Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon sweets from Kyoto

Just about anyone who takes a trip to the historical city of Kyoto goes home bearing a box of yatsuhashi (八つ橋), a small delicate sweet that is flavored with nikki or cinnamon. While I am not from Kyoto, I get a fit of nostalgia for yatsuhashi on occasion. Fortunately they aren’t that hard to make at home.

Yatsuhashi, which means ‘eight bridges’, come in two basic forms: nama or ‘raw’ yatsuhashi which are soft, and yaki yatsuhashi which are hard and cookie like. Nama yatsuhashi, pictured below, are soft, thin squares of cinnamon scented mochi (sticky rice) dough, folded into a triangle with a filling of sweet azuki bean paste (tsubuan).

yatsuhasi_500.jpg

Like other mochi-based sweets, yatsuhashi are totally gluten-free, so if you are gluten intolerant you might want to try these out. They also happen to be more or less fat free and vegan too. (They are definitely not sugar-free though!)

Really traditional yatushashi calls for nikki sui or cinnamon water, but ground cinnamon is much easier to get a hold of so that’s what I’ve used here. I have also used natural or raw cane sugar for additional flavor.

Some notes about this recipe

You might hate me for this if you are in the U.S., but as a departure from my usual practive I’m only giving you metric weight measurements here. Because so little of each ingredient is needed, accuracy is very important. Fortunately most modern scales can switch from metric to imperial measurements and vice versa, and a good scale is really a good thing to have if you do any kind of baking, not to mention portion control!_

I’ve given two dough recipes here. One uses mochiko or sweet/glutinous rice flour only. Mochiko or the Chinese equivalent which is usually labeled “glutinous rice flour” seems to be quite widely available at Asian grocery stores and health food stores. Most Japanese recipes for yatsuhashi call for a mixture of medium-grain rice flour (joushinko) and sweet rice flour, but when I used this mixture for mitarashi dango I got a lot of comments and emails that it was hard to get the joushinko. Note that the amount of water is a bit different when you use 100% mochiko vs. a mix of mochiko and joushinko.

Recipe: Nama Yatsuhashi

This amount of dough makes about 12 small yatsuhashi, or a batch of baked yatsuhashi. For maximum cinnamon flavor, make sure to use fresh cinnamon powder!

Dough - Mochiko or glutinous rice flour only version:

  • 100g mochiko or glutinous rice flour
  • 60g raw cane sugar or light brown sugar (in Japan use wasanontou (和三温糖))
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 85g (85cc) water

Dough - Mochiko and joushinko mixture version:

  • 40g joushinko
  • 60g mochiko
  • 60g raw cane sugar or light brown sugar (in Japan use wasanontou (和三温糖))
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 95g (95cc) water

Other ingredients:

  • 3 Tbs. kinako (ground toasted soybeans)
  • 1 Tbs. ground cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 3-4 Tbs. tsubuan or other filling (see notes below for suggestions). You can make your own tsubuan, or buy cans or bags at a Japanese grocery store.

Measure your ingredients accurately!

yatsuhashi_step1.jpg

Mix the dry ingredients together well with chopsticks or a fork, add the water and mix very well. It will be rather loose and sludgy.

yatsuhashi_step2.jpg

Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. Take out and mix well again - most of the moisture would have been absorbed.

yatsuhashi_step3.jpg

Put back in the microwave and cook on HIGH for 1 minute 30 seconds. Take out and mix again. At this stage it will form a rough ball and more or less clear the sides of the bowl.

yatsuhashi_step4.jpg

Spread a large piece of heat-proof plastic wrap (like Saran Wrap) on your working surface, and turn the dough out on it.

yatsuhashi_step5.jpg

Wrap the dough up in the plastic.

yatsuhashi_step6.jpg

Knead the dough several times, using the plastic wrap as a heat barrier and to prevent sticking between you, the working surface and the dough. This kneading is very important to ensure the dough is smooth and pliable. You may have to open the plastic wrap and re-shift the dough a few times. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and shiny.

