Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Kurobo Brown Sugar Sticks
I often read blogs about cooking and one of the things that works a bit like a fingernail on a blackboard for me is people who talk about recipes for "Japanese bread" (shokupan), "Japanese castella" and "Japanese cheesecake" as well as "traditional Japanese baking". There are traditional Japanese baked items, but those things are all off-shoots of European culture, not "traditional Japanese baking". It's like saying "traditional American pizza". There is American-style pizza, but it's not "traditional". Be forewarned that I may be getting rather curmudgeonly in my old age. Feel free to ignore my silly crabbiness. However, I promise not to go on about having to tie an onion on my belt.
These types of cookies are a classic sweet in Japan, and as far as I know are not a derivative of a European treat. While their shape and size is reminiscent of a biscotti, the experience of eating one is in no way the same. The interior is coarse and spongy while the outside is crispy and sugary. The brown sugar exterior forms a slightly crispy "crust" which provides a pleasant textural contrast to the soft, springy interior. They smell a bit like brown sugar and molasses, but there is also an element of coffee. I'm guessing that that relates to some sort of roasting process involved in some of the ingredients.
I often say of traditional Japanese snacks that they are pretty much the same so it doesn't matter what sort you by, but the truth is that this particular treat is one in which quality seriously matters. I've had hundred yen shop versions and I've had types like this which are closer to 200 yen ($2.46). The cheap kind lack the sweet, crispy exterior and the pleasantly gritty brown sugar qualities that pricier types have. The company that makes these, Kurobo, makes a very fine version. It uses flour, eggs, and brown sugar syrup.
My students often talk about how black sugar is "healthy" and I sort of smile and move on to another topic. The back of this bag mentions that using black/brown sugar means that these have 50 fewer calories per 100 grams than those made with white sugar. I calculated the calories in each stick at 71. The web site also claims that these have more vitamins and a high alkaline content. Eating foods with high alkaline is supposed to reduce heart disease by balancing acids in the blood.
So, these "sticks" (actually, a type of cookie) are not only tasty, but also nutritious. In moderation, these would be an excellent part of a well-balanced diet. However, you shouldn't eat them for the nutrition. You should enjoy them for the brown sugar tastiness.