black sesame is a popular ice cream flavour in Japan and pops up around the world now, too. Ground into powder, the ingredient is used as a nutty coating, on mochi for instance. As a paste, black sesame serves as a filling for desserts and sweet snacks. In Japan, the nutty and bitter paste is often paired with sweet flavours like matcha or azuki.

 

What is an example?

The Sydney-based Pavón Patisserie put black sesame at the centre of one of their haute pâtisserie creations: the Nebula cake, which they promote as an ‘adventure in new flavours’. It features a black sesame sponge, black sesame nougatine, black sesame crumble, combined with a white miso caramel and finished with a black sesame and white chocolate mousse.

 

Matcha and more: meet the trending flavours of Japan

 

Miso

What is it?

Miso is the ultimate umami ingredient. The salty fermented soybean paste is mostly used for savoury dishes such as soups, stews and marinades. 

 

How is it used in patisserie?

White miso, which contains rice as well as soybeans, is suitable for desserts. This hearty miso adds depth and nuance to sweet dishes. It can be used for brownies, fruity cheesecakes or even vanilla ice cream. Especially chocolatey patisserie goes very well with the slight saltiness of the miso.

 

What is an example?

A calisson with lemon, almond and vanilla miso is the signature dessert of Adrien Salavert, the pastry chef of La Réserve in Paris. He uses the miso to give a little note of salt to the citrus and vanilla flavoured sorbet that’s part of the treat. 

 

Matcha and more: meet the trending flavours of Japan

 

Yuzu

What is it?

Yuzu is a citrus fruit, the taste of which lies somewhere between that of lime, lemon and tangerine. It’s very fragrant, super sour, and quite tart. Like other citrus fruits, the flesh itself is not consumed, just the juice and zest.

 

How is it used in patisserie?

Yuzu is the easiest ingredient in this list to use, since it can pretty much be used in the same way as other citrus fruits. It works perfectly in a meringue, cream or tarte au citron. The problem with yuzu mostly lies in its availability. It’s hard to get fresh fruits in large parts of the world and both the fruit itself and its bottled juice are costly. 

 

What is an example?

The éclair specialists at L’Éclair de Génie have made a lemon yuzu meringue éclair, with the yuzu lending a sweet and sour taste to both the cream filling and the bright yellow glaze.

Want to give yuzu patisserie a go yourself? Then try out Puratos’ recipes for a raspberry yuzu ivory chocolate mousse cake or yuzu flan.

 

Matcha and more: meet the trending flavours of Japan

 

Always on the hunt for interesting new flavours to incorporate in your baking, patisserie and chocolate creations? Then you should definitely check out these 8 examples of cocktail flavoured patisserie for some inspiration.

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