Monday, October 3, 2011
A lot of people have fond recollections of their mother's home cooking and will reminisce about this or that food which no one made like mom. My mother, who grew up in a generation and location among people who felt that chicken which had any moisture in it whatsoever was a dangerous vehicle for salmonella, is a terrible cook. Every steak was suitable to sole a shoe. Every vegetable cooked to a state of mush, unless it came from a can in which case it was marginally heated and plopped in a wet, soggy blob on the plate.
There is, however, one thing which she made in a manner which I enjoyed and remember with fondness and that was her sugar cookies. Unlike most of the sugar cookies other people make, they are not crispy, super buttery or sweet. They were soft, doughy, lightly sweet, and had a unique texture which was a happy menage a trois of cookie, pie, and cake. They were excellent plain, though she also used them as part of a filled cookie. My favorite was dreadful canned blueberry pie filling, which added some sweetness, but mainly left a mild, moist blue indentation in the middle after I pulled the cookie apart and ate the filling as if I were dealing with an Oreo.
The distinctive aspect of my mother's sugar cookies, besides the texture, was the way in which white flour seemed to meld with the other ingredients to form a wonderful baked good flavor that one wouldn't expect from something so simple. Usually, the flour, fat and sugar are a base for other flavors, not the main attraction, but it worked in her cookies. And, it works in these cookies.
This style of cookie, called a "bo" or "stick" in Japan, is extremely common as a "kurobo" (black stick) version. In fact, you can find the brown sugar version in nearly every store in Japan. My husband really likes them, and they're supposed to be healthy because of the alkaline content. My guess is that these lack the nutritional boost, but I really don't eat cookies as part of a well-balanced diet. I'm really not that delusional.
The outside of the cookies is covered in an very thin, lightly crispy glaze of white sugar. The cookies themselves are dry, but soft, with a nice biscuity texture. The ingredients list is very short and includes flour, eggs and sugar as the main components. They're a very simple cookie made in a way that simply "works", just like my mother's simple sugar cookies.
I found these cookies at Takehachi, a shop which specializes in various Japanese delicacies with an emphasis on seafood. They also sell some dishes. They have a main store, but most of their outlets are in department stores. The main drawback to these cookies is that they are on the slightly expensive side at 315 yen ($4.09) for 10 cookies. The second drawback is the limited availability. Still, I'd certainly buy these again. If you see them, I'd recommend buying them while you have the chance.