On Saturday I went to Japanese Cultural and Community Centre (JCCNC) for a wagashi workshop. The class is taught by Kimika Takechi and Larry Tiscornia who have both teach about Chanoyu (the Japanese tea ceremony) They have many decades of experience and study. The class was medium size about 16 people and was 25 USD (members get 5USD off, Thanks Mrs. H ^-^).
For the uninitiated, wagashi in the American sense is similar to Tea snacks (crumpets, biscuits, etc.) but in another respect it's so much more. It's sacred and beautiful part of the chanoyu and many learn and practise years the old tradition. Most Japanese order wagashi these days from Wagashi-ya. It is important to note that Wagashi-ya and Pan-ya are two different things.
We learned how to make 2 wagashi from start to finish. Uguisumochi and hichigiri. Uguisumochi means nightingale rice cakes, it is designed to remind you of the nightingale which begins singing as spring approaches. Hichigiri literally means pull and cut and is often served in Kyoto during the Hinamatsuri (Girl's day). The class was part demonstration and part hands-on, which I loved. We learned how to make An (shiro an and regular an) and the mochi that is used in many types of wagashi, including daifuku.
It can be intimidating to try to make wagashi but it's not really so hard for the basic mochi based. Kanten (agar agar/gelatinous) may be different. It many ways there are advantages over wagashi making to baking. I kept trying to use as little shiratamako (a type of sweet rice flour) as possible during forming the uguisumochi, afraid it would make it tough as flour will do with pastry. But this is not the case, you can always dust it off at the end. Also the mochi that we made in the microwave, the first time Takechi-san forgot to add sugar and it got lumpy. That can be fixed by heating it over the stove. If An is to thick you can add mitsu (simple syrup) if it's sticky you can let it cook longer. As long as you know what to do, it can be pretty foolproof.
Next time, I'll talk more about the specific type of wagashi I made, including recipes.