Biscuit Japonais a la coconut

March 2nd, 2012 | Posted by greg in Daily life... | Recipes

During my apprenticeship (many moons ago) one very popular petit gateau was called Japonais, which literally translates in English as “Japanese”.

The other day, I was reading random tweets and found one speaking of that very same Japonais pastry. I was so surprised that someone actually still talks about it! I did a quick search and couldn’t find anything about this sort of pastries outside Switzerland. Maybe it’s just the name that is used in Switzerland. I also tried to look for the etymology of the word “Japonais” or “Japanese” in the pastry field, but to no avail – everything is related to the great art of traditional Japanese pastry.

The name and origin of biscuit Japonais will remain a mystery to me…

That pastry was made of light almond meringues, filled with a praline butter cream. Back then it was delicious and seen as a total delicacy, I still remember making dozens of them every day… but that brings us back 20 years ago! Today, I think there are still potential to work out something delicious with the biscuit Japonais, but not loaded with the partner in crime of cupcakes, the odd butter cream! This time around, I have been thinking about using toasted coconut instead of almonds and to prepare a light and fruity filling for the finish.

Before starting the biscuit, I worked on the filling. I wanted something exotic, something that could fit our upcoming afternoon tea selection and be fresh. Knowing I had to work with the coconut, I prepared a light coconut and lime cream as well as a mango and fresh coriander (yay!) filling.

To start, I prepared the mango filling using mango puree, fresh diced mangoes from the Philippines, some freshly chopped coriander and a bit of xanthan gum to obtain the right runny texture. That’s right, runny! I mixed it and froze it as a tray. Once hard, I cut little rings that were to be set in the coconut and lime cream.

The mango and coriander, frozen in a disc

Mango coriander filling

  • 120 gm mango dice
  • 300 gm mango puree
  • 3 gm fresh coriander
  • 2 gm xanthan gum

 Method

  • Mix the mango puree with the xanthan gum and blend until it thickens
  • Add the mango dices and the chopped coriander
  • Pour in a tray to obtain a 1 cm thick layer and freeze
  • Once set, cut little discs

The frozen mangoes cut into small discs

 

Next, I prepared the coconut and lime cream…

  • 200 gm coconut milk
  • 10 gm white sugar
  • 1/2 lime juice
  • 160 gm whipped cream
  • 7 gm gelatin leaves

Method

  • Soften the gelatin leaves in cold water
  • Melt the sugar in the coconut milk and add melt in the soften gelatin
  • Squeeze the lime juice in and fold into the whipped cream
  • Allow setting a little and pipe in round molds

The frozen mango placed in the coconut cream which will be covered by more cream to encase the mangoes

Finally, I prepared the famous coconut Japonais!

  • 250 grams of egg whites
  • 100 grams white sugar

> Whip as a meringue

  • 250 grams dried coconut
  • 300 grams white sugar

> Mix the dried coconut and the sugar and fold it in the whipped egg whites carefully

> Pipe in round shape on the paper drawn with circles

> Bake at 180C for about 15 minutes – note that it will gain color fairly fast

First, I draw circles on silicon paper and flip it up-side-down not to have ink on my biscuit.

The actual biscuit resemble what we call in pastry a dacquoise sponge, which is literally the same, yet, still no connection with Japonais Biscuit!

Whipping the egg whites

The texture before piping the mixture

Piped in the round circles

Baked!

I used a round cutter to fit perfectly my coconut insert...

Done!

For the finishing, I took out the frozen coconut cream from the molds, made it a little flat using a knife and rolled it in dried coconut. Then I applied two pieces of the Japonais biscuit and left it to thaw.

It could even become a plated dessert with a bit more imagination!

Perfect surprise of a runny mango and coriander filling!

The biscuit could be done with other nuts, the cream and the filling other flavors and the only limit to create is just one’s own mind! :)

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35 Responses

  • Natnatf says:

    Wow Chef! I really like this summer creation!!!

