I have this hobby of baking bread on rainy days. Probably the smell of yeast, the warmth from the oven together with the pitter-patter sound of raindrop as the wind whistles outside my kitchen window makes me feel safe & peaceful. And the crazy English summer weather just makes it perfect for my bread making passion. So here I am, prepping for the new type of bread, finger crossed that it’ll turn out beautifully.
So I start my new blog with something sweet, something Asian ~ red bean paste. An or anko, sweet red bean paste, is one of the most used ingredients in Japanese sweets. It is, of course, made from the small red bean, or azuki as translated from Japanese word. An is prepared by simmering the beans with water and sugar, turning it into a paste that could be used as filling for mochi, pancakes (dorayaki), breads or buns, etc. There are several types of anko, mainly are tsubu-an (which is made from the beans with skins, a more chunky one), koshi-an (which is made from the inside of the beans, makes it a smoother one) and shiro-an (which is made from white beans, or kidney beans).
Here I’m only interested in tsubu-an which offers a richer, fuller flavour together with its soft, chalky texture. For a perfect paste, it’s best to use new, fresh beans and white, granulated sugar. Baking soda could also be used to soften the skin of the beans. Anko could stay fresh in the refrigerator up to a week, also, it freezes very well, for several months. So you could make it in large batches, store it in a bag, freeze and reserve for the next recipe. As for me, I always like everything that’s baked from fresh, so I always make just enough to use, and the paste is just so yummy I finish any leftover in a whim.
Red bean paste recipe
- 1 cup red bean
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- A pinch of salt
- Wash the beans and soak them in cold water for at least 2 hours (if you’re in serious craving) or overnight. Remove any damaged, discoloured or floated to the water surface ones.
- The next day, drain the beans, put them into a pot, with water barely cover the surface of the beans, add baking soda. Bring to a boil over medium heat then drain the beans, rinse the beans under cold water briefly then drain again.
- Put the beans back into the pot with plenty of water and cook over medium heat. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Keep an eye on the pot occasionally to ensure no spilling and pour some more in if the water’s dried out. My experience in that to cook with plenty of water then you’ll be left with a lovely, tasty, healthy drink afterwards as well.
- Keep the water simmering until the beans are soft, about an hour or more. You could check by taking out a few beans and crush them with your fingers, they should be easily mashed.
- Now pour everything through a fine sieve or colander, drain the beans and it’s time for some smashing!
- Put a bowl or a pot underneath, using the back of the spoon mash the beans through the sieve. You could do it twice for a more refined and smooth paste.
- Return the fine paste into the pot, under low heat, mix in sugar to the desired level of sweetness, add some red bean liquid if the paste is too dry
What about that red bean drink that I told you about? Well, you could dilute it with some water if it’s too thick (as some of the inside of the beans form a thick, smooth layer), adding some sugar to your heart’s content or store in the fridge & drink it plain like me. Beans are famous for the high content of fiber, and the soluable fiber in red beans is especially helpful in lowering the blood cholesterol level. Red beans are also a good source of iron and antioxidant which reduce our risk of having cancer or heart disease. So, a good eat and healthy drink, I think I’m falling in love with red beans all over again.
If you are curious about what I’m gonna do with the paste, stay tuned for my new post on a pretty, tasty type of Japanese bread (which hopefully won’t turn out very ugly, otherwise I’ll have nothing to blog about >”<)
So, warm welcome & loads of love from me