Around this time of the year, when cherry blossoms fall, I think of the movie Sweet Beans. A middle aged man named Sentaro runs a small dorayaki store in front of a school in Tokyo. Dorayaki, made with two pancakes filled with red bean paste, is a delicate snack that requires lots of time and attention. But he was an indifferent man who made dorayaki with factory-made red bean paste and never smiled at his customers.
When the cherry blossoms bloomed in front of his store one day, an old lady named Tokue comes to his store and asks him to hire her. She shows him how to make red bean paste from scratch and teaches him her way of seeing the world, of appreciating the world around her. As flowers start to fall, Sentaro slowly learns to live like Tokue and opens his mind to others.
A lot of times, we go through the motions of our day without being present and thoughtful about what we’re doing. Naomi Kawase, the director of the Sweet Beans, encourages us to slow down and be present. She invites the audiences to be with Tokue and see and listen as the azuki beans are stirred, drained and turned into anko red bean paste. For this scene, there is no music or faces and our attention is wholly on the azuki beans.
So this weekend, try watching the movie Sweet Beans and making red bean paste and dorayaki at home. Think about it as a kitchen meditation, time to be present as you experience something new. Making dorayaki from scratch is great for practicing patience and focus, as you constantly have to stir the paste and wait for the perfect time to flip the pancake.
For the Pancakes:
1. In a medium bowl, mix eggs, sugar, salt and honey. Sift in cake flour and baking powder. Mix to combine until you have a smooth batter with no lumps. Rest the batter in the fridge for 20 minutes.
2. Heat a non-stick pan on a medium heat (non-stick is important as you want to avoid needing any cooking fat, but if your skillet sticks, add your preferred neutral oil). Pour in a quarter cup of the batter. When you start seeing popped air bubbles on the surface of the pancake, flip it. Cook for another 2 minutes until nicely browned.
Red Bean Paste (Anko)
1.Soak beans in water for 7 hours at least. We recommend starting this step the night before you want to make the dorayaki
2. In a big pan, add the red beans and water (use about twice the amount of water as the beans). Bring water to boil on the high heat. When the amount of water decreases by half, turn down the heat to medium. When there is just enough water to cover the beans, turn down the heat to low, keep the water at simmer.
3. Use a handheld blender and blend the paste until you get the texture you want. If you don’t have a blender, you can easily mash them with a spatula. Anko comes in many different forms so you can leave the beans more intact or blend more for a smooth paste.
4. When the water is almost gone, add the sugar and simple syrup. Remove from the heat when there is no water. Store in the fridge for up to 7 days.
Let the dorayaki cool on a drying rack until they can be handled. Take 2 pancakes and sandwich them with about 2 Tbsp red bean paste. Gently press around the edges to make sure it sticks together. Enjoy while fresh!
Lastly brew yourself a cup of tea and settle down to enjoy your hard work!