    Will it be served in the afternoon tea at the Lounge in the summer time?

    Looking forward to trying it!

    Thx so much for sharing this recipe with us :P

  • Vivianlam1007 says:

    Um..looks yummy! Thai Mango basil would be a nice combination too =)

  • Celu says:

    It’s summer, yo!
    Can I substitute xanthan gum with wheat flour?

  • Wow! One of these days I’m going to try to recreate one of your recipes…until then I’ll just look on in amazement :-)

  • Casperjaarsma says:

    Coconut? What kind of french-speaker are you? :D Looks good though!

  • yay! so gonna make this next week!
    Thank you! 

  • Like the concept Gregoire, and you’re making me feel old because I remember japonais from my first French pastry books!  You’ve made me think about the similarly of them and the now ubiquitous macarons.

  • Swee San says:

    Gosh! I want to make this (oh even better if I can just score a plate of it:P )
    I think I’ve learned about Japonaise from pastry school a few years ago, or maybe not. I have goldfish memories lately, I need to check back my notes… 

  • Daisy says:

    Wow this is so unique! I’ve never heard of japanais before hehe but I’d love to try one~ Are you going to put it on the FS menu? :) 

  • Hkepicurus says:

    Is this available on the menu by any chance?   I could so do with this dessert nowadays..  

  • Pingback: Summer afternoon tea launched - Gregoire Michaud

  • Bob Moss says:

    They look fantastic! Some lovely photography there.

    I think it may have been me Tweeting about Japonaise Pastry (or Jap Cakes) that set you off!

  • Anita says:

    I’m from Switzerland and I miss the japonais of my youth….. Do you have a recipe ?.
    I would love it many thanks

  • fadila beaufilz says:

    Bonjour
    Je suis tombée sur votre réalisation en parcourant pinterest et j’avoue que je suis bluffée , j’adore . j’ai envie de tester la recette mais je me pose une question, les cercles font quel diamètre ? mercii

    • Bonjour Fadila,

      Merci beaucoup pour vos commentaires! :)
      Ce sont de petit cercles d’environ 5 centimetres de diametre. Et pour l’interieur mangue, il faut utiliser un diametre un petit peu plus petit. Voila! :)

  • Karen says:

    Looks amazing! Quick question, what is the yield on these delicious treats?

  • Sepp Faessler says:

    Hi Greg

    Indeed it is a mystery!

    Hidden secret: “Japonais” almond meringue cake – cookies filled with hazelnut-flavored buttercream.

    The term “Japonais” is also the French word for Japanese.

    An unusual but beautiful story of a cake – cookies you find in many Swiss pastry – food shops all over Switzerland!

    I have been trying, for almost 3 years, to unveil the secret of the “Japonais” almond meringue cake – cookies filled with hazelnut flavored buttercream. It’s not about the ingredients – the recipe, but the name or origin of this wonderful pastries. I researched on the Internet, talked with Japanese and asked all the pastry shops here in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

    But nobody knows why they call this pastry “Japonais”!

    The research and development department of the Swiss company Hug AG, which produces this pastry since the 50s, could not bring any light into the darkness.

    http://www.wernli.ch/en/produkte/product_range/?tx_hugproducts_feproducts%5Bproduct%5D=65&tx_hugproducts_feproducts%5Baction%5D=show&tx_hugproducts_feproducts%5Bcontroller%5D=Product&cHash=52f69908f8bde79062d03e421fc7135c

    The Hug AG, also started a request at the Richemont competence center – bakery pastry shop in Luzern, Switzerland. The answer: From where the name “Japonais” originates I can unfortunately not say. Even in all our old pastry recipe books, there is no answer to this designation. Whether it comes from Japan or is made up of different languages cannot exactly be define.

