You’ve had that moment when you bit into an Asian treat, and you chewed a morsel of the chocolatey center, but then your brain registered that this was not tasting like Hershey’s. Either you thought, oh shiz, what on earth is this savory, sweet thing that has completely let me down by not being chocolate or, you thought hmm, interesting, this is pretty good.
I’ve had both reactions. I’ve eaten mochi where the sweet red bean paste was as thick as cold oatmeal, and completely unappetizing, so much so that I thought it was an Asian mother’s sick joke on her children. (This was a reward for getting all A’s?) But I’ve also had them in the Korean Pop Tart version called Ho Bang (please, it’s a phonetic translation, don’t be offended, if you weren’t already offended by my previous comment). Ho Bang is a bready treat shaped like a circle and filled with syrupy sweet red bean paste. They’re individually wrapped, and when you are ready to eat one, you toast it so that the outside gets crispy and the center becomes warm and gooey. I’ve snacked on my fair share of Ho Bangs growing up, and at times, I feel nostalgic for one.
I’m experimenting today with a bread pudding recipe, and to kill two birds with one stone, I’m making them muffin sized so that I can pack it in the kids’ lunch boxes tomorrow for snack. Don’t even get me started about the ‘art of packing lunchboxes.’ It’s an art because I need to pack a snack and a lunch in a 6″ x 4″ x 2″ lunchbox. Because a small crane is needed to lift one’s schoolbag due to the amount of notebooks middle school requires, I bought my kids the smallest lunch boxes that REI sells. They are meant to latch onto the outside of their school bags, because precious interior real estate has been crowded with books, a zillion pencils and pens, planner, gym clothes, and etc.
To be fair, the newby principal(his second year) has implemented a streamlined supplies list this year, and the kids’ back packs are considerably lighter. But I do not want to buy new lunch boxes, and I’ve become rather adept at shrinking wasted space, and tightly arranging food as if they were tangram pieces.
Where has the romance gone with our lunch boxes? I so miss my Bee Gees lunch box.
Back to sweet red bean paste. When it’s lighter and the consistency of jelly, I can really appreciate the nutty flavor of the red beans. The custardy middle of a bread pudding pairs well with the creamy red bean paste. You may get a mini revolt from your diehard chocolate fans, as they accuse you of baiting and switching. But there is a heartiness to sweet red bean paste that cannot be replaced by chocolate.
- 10 slices of day old french bread or hearty whole wheat bread(If using fresh bread, toast lightly in the oven first)
- 1 tbs brown sugar
- 1 c whole milk
- 1/2 c cream
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 c sweet ed bean paste(found in Asian markets)
- 2 tbs apricot jam
- Dice bread in small cubes(smaller than usual bread pudding size due to muffin presentation).
- Whisk together eggs, cream, milk, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl.
- Soak the diced bread in the egg mixture. Wait until the bread soaks up the liquid(about 15 minutes).
- Mix together 1/4 c of sweet red bean paste and apricot jam in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Prepare muffin pan. Either butter the pan well or use foil muffin cups.
- Scoop bread mixture halfway up each muffin cup.
- Drop a tsp of red bean paste mixture into each muffin cup.
- Cover the red bean paste mixture with more bread mixture. Plan on having the bread mixture level the top of the pan.
- Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes.
- Dust with powder sugar after muffins have cooled.