yatsuhashi_step7.jpg

The dough here is almost ready - it just needs a few more kneading turns to make it totally smooth.

yatsuhashi_step8.jpg

Mix the 3 Tbs. of kinako and 1 Tbs. of cinnamon, and use this as the dusting ‘flour’ to roll out the dough as thinly as possible. It helps to use more plastic wrap to prevent sticking here. If you have trouble getting it thin enough, try dividing the dough and rolling out smaller pieces.

yatsuhashi_step9.jpg

Cut the dough into 10 to 12 squares. Wet two sides, fill with about 1/2 tsp. of filling, fold up into a triangle and press hard to seal. I then like to coat them again in the kinako-cinnamon powder mix, and dust on extra cinnamon to serve, but this is optional.

yatsuhashi_step10.jpg

Green tea is the perfect accompaniment to these.

Filling notes

If you can’t get or make tsubuan, you can try:

If filling the dough doesn’t work, you can just spread the filling of your choice on top of a flat piece and pop it in your mouth.

Baked yatsuhashi cookies

You can use the dough to make little cinnamon flavored cookies that are, of course, gluten and fat free.

yatsuhasi_baked.jpg

Just cut the thinly rolled out dough into squares, or fancy shapes with cookie cutters.

yatsuhashi_bakeds1.jpg

Bake in a 170°C/335°F oven for 15 minutes, then turn the heat off and leave the cookies in there for an additional 15 minutes. The cookies may or may not puff up, but either way they will be very crispy. You can optionally sprinkle them with additional cinnamon or cinnamon sugar while still warm.

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hi, they look great and

hi,
they look great and would love to make some but don’t have a microwave :-( can you just heat the dough in a pan to the same effect?? fingers crossed you can

Eva | 20 August, 2008 - 18:12

Sure, you can cook the dough

Sure, you can cook the dough in a pan, over low-medium heat. You must stir it constantly, and be careful of burning (take the pan off the heat for a bit if it looks like it’s going to burn, still stirring). As soon as the dough turns into one rough clump and starts to clear the sides of the pan, it’s done! Then you can proceed to the kneading stage. Have fun!

maki | 20 August, 2008 - 20:21

WOW

These look great! I am planning a trip to Japan, thank you for the vegan tips :)

Marie | 21 August, 2008 - 03:20

Hi

Hi,
Is there a scale you can recommend? I’m looking to buy one, but have yet to find a suitable one, or any information about a good price. I was hoping to spend ~20-30 but would like to know how much you have spent and/or would recommend.

Thanksverymuch

spuler | 21 August, 2008 - 11:19

Scales

I have a Soehnle scale (German maker), sort of like this one, but a bit fancier (the digital display is a separate unit and they talk to each other wirelessly). I have to say though that it was an impulse buy, because I fell in love with the design! The less expensive Soehnle models in the $30 range should be fine. I’ve had mine for a bo ut 4 years now and it works with no problems at all - I haven’t even had to change the batteries yet. Before that though I had a Terraillon scale, and that worked fine too. You want to look for one that has an easy to read display, can do TARE (zero out the weight of the container so you don’t have to do maths in your head as you weigh things), maybe a switch that goes from metric to imperial measurements and back, and is easy to clean.

maki | 21 August, 2008 - 19:52

When I was living in Japan

When I was living in Japan there was a soft, chocolate filled cinnamon version that was AMAZING, but so hard to find.

These sound so much like that, and the nutella is a brilliant idea.

Thanks so much for the post!!

anon. | 21 August, 2008 - 18:34

Love the idea of these! Any

Love the idea of these!
Any idea of calories though? :P thanks! :-)

anon. | 21 August, 2008 - 23:53

Calories

For the nama yatsuhashi (filled soft ones), about 50 calories per piece. For the cookies (I got about 60 little cookies from the dough) about 10 calories p.p.

maki | 22 August, 2008 - 10:31

Kyoto train station?

