Sakura Branch Cookies: Happy Spring!

In honor of the first day of spring this past week, I made these cookies that mimic the spring branches that are swarming the sidewalks and shops in New York’s flower district right now.  I was delighted to stumble upon that part of town earlier this month… to my winter-weary eyes, it was proof that New York really has it all.

My first weekend of spring is shaping up to be pretty darn sweet.  I’m excited to attend the Dessert Goals festival.  Yes, the same festival that I went crazy for last autumn.  As the professionals say, dessert is always a good idea.  In addition to attending one of their food styling workshops on Saturday, I’ll be volunteering there on Sunday… anything to make the sugar-fueled dream last a little longer!  One day just isn’t enough, as I learned the hard way last year, racing to eat my way through sugary booth after oh-so-sugary booth.

There’s a fresh crop of vendors at the festival this spring, and I’m especially excited to sample the churros s’mores from Boqueria and the mini eclairs from Rare Bird Sweets.  Dessert Goals is without a doubt the best place to hunt down interesting new dessert mash-ups.

Just earlier this week, I was chatting with a friend about trying the Whole 30 diet… where you cut out dairy, sugar (gasp!), grains, and alcohol for 30 days.  What better time than the beginning of spring to infuse a little extra energy into my life?  I resolved to try it, but then, being honest with myself, decided that 30 days was not realistic and started considering a Hadley-customized “Whole 7” diet.

Nope, I still haven’t started that yet.  With Dessert Goals looming and with the Cherry Bombe Jubilee event on the horizon, it is truly my duty to abstain from healthy living, for the time being!

There will be plenty of time to go all-in later.  Balance truly is key, so for now, I’ll keep trying to inject my creations with fresh fruits and alternative ingredients.  I’ll save the Whole 7 low-down for another blog post.

Hope your spring is off to a gorgeous start, stay sweet!

 

They See Me Rollin’ (But They Aren’t Hatin’): DIY Pocky Candy

I didn’t grow up in Japan, but during my few years of living there as an adult, I made it a point to make up for lost time in the candy aisle. Those of you who have discovered Japanese candy will understand my enchantment… the new colors, flavors and shapes are overwhelming to someone who was raised on the primary colored ubiquity of M&M’s. After coming back from Japan, I became obsessed with hunting down the closest places to access a sugar high of the Japanese variety. While many larger cities have shops that carry an assortment of international snacks, sometimes a quick trip to Chinatown just isn’t an option.

When this is the case, here is a DIY guide that you can use at home to assuage your Pocky craving.  Just keep a few basic ingredients on hand!

Some of the most conventional Pocky flavors are chocolate, matcha green tea, and strawberry. I ended up incorporating some of the ingredients I already had in my kitchen. As you will see, scrounging up Pocky fixings is much easier and more creative than you would imagine!  This batch of Pocky are matcha green tea flavored with black sesame, as well as strawberry flavored with sprinkles.

You can literally use anything to top off your Pocky; Graham Cracker crumbs, shredded almonds, cereals, or the petals of dried edible flowers are a few fun options.

The word “Pocky” comes from the Japanese mimetic word, pokin, which is supposed to mimic a snapping noise. After making your Pocky, you can be the judge of their crunchy quality!

I originally found the cookie dough recipe for these treats on the lovely blog Chocolate + Connie.

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

For the toppings, have at least 4 ounces of thoroughly melted white chocolate on hand for each flavor.  I used a couple drops of strawberry extract and a drop of pink gel food coloring for the strawberry pocky.  I mixed a teaspoon of matcha powder into melted white chocolate to achieve the matcha green tea coating.  I sprinkled Fancy Sprinkles and black sesame seeds onto the chocolate.

Cookie Instructions:

  1. Mix the sweetened condensed milk with water and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt on low speed until well mixed.
  3. Add the butter and mix for about 5 minutes.
  4. Mix in the condensed milk mixture all at once and continue mixing until it is fully incorporated and the dough forms a ball around the paddle.
  5. Transfer to a large sheet of plastic wrap, pat into a 1-inch-thick disk, and wrap tightly in the plastic.
  6. Preheat the oven to 300 F.
  7. You can either roll the dough out with your hands, or pipe with a small round piping tip.  If you choose to go the piping tip route, put the dough in a piping bag and pipe immediately after mixing.  If you plan to roll them out by hand, chill the dough for at least 30 minutes before rolling.  When the dough warms up, it becomes harder to achieve a uniform width with the Pocky.
  8. Transfer the sticks to a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet, setting the sticks 1/2 inch apart.
  9. Refrigerate the baking sheets, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  10. Bake until golden brown, for about 14 minutes. Rotate the pans at 7 minutes for evenly baked Pocky.
  11. Cool completely before coating.
  12. Dip your Pocky in your thoroughly melted chocolate mixtures.  Add garnish before the chocolate has completely dried.