Nerikiri: Sweets to Capture the Season

One of my favorite aspects of Japanese culture is wagashi, or Japanese-style sweets, so I leapt at the chance to participate in a wagashi-making workshop at event space Chakura. Our instructor Tomoko Yagi explained that the particular type of sweet we would be making was nerikiri, which is a dough of sweet white bean paste (shiroan) and glutinous rice flour stuffed with red bean paste (anko). The beauty of nerikiri is that it can be molded into any shape or color, so accordingly it can be easily adapted to celebrate any season.

Nerikiri’s main ingredients are glutinous rice flour, sugar, water and shiroan. The first step is to make gyuhi, a softer variety of mochi, which involves mixing rice flour with water and sugar and microwaving when done. This is then mixed with the shiroan in a 1:10 ratio. The last step is to knead this combination by hand for 5-10 minutes to consolidate it.

With our nerikiri dough ready to go, it was time to begin working on our creations. Normally you would use a drop or two of food coloring on the dough in order to add color to it as you like, but Tomoko Sensei had taken care of this for us. She also provided us with anko for additional inner color and flavor. She explained, “One of nerikiri’s special features is that its layers allow for surprises. For example, the outside is white nerikiri dough, but one bite allows you to discover multiple layers of color from the anko and other colored dough portions.”

Since I participated in the class for Christmas sweets, I set out to make a snowman and a Christmas tree. I tried to roll out the anko while thinking of the final size I wanted, but when I added dough around it I ended up with a giant snowman. Using the different colored doughs Sensei had made, I gave him large facial features as well as a big hat.

I used stencil tools to create hearts and leaves to adorn my tree and put a star on top. It was just as if I had returned to my childhood enjoying Play Doh. When my creation was complete, I put it on the green tea sponge cake base and used a sieve to sprinkle “snow” on top for a final touch. The best part was that my winter scene not only looked good but would taste good as well, since it was edible from top to bottom!

— Reported by Stacy Smith

230 E. 9th St., (bet. 2nd & 3rd Aves.), New York, NY 10003

Tomoko Sensei started by showing how to make the gyuhi by mixing rice flour with water and sugar.

With nerikiri dough dyed with food coloring, Sensei created a colorful wreath.

Our class hard at work on our respective creations.  We were just like kids playing with clay!

Putting the final touches on the tree before adding it to my snowman.
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