Hi Maki,
Are these yatsuhashi the sweets that you can get at the main Kyoto train station? I always get a box of triangle sweets, they are either light pink in color or macha-green, and stuffed with sweet bean paste. They are more flat though, than what you have pictured here.

Elise | 22 August, 2008 - 02:58

Yes they are the ones! These

Yes they are the ones! These are handrolled by an amateur, so are a bit puffier than the commercial ones :)

maki | 22 August, 2008 - 10:27

My Favourite sweet!

OH MY GOD!!!!!

A Japanese friend of mine just came back from Japan and I told her not to bother coming back unless she brought some Yatuhashi with her!

They were great but I had no idea that they were this easy to make.

Now I know exactly what to make for a friends housewarming.

THANK YOU MAKI!

Ryori no megamisama maki!

anon. | 22 August, 2008 - 05:56

Brilliant! These look so

Brilliant! These look so good. I think I found this weekend’s culinary adventure, and since you suggested Nutella as a possible filling, I got to thinking about chocolate…

I may try a few of these with ganache/truffle centers. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

I’ll also be winging it in the measurements department, as I haven’t got a scale, so I’m certain it will be an interesting endeavor.

Holly | 22 August, 2008 - 16:21

Can’t believe these are so

Can’t believe these are so easy to make. When I lived in Hyogo I used to go get them from a store in Arashiyama that was just beautiful (they made their own sakuramochi too, which was how I found the store in the first place - good sakuramochi is worth travelling for). Now, I always buy them from Kansai Airport, and it really annoys me when all I can get are the chocolate dipped yaki yatsuhashi, as I think they are so much better plain. I’m going to try making my own now (I think if you cut the dough into fan shapes, they’d make a great wafer for ice cream sundaes).

My kabocha are looking fabulous by the way. At least something is happy to be getting all this rain! :)

Peter | 23 August, 2008 - 00:28

Yay! Thank you Maki! I’ll

Yay! Thank you Maki!

I’ll be sure to try out this recipe, since I’m missing Kyoto and Japanese food so much!

Rina | 24 August, 2008 - 12:33

Yatsuhashi remind me of the

Yatsuhashi remind me of the local carnival ‘Faasendkichelcher’ - little deep-fried dough buns filled with jam and covered with cinnamon and sugar. :)

Jochen | 24 August, 2008 - 23:14

Sticky!!!

Wow…that dough has to be stickiest thing EVER! However, the Yatsuhashi smell and look fabulous. Can’t wait to get stuck in later. Thank you ever so much, Maki - your recipes are always brilliant: easy to follow and with great results.

kitty | 25 August, 2008 - 13:52

it is indeed very

it is indeed very sticky…dusting with lots of kinako + cinnamon helps though!

maki | 25 August, 2008 - 17:12

my absolute favourites!

I LOVE yatsuhashi! Whereas I am usually not so much of a sweets person, I absolutely fall for most Japanese sweets, but among all those I’ve tried so far yatsuhashi are definitely my favourites (particularly the black sesame ones, but I like all the other flavors, too). Their texture reminds me of raw cookie dough - and who doesn’t have childhood memories of wanting to eat cookie dough raw rather than baking it first? As a child, of course, I was always denied this pleasure, but thanks to the delicious yatsuhashi now I may… :-)

It’s such a shame they are so hard to get anywhere outside the Kyoto area, even in Tokyo (where I live right now) you rarely see them. So thank you so much for this recipe! I get hungry even looking at the pictures…

Sonja | 26 August, 2008 - 02:38

Is there an alternative to

Is there an alternative to using a micro-wave?

anon. | 27 August, 2008 - 20:08

love this recipes do you

love this recipes do you have another one like this ( another flavor) or other Japanese dessert?????

also can i put this on a picnic basket as a dessert???? thxs

hime | 28 August, 2008 - 07:54

Looks great

I can’t wait to try them. Cinnamon is one of my favourite spices, and I love making sweet things. They really look good. Will I be able to make the cookie version though? It says to turn the oven off and leaave them in, but we have an aga.

