Manju is a Japanese word that covers a variety of pastries with bean paste filling. The pastry 'manju' is more narrowly defined after it made its way into Korea. Its dough is made with wheat flour, condensed milk and butter and its filling is made with sweet white or red bean paste, although white bean paste seems more prevalent. The most popular and common manju is chestnut manju that is shaped like chestnut but it doesn't necessarily contain chestnut in the filling.
It is a bit challenging to make manju at home. Because of condensed milk, the dough is pretty wet, which makes it difficult to shape. If you don't use condensed milk or very little of it, its fragrance and flavor don't come through in manju, which to me is important.
I was looking for manju recipes to learn more about ingredient ratios and dough consistency and I finally came across this cinnamon manju recipe in the Korean blog Choutte Maman. Cinnamon manju is rolled, dusted with cinnamon powder and cut to smaller pieces. It gave me an idea on how to handle the wet, delicate dough in an easier way.
Rolling out the dough in a ziploc bag helps to manage the wet dough in a cleaner way with better yields. Once you get used to working with this consistency of the dough, try increasing the amount of condensed milk next time for more delicate, softer result. Although cinnamon manju always comes in this rolled shape, you don't need to dust it with cinnamon powder if it's not your thing. I use very little, which gives a hint of cinnamon. There is no need for any garnish on top, but why not? Try different seeds and nuts and decide which one you like the best. To my surprise, my favorite topping turned out to be the most common garnish for manju - both black and white sesame seeds.
Cinnamon Manju (계피 만주 gye pi man ju)
Yield - 48 Pieces
Adapted from Chouette Maman's Recipe
1 Large egg
1 tablespoon Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt
3 tablespoons Unsalted butter, cut to cubes
1/3 cup Condensed milk
1 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons All-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Baking powder
1 1/2 cup White bean paste (store-bought or homemade)
1 1/2 tablespoon All-purpose flour
Water to seal the dough
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon powder
1 Egg yolk, whisked
Assorted seeds and nuts of your choice such as sesame seeds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios for garnish on top
1. In a metal prep bowl, whisk together egg, sugar and salt. Fill 1/2 of a sauce pot with water and bring it up to a gentle boil. Turn off heat and place the metal prep bowl on top of the saucepan. Make sure the bowl doesn't touch water in the saucepan. Add butter and whisk until completely melted. Mix in condensed milk and whisk until completely incorporated.
2. In a separate bowl, sift together flour and baking powder. Mix in the egg liquid from #1 in the flour. Bring together to form a dough. It will be shiny and sticky.
3. Place the dough in a 1-gallon size ziploc bag. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to a flat sheet of the ziploc bag size. If you don't have a ziploc bag, use plastic wrap instead and roll out to about 8x11-inch sheet of an even thickness. Refrigerate the dough on a flat plate or a cookie sheet for an hour to overnight.
4. While the dough is resting, mix together the white bean paste and flour. Divide it into 4 equal portions. Dust 2 tablespoons of flour on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roll out one portion of the white bean paste mix on the dusted baking sheet into 11-inch log. Repeat with the rest of the white bean paste mix.
5. Take out the dough from the refrigerator and cut open 2 sides of the ziploc bag. Open the ziplog bag and dust the dough sheet with flour. Close the ziploc bag, flip, and open from the other side so that the dusted side is down and you're facing the shiny side of the dough sheet.
6. Carefully transfer a white bean paste log onto the dough sheet. Roll the dough to wrap the log completely and cut the dough with a knife. Open up the dough and press down both sides of the dough with fingers. Wet one side of the dough and bring to wrap and glue to the bean paste log. Wet the other side of the dough and press gently to completely wrap the log and glue it to the other side of the dough sheet. Place it with the sealed side down. Repeat with the rest of the logs.
7. Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.
8. Cut each log into 12 pieces. First, cut a log in half, then in another half. From there, cut to 3 pieces from each short log, which will get you 12 pieces. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, not touching each other. Brush with egg yolk. Place garnish of your choice (seeds, nuts) on top.
9. Bake in the 350 F degree oven for 25~30 minutes until the top is golden. Let it cool to room temperature. If you can, refrigerate in an airtight container overnight. Its flavors will settle and its texture will soften and you'll taste something closer to what manju should taste like. At least in a way that I remember as what manju is.
It keeps for a week in the refrigerator.