Popular in Japan, sweetened azuki beans are a key ingredient in sumptuous desserts and baked goods. (The above photo marks the debut of our new Nikon D800.)
Many years ago, I lived in San Francisco. Walking along shopping streets lined with boutiques, a waft of warm vanilla drew me into a tiny shop with just two tables. Behind the counter was very large crepe pan and a chalkboard menu filled with tempting daily specials. I was drawn to the vanilla crepe stuffed with red bean paste and topped with green tea ice cream. The textures, sweetness and interplay of flavors made for a satisfying dessert for a die-hard sweet tooth.
Many years later, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, supplied with dried azuki beans from a speciality shop in Anchorage, I was ready to try my hand at homemade azuki bean paste. It came out perfect and was featured in anpan (Japanese-style steamed rolls) to rave reviews. We can’t wait to try this paste in our own crepes.
Azuki Bean Paste
- 1 cup dried adzuki beans
- 5 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- pinch salt
- Soak dried beans overnight. Make sure beans are generously covered in several inches of water, as the water will be absorbed.
- The following morning, pour beans into a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water.
- Place beans in a large pot along with 5 cups of water.
- Bring water to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Beans should be soft.
- Put a wire strainer over a bowl.
- Pour beans and liquid into strainer. Strainer should be low enough that beans are partially immersed in water.
- Using a wooden spoon, smash beans through strainer into water. Skins should remain in the strainer.
- Line a bowl with cheesecloth and pour strained beans and liquid into cheesecloth.
- Draw up edges of cheesecloth and squeeze out excess liquid.
- Put squeezed out bean paste back into pot.
- Add sugar and salt to the beans and stir mixture over low heat. Continue stirring until mixture is glossy and has the consistency of mashed potatoes.
- Store in refrigerator.