Shichimi turned two years old this week. Though I had hoped to have a more special celebratory post prepared, words have been eluding me lately.
Thoughts swirl around endlessly, but my attempts to verbalize them have been halting at best, incoherent at worst, and usually ineloquent. A simple e-mail turns into a ten minute ordeal, to say much less of one written in Japanese. Perhaps it’s the effect of acquiring new words in a second language; somehow one’s native tongue begins to seem convoluted and nonsensical. At times, relativity takes over – why shouldn’t the verb come at the end of the sentence? Do we really need a distinction between the present and future tenses?
When it all becomes a bit maddening, I turn to my hands: I chop vegetables; play with soap bubbles in the kitchen sink; drag a pencil in endless, looping patterns across sheets of paper. This weekend will be all about hands and movements, not words: sketching, practicing kanji, stirring sauce, gripping bicycle handlebars, stringing beads, playing taiko.
As you can tell, I’m not willing to give up on words just yet. But today I’ll keep things short, for both of our sakes. I made these biscuits this week because I was craving something sweet, as usual, but also because the instructions specifically directed that they be mixed with one’s hands. Thankfully, they fit the bill for flavor, too: they’re just sweet enough, thanks to maple syrup and nutty kinako (roasted soybean powder) yet also hearty and dense with grainy, seedy goodness. And the best part? The lack of gluten and egg produces extremely loose, crumbly dough that lends itself well to mixing, mashing, and smooshing with your hands. But enough writing, for now – it’s time to go make something.
As it happens, Chez Momo also turned two years old this week. These cookies would pair well with a slowly brewed cup of drip coffee, just like that made by Chez Momo’s owner, Maita-san. （おめでとうございます、蒔田さん!）
Kinako and Oatmeal Biscuits - きな粉とオートミールのビスケット
Adapted from くり返し作りたい“自然おやつ” by オズボーン未奈子
The title of this book translates somewhat awkwardly to “Natural snacks you’ll want to make again and again.” The basic principle is that using wholesome ingredients shouldn’t be an obstacle to flavor. To that end, author Minako Osborn uses plenty of nuts, seeds, and whole grains; small amounts of natural sweeteners; and very little dairy. She writes that these biscuits make a great to-go breakfast on busy mornings, and I imagine they would also make a lovely teatime snack with a cup of bright Sencha or floral Earl Grey.
Makes 12 biscuits
120 grams (1 1/2 cups) rolled oats, finely ground in a food processor
30 grams (1/4 cup) walnuts
20 grams (2 1/2 tablespoons) sesame seeds (preferably unhulled, but either will do)
50 grams (1/3 cup) raisins (or other dried fruit – I used currants)
40 grams (1/2 cup) kinako*
20 grams (2 heaping tablespoons) raw pumpkin seeds
50 ml (scant 1/4 cup) maple syrup
50 ml (scant 1/4 cup) canola or olive oil (not extra virgin), or a mix of the two
Before beginning: Finely grind the oatmeal in a food processor. Toast the walnuts in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat, shaking often, until fragrant and golden. Remove from pan. Toast the sesame seeds in the same manner. (Watch out! They’ll go from toasted to scorched in seconds.)
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place all dry ingredients in a medium bowl and use your hands to mix. Pour over the maple syrup and oil and mix well with your hands. The dough will be very dry and crumbly.
Use your hands to form the dough into 5 cm x 4 mm (~2 x 1/8 inch) rounds. If you’re having difficulty forming the biscuits, add a touch more oil to the dough and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Place the biscuits 2-1/2 cm (1 inch) apart on the cookie sheet, pressing each one down gently to flatten. You should have about 12 cookies. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cookies are golden and your kitchen smells lovely and nutty.
*A golden brown powder made from roasted soybeans. Available at Japanese and other Asian markets. Look for きなこ or きな粉 on the package.