Tsuki no Usagi tartlets

I always loved the myth of Tsuki no Usagi, or the moon rabbit. The idea that there is a rabbit on the moon, making mochi, just sounded like really cool to me, and I would take that rabbit over the Easter bunny or the Trix Rabbit any day! I wanted to take Japanese wagashi and fuse it with the visuals of the night’s sky, and also incorporate some French pastry techniques into it as well to make a very modern Asian-fusion tart. So we have kinako(toasted soy bean powder) infused pate brisee, a purple yam yokan(yokan is like a sweetened bean or yam-based jelly that is set with agar), warabimochi(mochi dusted with kinako), a soy bean milk kanten jelly(jelly set with agar), and a dulcey tempered chocolate moon(dulcey or blonde chocolate is a roasted or caramelized white chocolate that compliments kinako surprisingly well). For my recipe, I used unsweetened soy bean milk, but if you are using sweetened, just halve the sugar in wherever you’re using it.

With the techniques, I opted for a pate brisee as my tart shell. It is similar to pate sucre, which is the other typical dough used for tarts, in that both are short crust pastries that use butter and flour. However, pate sucre typically includes eggs or egg yolks for a richer experience, while the pate brisee does not. Since we had yokan, which is quite dense and rich, the less rich pate brisee made more sense, just so that it would not be an overwhelming experience. With the kanten jelly, I used a rabbit shaped cutter to cut out the jelly, but if you do not have that, you are welcome to either free form it or maybe cut out other shapes like stars instead! Whatever you want, since it is your kitchen! The dulcey, or caramelized white chocolate, was more of a last minute edition. I originally wanted to make a moon shape using more pate brisee, but I made the rookie mistake of rolling it too thin in an attempt to get this nice, light pastry, and that resulted in it burning. Luckily, the dulcey paired beautifully with kinako anyways, so that all worked out in the end! Mine was purchased from Valrhona, but if you do not want to buy it, you could make it by slow roasting white chocolate at 250 degrees F for 45 minutes, stirring the chocolate every 5 minutes to prevent any burning or uneven caramelization in the mixture.

For the pate brisee:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup kinako powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cold soy bean milk

Mix together your dry ingredients with the butter first to form a crumbly dough. Try your best not to use your hands, as it will warm up the butter and cause the dough to get tough. Pour into the dough your vanilla and soy bean milk and mix to bring together and form a smooth but soft dough. Refrigerate it for at least 10 minutes before rolling it out to 1/8th an inch thickness. Line four 4-inch ring molds with oil and flour. Place the molds on a lined sheet tray. Stuff the pastry into the molds, pressing the pastry into the edges, slicing off the excess, and prick the bottom of the tart shells. Bake the tart shells at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes, rotating them halfway to guarantee even baking. Using a 3-inch ring mold and a spoon, press down any inflated pastry(the sides and top should inflate in the oven) while it is still warm. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Allow the pastry to cool down completely before removing from the molds.

For the warabimochi:
1/4 cup mochiko
1 tablespoon soy bean milk
a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup kinako

Mix the mochiko with soy bean milk and salt in a heatproof bowl. Place into a steamer and steam for 15 minutes. The dough should be completely opaque at this point. Transfer the dough into a small, nonstick pot and stir in the sugar on low heat. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, pour the mochi batter onto the kinako and dice into smaller 1/4-inch by 1/4-inch pieces, dusting with kinako between cuts. Allow the mochi to cool before using.

For the purple yam yokan:
8 oz purple yam, peeled and diced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon agar agar

Simmer the purple yam in a pot of water until the yams are tender. Pour out the majority of the water, leaving just about enough to submerge the yams halfway. Whisk the yams with the water and add in the other ingredients, stirring on medium heat until everything is combined and you are left with a thickened purple yam paste. Pass through a sieve to remove any lumps. While the yokan is still warm, add some warabimochi into the tarts, then fill them with the yokan. Allow these to cool down in the freezer until the yokan is set, about 30 minutes.

For the kanten jelly:
1/2 cup soy bean milk
2 tablespoons agar agar
a pinch of salt

Allow your ingredients to simmer together until the agar is dissolved into the liquid. Pour into a shallow container and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Unmold the jelly, which it should set fairly firm, and slice out your rabbit shapes. Transfer onto the chilled tarts.

For the dulcey moon:
1/2 cup dulcey
a pinch of salt

Heat your dulcey over a double boiler until it is halfway melted. Take off heat and continue to stir until the rest of the dulcey melts as well. Stir until the dulcey reaches 88 degrees F. Pour the dulcey onto a sheet of acetate and spread as thinly as possible. Refrigerate the dulcey for about 90 seconds. Then cut out your crescent moon shapes using a 4-inch ring mold. Transfer back into the refrigerator for another 20 minutes before attempting to remove from the acetate and placing onto your tarts.

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