One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is the cookies. I like to make sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies, cut into shapes like X-Mas trees, rocking horses, and reindeer. However, this year I completely lost all of my cookie cutters during my move so I had the perfect opportunity to change up my own tradition. Luckily I already had a Japanese recipe earmarked.
Among the list of foods introduced by the Portuguese in the 1500s, soba bouro (buckwheat cookies) are some of the tastiest. Buckwheat, or soba, has been cultivated in Japan for a very long time, most famously being used in soba noodles. These little cookies became very popular during the Edo Period (1603-1867) and have continued to be so. Today in buckwheat producing regions they are especially prized, in particular Kyoto (also famous for it's confections) there are many soba shops that sell these delights.
There are two ways to make these flower shaped cookies, either rolling them out (which looks more complicated) or using a pastry bag to pipe them (sounds like more work, but is super easy). The recipe I had was from A Cook's Journey to Japan by Sarah Marx Feldner and it took less than a half an hour to make them. The flower shape is traditional, taking its form from the ume (plum) blossom. I was initially intimidated by the instructions for piping them, but it was very easy (as you will see if you watch my video).
As for the flavor, they are nutty and lightly sweet. The recipe makes a lot, and they keep almost forever, but good luck not eating them all. They would make a wonderful gift this holiday season. The little flower shaped cookies might not look particularly Christmasy, but put on the nutcracker while eating them and you will soon feel the cheer.
Until next time, munch away!