Alice | 31 August, 2008 - 21:18

Oh yum! I miss these and am

Oh yum! I miss these and am SO happy to hear that they are so easy to make! I’ll definitely be making some soon. I love the idea of filling them with nutella. You are totally speaking my language.

Fuji Mama | 5 September, 2008 - 02:47

Great recipe!!! Great job!

Great recipe!!! Great job! this really tastes like how i got it from osaka/kyoto!!! Thanks for the recipe!!!

poshi | 6 September, 2008 - 23:21

I made some of these at the

I made some of these at the weekend and they were awesome! My scales broke tho and it was a bit more squidgy than it should be (also no micowave.. doing well so far lol) but i baked it all in one blob for a giant biscuit and it worked realy well :D

will need to try it again properly tho just to make sure ;)

Kayleigh Shorter | 10 November, 2008 - 12:16

Re: Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon sweets from Kyoto

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for posting this recipe. I loved these sweets when I lived in Japan! Japantown in California used to carry them on occasion, but not anymore. Now I can make them myself. Oh, I so appreciate it!!!

anon. | 13 April, 2009 - 17:36

Re: Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon sweets from Kyoto

Could you explain how to make the dough not using a microwave?
I have some Japanese students that follow a macrobiotic diet so while they love eating the Yatsuhashi they would prefer I could make them on the stove...

I have tried a few times myself but something is not working..

Thankyou

Ision | 17 April, 2009 - 02:15

Re: Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon sweets from Kyoto

Well, first off I am not sure this is an appropriate recipe for macrobiotics at all, since it uses sugar and white rice flour...but nevertheless:

I haven't tried it, but for each microwave cycle use a fairly small, shallow pan, and stir the dough constantly until it forms a film in the pan, let cool then knead. That is how gyuuhi (the base dough for many Japanese sweets) is made traditionally.

maki | 17 April, 2009 - 03:06

Doubling

If you double the amount you're making, do you also have to double the microwave cooking times? ^^ From my experiences with my ornery microwave, it does better heating all in one go than just in increments. Thanks!

anon. | 1 May, 2009 - 01:57

Re: Doubling

I haven't tried it with double the ingredients, so I'd recommend microwaving the same time, then checking, and then microwaving some more if it's not enough, etc.

maki | 1 May, 2009 - 11:19

Kinako

I'm a 14-year-old girl from Singapore, and unfortunately I have no idea where I get kinako. Could something else be substituted, perhaps?

anon. | 15 May, 2009 - 15:14

Re: Kinako

Kinako is just roasted soy beans that are ground up, so you could try roasting your own soy beans (from raw, over low heat, stirring frequently, in a heavy metal frying pan or an old wok until they are brown and smell toasty) and grinding them up in a mortar and pestle, then sifting it. It is hard work, but freshly made kinako is really delicious!

maki | 15 May, 2009 - 20:25

Re: Kinako

Hi! This is 2 years late, but for any other Singaporeans wondering the same, you can get kinako from Daiso! (:

anon. | 11 October, 2011 - 12:18

Re: Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon sweets from Kyoto

Fantastic - thank you so much for this great post. I've been trying to find out how to get hold of some of these ever since I got back from a vacation in Japan 3 years ago, but no-one ships them and of course they aren't available in Zurich! Your step by step pictures show how simple they are to make, I can't wait to get my hands on the ingredients and have a go myself. You've made my weekend!

CJ | 29 May, 2009 - 10:18

Re: Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon sweets from Kyoto

Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I've been hunting for a recipe for these for a while now, to the point where I've bought several cookbooks in Japanese to slowly translate (my kanji knowledge is limited.) I had no idea these were so easy to make, too. I can't wait to give them a go now.

