07 October 2011

Sweet Ambition

One of the food categories I immediately think of when considering Hawaiian "local" cuisine is baked goods. The association is undoubtedly due to how my mom speaks so nostalgically about the sweet and savory breads, pies, pastries, and other treats she enjoyed during her time on Oahu (she was born and raised there). It's been decades since she's lived in the islands, but her memory for the food is remarkably vivid. Whenever we spot Hawaii-style treats at various mainland markets, one can tell that Mom is thinking about how they're made in her home state. I can't say that I actually remember specific locations such as Leonard's (for malasadas), Shirokiya (for Japanese-style sweets), and Liliha Bakery (for pretty much everything else) during previous family trips to Oahu, but I'm certain I have, indeed, visited each, given my mom's fond remembrance of each place and the edible delights they serve.

While the rest of my family spends the vast amount of our time here in California (where we all reside), Dad still periodically visits Hawaii (where he was raised and where his parents still live) on business trips. He has a sweet tooth, so it's not just to fulfill Mom's requests that he brings back a few sweets upon returning to the mainland. Among the many confections that are uniquely Hawaiian (e.g., baked Okinawan sweet potato manju, coco puffs), azuki turnovers are some of the few that Dad always brings back for himself and Mom. I've enjoyed sweet red bean paste for as long as I can remember, so it's no surprise that a pastry filled with it would appeal to me. But like nearly all of the Hawaii-style food I ate as a child, azuki turnovers (and pretty much all pastries in Hawaii) are not vegan. Fortunately, I like a good food challenge, so I was ready to put my pastry-making skills to the test by attempting to recreate azuki turnovers, the vegan way.

Because it has been a few years since I've actually eaten an azuki turnover, I couldn't recall the specific type of pastry it used. My instinct said the base was essentially pie crust. However, when considering how I would execute my pastry plan, I became a bit distracted from my goal. More specifically, I remembered envying Vegan Dad's impeccable homemade baked goods, particularly those included in his laminated dough series. Thinking back to how my first attempt at homemade vegan croissants was only vaguely memorable (i.e., adequate), I started to have flaky, yeasted pastry on the brain. Obsessing over croissants made me second-guess my instinct about the azuki turnover base being pie crust; I wondered whether it could, in fact, be more Danish pastry-like. (At this point, I had already re-read Vegan Dad's Danish pastry dough post several times.) In the end, it turns out I was wrong about the Danish pastry and right about the pie crust. Of course, I didn't realize any of that until after I had experimented with the turnovers using both. The good news is that both variations were delicious and I am newly confident about my ability to properly make laminated dough.
I started with the Danish pastry dough. I was a bit careless when making croissants, so I decided to follow Vegan Dad's instructions meticulously. The time and effort was well worth the results. Although the dough didn't look quite as neat as Vegan Dad's, the pastries baked up quite nicely; their outsides turned a lovely, golden brown while the interior was pillow-soft. I used Vegan Dad's baking instructions as guidelines, although subsequent batches revealed that leaving the pastries in a few minutes longer than the suggested duration yielded the best results (which is why the batch shown here is a little pale). I had also shaped the turnovers in the way I best remembered them, laying a strip of homemade tsubu an diagonally down the center of a square piece of dough, folding two opposite corners across the middle. The corners didn't stay down when the turnovers baked, so the resulting pastries look a bit misshapen. Then again, by that point, I knew immediately that I was obviously wrong in even considering that the dough could have been anything like Danish pastry, so the uneven appearance didn't really matter. And my non-vegan brother and sister-in-law absolutely loved these turnovers (as did I), so all was not lost.
That mistake also gave me an excuse to make more turnovers. For the second attempt, I followed my initial assumption, taking a much quicker route than yeast-risen, laminated pastry dough by opting to make pie dough. I've heard good things about this flaky pie crust recipe, so I used it and was not disappointed. Even by altering the formula by incorporating a bit of whole wheat pastry flour and reducing the amount of fat cut into the dough by a half-stick, the baked pastry was gorgeously flaky and tender. I'm sure other bakers have achieved even better results with their pie crusts, but this was an event for me. I simply don't work with this much fat on a regular basis, so my stinginess doesn't always produce particularly noteworthy results. I again shaped the turnovers as I did when I used the Danish pastry dough, but used this post as a baking guideline. With trial-and-error and a dusting of powdered sugar, I was able to successfully make vegan azuki turnovers that were just as delicious as their non-vegan counterparts. Yum.


  1. coconutandberries10/7/11, 12:14 PM

    Check out that flaky dough. So impressed, pastry making has always been intimidating for me. I will give it a go sometime though....

  2. wow! I would like one please! :D

  3. both variations look amazing!  you know, i've always been curious about sweet red bean type desserts, and they definitely look worth trying ;)

  4. 'Kay, these closeups just slay me.  The flakes!  The sweetness!  I...want...one...now!

  5. Oh my goodness! You should be super proud of these! It usually takes all my willpower to make 2 versions of the same thing, but this looks like it was worth the effort to make both. The two look amazing!

  6. They really do look fantastic! And I love that you were able to recreate something from your childhood.


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