Shaymin Nerikiri

I would be lying if I said this recipe was easy. Namely because it took me 4 hours from start to finish. A lot of it, not going to lie, is just the amount of time it took perfecting the color and shape of these little nuggets. That and I tried to make a half-batch at first, only for me to end up having to double down the quantity when I dye too much of my dough green, and had to make more plain dough so that I could make enough Shaymins. For those unfamiliar with nerikiri is a rice and shiro-an(sweet white bean paste)-based dough that you can shape and color into a lot of fun and colorful things. They are classified as wagashi, or traditional Japanese confections! I used this brand of shiro-an, and while it did save me some time in making my own from butter beans or lima beans, I still actually had to reduce it down, just because it was too watery at first. You need the dough to be relatively firm to the touch, since you are molding and shaping it. After cooking out the shiro-an and mixing it with the cooked mochi, I recommend letting the dough rest at room temperature for a few minutes, just so it firms up!

When it came to the flavor of the nerikiri, I went with mugwort(yomogi in Japanese), which is a green leaf that tastes similar to matcha, but without the caffeine, and salted sakura. The mugwort was used to dye half of the nerikiri green, while both the mugwort and sakura were used in gelees to replicate the appearance of Shaymin. Shaymin is a little hedgehog-like Pokemon that is white in color, with a bush-like mane with flowers and leaves on the sides of its head. The fictional flowers are called Gracideas, and Shaymin itself represents gratitude and flowers. I figured for this year’s Hanami dessert, going with Shaymin would just make sense, tying in the flower theme with the usage of both cherry blossoms and mugwort! When it came to shaping out the manes and legs, I did use scissors to snip them, but do so VERY carefully when attempting at home(not trying to cost anyone any fingers here!). Besides that, it is important to be very delicate when it comes to assembly, as the little features(the eyes and snouts) were really tricky to attach on(I recommend using tweezers). However, it is a feeling of major satisfaction when these little things finally came together and actually resembled Shaymin!

For the Nerikiri dough:
300g shiro-an
90g shiratamako rice flour(you can also use mochiko as well)
120g water
30g granulated sugar
cornstarch or potato starch
5g mugwort powder

Heat up the shiro-an on low heat while constantly stirring until the mixture has reduced down by about 10% – it should measure up to about 270g after cooking it down. In a microwave, cook the rice flour with water and sugar for 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Mix that mixture into the shiro-an and allow it to cool down. Dust a surface with a thin layer of cornstarch and turn out your dough onto it. Divide the dough in half. Mix half with the mugwort to form the green side. Divide the white dough into 6 pieces and shape out into little hedgehogs, pinching out the faces and snouts, and using a knife or scissors to carefully cut out the legs. For the green dough, roll to about 1/8th-inch thickness. Cut out 12 half-circles from the dough, fraying the edges using a pair of scissors. Press onto each hedgehog to form your manes. For the noses, I used the remainder of my green dough to form those. I know technically Shaymin don’t gave green noses, but I felt like using the sesame seeds for the eyes and the noses would be a bit of a copout, so I did what I did.

For the mugwort gelee:
1/4 cup water
1 tsp agar
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp mugwort powder
a pinch of salt

Bring to a boil. Pour into a lined airtight container and refrigerate until set. Cut out leaf-like shapes by using small circular cutters and overlapping indentations into the gelee(think like ven diagrams).

For the sakura gelee:
1/4 cup water
1 tsp agar
1 tsp granulated sugar
2 salted cherry blossoms
1/4 tsp pitaya powder

Bring to a boil. Pour into a lined airtight container and refrigerate until set. Cut out small flowers(I used a daisy-shaped cookie cutter).

For garnish:
Black sesame seeds

Brush the faces of the Shaymin with water. Press the black sesame seeds into the faces to form the eyes. Garnish the sides with the gelees(I used 4 leaves and 2 flowers per each nerikiri).

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