"Mountain" of Shiro An
Shiro an, a white bean paste that is lightly sweetened, is the base of so many Japanese tea sweets. And I love it. Love it. LOVE it! I know that sweetened bean paste sounds funny to Americans, but it really IS good! When I began studying chanoyu, I had no idea how much I would come to love the sweets that go along with the tea. What a wonderful surprise! And sweets with shiro an are one of my favorites.
While it's possible to buy the red bean paste in the Asian markets around here, it is not possible to find the white paste. So earlier this year I tried making it myself. My sensei had prepared me well for the all-day process! You can find her detailed steps here. If you attempt this, please do use her recipe. My notes below don't include all the steps.
First you buy dried Lima beans and sort through them, then let them soak overnight. Then comes the part that was hardest for me: Peeling the skins off the beans. I was making a big batch (because you don't want to do this very often!), and so I had a lot of skins to remove. Fortunately, they slip off easily.
Then you enter into several rounds of bringing the beans to a bowl and changing the water. Repeat, repeat until the beans are falling apart. Then you send the beans through the food processor. Now you let the liquids and solids separate, draining off the liquid (this also takes several rounds).
Finally, you are ready to add some sugar. Add the sugar in small increments and stir, stir, stir until it is the right consistency. Whew!
Still needs to be a little thicker - keep stirring!
Fortunately, shiro an freezes really well and will make for many happy tea times in the future! The bean paste is very mold-able and flexible. It can be colored and made into interesting shapes, traditionally something that suggests the season. If you ever get the opportunity to try a sweet made with shiro an, please do! It's naturally gluten free and fat free, too. And there's only a little sugar. Big on taste and texture!