Tanoshii: Joy of Making Japanese-Style Cakes and Desserts
I was stationed in Japan for six months in 2011, and during that time, I had the opportunity to sample numerous gorgeous (and delicious) French pastries and breads, including Maison Kayser. The Japanese are particularly fond of genoise(sponge cakes), particularly cream-and-fruit-filled cake rolls, as well as macarons, cream puffs, and financiers. Chef Yamashita is a pastry chef who originally owned a very successful pâtisserie in Nara, Japan, and now owns Flor Pâtisserie in Singapore. I own Okashi Treats: Sweet Treats Made With Love by the same publishing company, and while "Okashi Treats" experiments with traditional Japanese flavors like black sesame, green tea, sweet potato, and red bean paste, the author also branched out into apple and mincemeat tartlets, a pine nut tart, carrot, ginger, and rum raisin cake, and dog treats! Both cookbooks (Tanoshii and Okashi Treats) contain the same staples: short crust, cream puff dough, custard sauce, etc. but Tanoshii plays it much "safer," with only ONE green tea-infused recipe and hojicha butter castellas. However, Yamashita-san's dacquoise aux raisins is superb, and his cayenne pepper cookies will be familiar as that Southern classic cheese straws (you could also use curry powder to give it a more "Japanese" twist). The only semi-exotic nod comes in the form of the coconut gula melaka madeleines made with palm sugar and coconut. I would have liked to see more recipes that played with black sesame, various teas, and red bean paste, as these are flavors I sampled frequently at the many French-inspired pastry shops in Japan. I found it curious that when I looked at the product list for Flor Pâtisserie, there were many more "Japanese" flavors than are featured in the cookbook (marron pie, tofu chiffon cake, Earl Grey and green tea cakes, azuki cake, sesame cookies, matcha butter cake, etc.); this is more of what I'd hoped to find in Tanoshii (the recipes themselves weren't available for the "Look Inside This Book" feature; if I'd known this before I ordered, I would have probably passed it up). Tanoshii also includes several chocolate desserts (chocolate almonds, brownies, chocolate gateau) and jellies (grapefruit jelly, champagne jelly, avocado mousse, etc.) If you are looking for a very clear, fairly simple guide to French-style patisserie, then Tanoshii is a good choice (each step has a photo), but I find the subtitle "Joy of Making Japanese-Style Cakes and Desserts" a bit misleading, since Okashi Treats: Sweet Treats Made With Love Made With Love more closely mirrored what I saw in the numerous pastry shops I frequented in Japan. Ideally, I would recommend purchasing both books; Tanoshii for its base recipes, and Okashi Treats once you're ready to branch out. I hope that Chef Yamashita will release a second cookbook that includes more of the Japanese-style treats that he serves at Flor!