Le Cordon Bleu Tokyo : Pastry Chef, Jean-Francois Favy
The form it comes in may not be something a lot of people outside of Japan have seen, but kinako is actually more familiar than one might think. It's from the same ingredient that makes common pantry items like tofu, miso, and soy milk. Kinako is simply roasted soybeans that have been ground into a powder. High in protein and dietary fiber, it's an outstandingly healthy ingredient.
"To me kinako is quite interesting because it reminds me of praline, like roasted hazelnuts. When I first tried it, I nearly confused the two."
In Japan, it's a popular ingredient and most often associated with traditional confectionaries likewarabimochi, a starch based Japanese sweet covered entirely with kinako.
"I heard that a long time ago, sugar was actually an expensive commodity in Japan. As a cheaper alternative, kinako was used as a sweetener instead."
On the 13th of September of the lunar calendar in Japan, soybeans and chestnuts are offered to the moon as a custom to give thanks to the harvest. Incidentally, this day also happens to be Chef Jean-Francois's birthday.
"Maybe I'm destined to work with kinako," the chef says with a laugh.
Soybeans in Pastry
Chef Jean-Francois included matcha and yuzu, both very Japanese ingredients, to bring out kinako's sweet side, but applying kinako effectively is not as straightforward as it may seem.
"Kinako itself is a particularly dry product and the powder is very fine," he cautions, "so I compensated for this by using it in the cream and the pastry dough for the base of the tart."
Dusting the roasted soy powder over top as they do in traditional Japanese sweets as a finishing touch, he managed to expertly string all the flavours together. However, where the chef's creativity and cleverness truly shows is in how he played with textures.
"The base of the pastry, financier batter for filling, cream, and guimauve all feel different when you bite into them."
In one mouthful, you feel the creaminess of the chestnut kinako cream and moist matcha filling. These are then accented by the soft and supple yuzu marshmallows, and in stark contrast to the crunch of the tart pastry. With such an array of flavour and texture, the chef's kinako tart is an eye-opening application of a rarely used ingredient in French pastry-making.
A filling of matcha financier batter sits in a tart pastry base accented with kinako.
The tart is finished with chestnut kinako cream and yuzu marshmallows.
Taking Kinako Abroad
Japanese ingredients like matcha and yuzu are already widespread in America and Europe, and Chef Jean-Francois believes that it could be the same forkinako.
"Kinako is pretty similar to praline so I think it can penetrate the American and Europrean markets no problem. The challenge is how to deal with it. If you can work it into fats well and understand how easily it melts and how powdery it is, then it's an ingredient I think can be well-received by everyone. It could have a lot of potential in chocolates."
Having successfully worked with kinako, Chef Jean-Francois eagerly awaits his next ingredient challenge: "In Japan, it all depends on your imagination and technique. The possibilities are endless in terms of the ingredients available so I'm really looking forward to what the next ingredient will be."