Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sweet Seasons/November 2005 – Maple –

The beauty of maple leaves in autumn is such a great gift of the nature. Most Japanese maple trees are hardly associated with the concept of harvest as sugar maples may be. Instead, in my very subjective view, they are there just to embody the elegant beauty of changing seasons. As the harvest season nears the end, the gorgeous maple leaves generously color the world so that we can appreciate the precious moments before the arrival of barren winter.

The multi-colored maple leaves are often called momiji in Japanese. Momiji originally meant "(any kind of) leaves turned into various colors (not only red but including yellow or brownish orange) in autumn," thus it was not an official name of a specific plant. These days, the word momiji is generally associated with autumn maple leaves.

The wagashi in the photo is a layered kanten (agar-agar) jelly, which I think represents maple leaves floating on a gentle stream. The top layer contains tiny maple-leaf shaped jellies in different colors. The middle layer is tsubuan (coarsely mashed azuki bean paste) jelly. The white layer at the bottom seems to be made from domyoji-ko (coarsely ground dried glutinous rice) set with kanten. To make domyoji-ko, glutinous rice is first washed and soaked in water, then steamed, dried and milled. This rice powder gives a nice crumby texture to the kanten jelly, which is pleasant to the palate. The name of the powder is said to have come from a temple in Osaka, Domyoji temple, where the powder was first made.

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Another wagashi with the theme of momiji. This is nerikiri, the same type of Japanese confectionery as last month's entry. I just love the elegant color gradation on this sweet maple leaf.

When I started this monthly calendar project, I had an idea of taking shots of wagashi with real flowers/leaves to make them look tasteful. But after giving it a try a few times, I finally gave up… To me wagashi seems to look most impressive when placed on a simple, black plate. Or maybe some kind of traditional Japanese paper might work...

Well, here's a confession to make. I took the shots of these sweets in the beginning of November with my old digital camera. The photos of maple leaves used as “outside drop shadow” around the wagashi photos were taken with my new camera last weekend. So this entry is actually a collaboration of the work of two cameras.
Hope you enjoyed it. :)

* To see more photos of autumn leaves, click here.

Wagashi by Ogasawara and Nishigawaya


Anonymous said...

Those wagashi are BEAUTIFUL. And I was happy to see you post them now, because all the leaves have fallen from the trees here in Pittsburgh, so I can't enjoy their color anymore this year.

I used to work in an Austrian bakery in the US, and I would love to learn how to make Japanese wagashi sometime. They look so complex... just the sort of thing I enjoy doing!

Sara, The Wine Makers Wife said...

I am so struck by the beauty of that wagashi with the jelly. Its amazingly delicate. I am sure the flavor is even more so. I enjoyed reading about your sake tasting experience. It reminds me so much of wine tastign in Napa Valley and getting a sneak peek at all the wine making equipment.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh!!!! What beautiful wagashi!!!!!! I am always amazed by the beauty of Japanese food.

Anonymous said...

They look beautiful

Jennie Durren said...

Oh, I started a new blog today and I linked to your blog from mine. I hope you don't mind! If you do, just let me know.

obachan said...

I’ve been to Pittsburgh only once more than ten years ago, and yeah, it must be already pretty cold up there now. I still remember how beautiful it was in autumn in PA.
Hope you have a chance to try wagashi-making over there! I'm sure you'll enjoy it. :D

I was really fascinated with the delicate work, too.
Oh, and I’m so glad to hear that you liked the entry about my sake-tasting, because, to tell you the truth, it was this post on you blog that sort of inspired me to try a brewery tour here, though it was sake, not wine. Fermentation is such an interesting process, isn’t it?

Yeah, for this beauty, I don’t mind risking my health with a little amount of artificial food coloring.

Thanks. They tasted good, too. :)

obachan said...

Of course I don't mind. Thanks for linking. :)

Anonymous said...

How lovely this is.

Anonymous said...

they are so pretty!!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love the Japanese sense of aesthetics! Those wagashi are absolutely beautiful and so delicate. A real pleasure for the eyes...

Reid said...

Hi Obachan,

The photos of the wagashi and the maple leaves are beautiful. How I miss Japan. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

These are beautiful photos, Obachan. Would really love to have a bite of the jelly - jelly's my favourite dessert.

Melissa CookingDiva said...

Your posts and photos were beautiful BEFORE your new camera arrived. Now, they are even better :)

obachan said...

Thanks. The confectioners did a great job. Really.

I think they (confectioners) are great artists, too.

AND to the tongue, too. ;) I heard that they have to learn a great deal about the taste and characteristics of different kinds of sugar.
BTW, did you get my email?

Hope you have a chance to visit Japan sometime soon : )

Amber Amethryne
That one was very good. Esp. I loved the white layer at the bottom.

Oh thanks. My old camera would really appreciate your kind comment ;)

nika said...

I adore your site! I have been to a few tea ceremonies and am simply enthralled by it all but especially by the wagashi (and of course kaiseki everything)

thanks for all your hard work on this site!

obachan said...

Hi nika,
Thanks for your nice comment. I like attending tea ceremonies, but I would love it much more if we were allowed to eat wagashi as we drink tea… like, take one bite of wagashi and enjoy the bitterness of the green tea, then one more bite of wagashi… you know what I mean?