Shari | 23 December, 2009 - 08:30

i so miss these

I used to stock up on boxes at Shin Osaka Sta,whenever I went to Osaka.
I never would have thought to try to *make* them. I'm so jonesing for some,I have to try this recipe ,even if it comes out disasterous.
Thank you for posting it !
M in NYC

Missy | 29 December, 2009 - 14:56

Re: Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon sweets from Kyoto

I got all the ingredients from Mitsuwa today ! I'm going to try this over the weekend .I will let you know how they turn out .
I'm worried my filling will be wrong .I got canned azuki,and this azuki paste with chunks of bean in it.Endo Seian its called.
I'm going to experiment with tiny bits until I think its right....

Happy New Year everyone !

Xxoo
M in NYC

Missy | 1 January, 2010 - 23:58

Re: Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon sweets from Kyoto

I had all the ingredients last week,but then I found your recipe for tsuba an.So I went back to mitsuwa yesterday,and got everything to make tsuba an from scratch.
I made them tonight !
I tried it with both store bought tsuba an,and the one one I made.
Its amazing with the little bit of salt in it,but I like it a wee bit sweeter,so I dusted mine with cinnamon sugar.
I'm sso happy,I could bust.
And I just read about a mochi dessert from Mie with fresh inchgo inside.
I will be trying that next.
Xxoo
Missy

missymoo999 | 11 January, 2010 - 00:41

Re: Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon sweets from Kyoto

Really interesting finding though,one of my cats loves tsuba an.
I have to give him a tiny dish while cooking or there's a problem .
^_^

Xxoo
Missy

missymoo999 | 11 January, 2010 - 00:59

Re: Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon sweets from Kyoto

Wow! Just wow. I was googling Yatsuhashi (I'm an addict) because I needed to explain it to a foreigner friend. 'How are they made', I asked myself, and 'might there be any explanation or recipe'. And I ended up on you site again, like so many times when I need to explain something to somebody. You are a genius. Thank you!

Monika N. | 5 April, 2010 - 01:44

Re: Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon sweets from Kyoto

I was wondering if you know what changes to the recipe are needed if you wish to make the ones that have a black sesame dough on the outside?

Jeff | 20 November, 2010 - 16:25

Re: Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon sweets from Kyoto

I love these! I reduced the cinnamon by half and used the stove top method. I liked them 'raw' but enjoyed them more baked. I used icing sugar with kinako instead of more cinnamon when rolling the dough and that worked very well. As I have a gas stove I had to turn the cookies half way through baking. When they were cool I topped the cookies with melted chocolate. Delicious!

Emma O'Hanlon | 1 February, 2012 - 08:46

Re: Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon sweets from Kyoto

This looks great! I think I am going to try baked Yatsuhashi and cut them with my onigiri-mold - I have an omusubi-box with ever so little space on the side for a dessert, and I think they would be just wonderful! Thank you very much!

Vera | 26 November, 2012 - 22:55

Impossible to roll

I am just wondering how you managed to roll the dough. The second I lift the rolling pin up the dough goes back to its original shape. I have tried stretching it like pizza dough, pounding it, forcing a metal plate down onto it but it always goes back to its original shape.

anon. | 10 December, 2013 - 17:03

Re: Impossible to roll

The mochi is easier to roll when it is hot. The other thing is to make sure your mochi is soft enough. Maybe add a bit more water to the dough before cooking it.

Scott S | 8 February, 2014 - 19:13

Re: Yatsuhashi, Cinnamon sweets from Kyoto

Made these today. Lovely. They brought back memories of my magical time in Kyoto.

I don't have a microwave so I steamed the mochi, and I also discovered that a Silpat makes kneading the mochi sooooo much easier than plastic wrap.

Thanks for the great recipe.

Scott S | 8 February, 2014 - 19:09

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