    The request at the Swiss Baker Association: The name “Japonais” had appeared in the literature for more than 70 years, the exact naming is not documented in writing. My earlier, unfortunately now deceased colleague and expert – teacher had according to my grizzled knowledge, based the name on the Japanese flag, a red dot in the white field. For the “Japonais” it is a chocolate point in a brown field.

    Japan Information and Cultural Center Embassy of Japan in Bern, Switzerland: Unfortunately, we have no information about this quite exciting question.

    Some people say: The “Japonais” is a kind of sweet Sushi. I do personally not believe this, the Sushi are available in Europe only since about 20, maximum 40 years. Perhaps one of the Swiss pastry chef, before 70 or more years, has developed these wonderful pastries in Japan (speculation). Switzerland has more than 150 years of commercial relations with Japan.

    Another version: The “Japonais” is a pastry made of so-called “Japonaismasse”, a dough with egg whites and almond powder. Originally they had painted on this white dough red jam, which is similar to the Japanese flag – hence “Japonaismasse”. Today this pastry is made rather without red jam, the name “Japonais” but remained.

    The “Zuger Kirschtorte” (cherry torte from Zug) is a layer cake from Switzerland that consists of layers of nut-meringue “Japonais”, sponge cake and butter cream, and is flavored with “Kirschwasser” (cherry brandy). Annually 250.000 “Zuger Kirschtorten” (cherry torte from Zug) are produced in the Canton Zug.

    The”Zuger Kirschtorten Gesellschaft” association of the cherry torte from Zug: In the “Zuger Kirschtorten” these cake layers constitute indeed an important part of the torte. When creating the “Zuger Kirschtorten” museum the pastry – café shop Treichler, inventor house of the “Zuger Kirschtorte” invested large resources in research of their history. Many historically relationships and objects have been discovered and secured. Among other things, the researchers even pursued the origins of the “Japonais”. Unfortunately, they came to no historical reliable findings. As for the name, there are many, quite adventurous theories. Unfortunately, I cannot bring light on the dark background of the name – origin.

    http://www.zuger-kirschtorten-gesellschaft.ch/
    http://www.treichler-zuger-kirschtorte.ch/

    Even more confusing, it is also a term that is used to describe something that is made in the Asian style because “Japonais” (which means Japanese in French) is used to describe both the Japanese and Chinese styles of cooking.

    Dacquoise : This classic French cake is composed of baked nut meringues layered with buttercream. There are many names for nut meringues and meringue-based desserts –succès, progrès, japonais among them — and the proportions, size and type of nut(s) used varies from one to another.

    http://www.masterstech-home.com/…/articl…/baking-terms.html…

    Meanwhile, I was also told that the “Japonais” almond meringue cake with coffee – butter cream filling also is part of the heritage of the Indian colonial era.

    http://www.bridget-white-kumar.com/2013/04/jap0naise-cakes-almond-meringue-torte.html

    The British certainly had a great influence on the Swiss tourism in the 19th century. Many well-known resorts like St Moritz have been created by the British. I quote: Early British tourists quickly made themselves at home, colonizing Badrutt’s hotel and, when they tired of charades and fancy dress parties, played traditional games like golf, polo, tennis and cricket on the snow and ice and invented new pursuits.

    Apparently, the secret of the name or origin “Japonais” cannot easily be unveiled. Maybe it could be something that needs to be more explored or not at all?

    Perhaps the name or origin of the “Japonais” almond meringue cake – cookies filled with hazelnut-flavored buttercream will remain a mystery. However, we know the ingredients – know how to make it and consequently we can enjoy these delicious pastries with a coffee or a tea.

    By the way, my business partners and acquaintances from Japan are every time amused when I show them these pastries or talk about it!

    Thank you

    • greg says:

      Hello Sepp, my blog had technical issues and I only got it fixed recently, and I could finally see all the queued messages, including yours. Your input on the origin of this pastry is mesmerizing! It might well be some random guy who decided to call it Japonais :) Cheers!

  • April Morgan says:

    How long can these be held once thawed?



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