Things to do in Quarantine: create an edible Zen garden

Creating an edible Zen garden

written by: Erika

The world is still in lockdown and in the absence of things to do we can give ourselves crazy joy in the kitchen, that’s why today we share a new idea with you, create an edible zen garden!

giardino zen giardino zen

In Japan there are mixes made specifically to share this experience with the whole family, even together with the little ones. Instead, today we offer you a variant to be created directly at your home with ingredients easily available in any supermarket.

In every self-respecting Zen garden we find rocks, sand or gravel, greenery and some stones to be able to cross it without disturbing its tranquility. By following our instructions, you can recreate exactly this atmosphere.

Step 1: The Rocks

As you well know, a fundamental ornament of the Zen garden are these huge stones present inside. In our recipe, we are going to create stones with simple brownies.

Brownies – Ingredients

  • Dark chocolate 265 g
  • Eggs (approx. 4) 200 g
  • Whole peeled hazelnuts 175 g
  • Room temperature butter 135 g
  • 00 flour 135 g
  • Sugar 255 g
  • Pinch of salt

Brownies are easy to make and won’t take too long, so start chopping the chocolate coarsely and melt it in a water bath. When it is almost melted, add the soft butter cut into small pieces.
Stir thoroughly until everything melts in a water bath and then remove it from the heat. Then let it cool, stirring it occasionally.

While you wait for the chocolate to cool, take the hazelnuts and let them toast in a preheated oven at 180° for about 7/8 minutes. Once out of the oven, let them cool in order not to burn you, then chop them coarsely and keep them aside.

giardino zen brownie

Let’s move on to the next step, put the eggs in a bowl and begin to beat them and then add the sugar. It is not necessary to whip the mixture, but continue to beat only until the sugar is well dissolved. At this point, add a pinch of salt and let it dissolve too. Still with the whips in action, slowly add the chocolate and butter mixture that will have cooled down by now.

As soon as everything is mixed, stop whipping. Take a narrow mesh strainer and sift through the flour. Then, mix everything with a spatula until the flour is absorbed uniformly. Then take the chopped hazelnuts and mix everything.

After having greased and lined a baking sheet, pour the dough inside by leveling it with a spatula so that it is evenly distributed. Bake in a static and preheated oven at 180° for 25 minutes, then take out of the oven and leave to cool. At this point, with a knife, you can create the rock-shaped pieces for your zen garden!

Step 2: The gravel

Another fundamental element for a Zen garden is gravel, a symbol of tranquility and purity. But let’s see our suggestions to create this element!

Almond crumble – Ingredients

  • flour 0 60g
  • Finely chopped almonds 60 g
  • Brown sugar 60 g 
  • Butter 50 g
  • Half vanilla bean
  • Icing sugar

With the crumble, we are going to create most of our zen garden so we start by preheating the oven to 180°. As the oven heats up, we take the almonds and start peeling them. Then, we take a baking sheet and place it on the baking tin.

Next, we toast the almonds for 7/8 minutes inside the oven, then let them cool and finely chop them with a knife. Afterward, we take the 0 flour and mix the chopped almonds inside with the brown sugar. When we have an amalgamated mixture, we take the butter and cut it into cubes and then add it inside the same mixture together with the vanilla seeds.

crumble

Work the whole mixture with your fingertips until a grainy mixture is obtained. Alternatively, it is also possible to prepare all this with a mixer but the crumbs that we are going to get will be coarser.

At this point, you should have obtained a mixture that is somewhat reminiscent of shortcrust pastry. Leave it to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, then spread it on the oven paper and then bake it for about 15 minutes at 180° in a preheated oven. Once the cooking is complete, let it cool and then crumble it inside your dish ready for presentation. Cover everything with icing sugar to recreate the effect of the white gravel typical of Zen gardens.

Step 3: Green

Japan is one of the greenest lands and all major Japanese cities are full of large parks. Of course, even in our edible zen garden you can’t miss a green area.

Matcha Chiffon Cake – Ingredients

  • Granulated sugar 300 g
  • 00 flour 280 g
  • Matcha green tea powder 20 g
  • 1 sachet of baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 sachet of cream of tartar
  • Sunflower oil 130 m
  • Hot water 180 ml
  • 1 teaspoon of natural vanilla extract

This is the most difficult part of our recipe, but don’t be afraid, if you follow the instructions step by step you will be able to complete this part too. Let’s start by preheating the static oven to 150° and preparing an aluminum cake mold. Make sure this mold is tall enough as our chiffon cake will rise a lot.

Separate the yolks from the egg whites and in a clean bowl add the egg whites with the cream of tartar, whipping the mixture until you get firm crests.

giardino zen chiffon cake matcha giardino zen

In another bowl sift the green tea, the flour, the baking powder, salt and sugar and with a metal whisk by hand make sure that everything mixes well. In a separate bowl, combine the water, oil and vanilla extract. Once you have everything well mixed, pour the yolks and the mixture with the water and oil into the bowl with the flour and green tea.

Mix everything with the metal whisk by hand until a uniform mixture is obtained. Then transfer 1/4 of the whipped egg whites into your dough and mix with a spatula to lighten all the contents. Whipped egg whites should always be mixed with a movement that starts from the bottom so that they do not lose the whipping. Next, incorporate the rest of the egg whites into three other additions.

giardino zen torta té matcha giardino zen

When you have the mixture well amalgamated, pour the mixture into the pan that should not be buttered or floured. Put everything in a preheated oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes and when cooked, remove the pan and turn it immediately upside down.

giardino zen matcha giardino zen

Let it cool slightly and then remove the cake from the pan. Once ready, you can cut thin slices to decorate your Zen garden.

Step 4: The Pathway

In some Zen gardens, we also find flat stones that allow us to cross the garden leaving it undisturbed. Here is how we will create them.

Mini Meringues – Ingredients

  • Egg whites (about 3 medium eggs) at room temperature 100 g
  • Icing sugar 220 g
  • Lemon juice just enough

The trick in preparing the meringues is all in the eggs, in fact, the trick is to have fresh eggs and at room temperature. Then separate the yolks from the whites, pouring them into a large enough bowl. In this case, we won’t use the yolks, but do not waste them and keep them aside, you will surely find a way to use them in the kitchen.

Make sure there are no residual yolks inside the bowl otherwise they will not mount. Then take the electric whips and operate them at medium speed. Alternatively, you can also carry out this process inside a planetary mixer, if available. While you are whipping the eggs, gradually pour the sugar into the bowl together with a few drops of lemon juice.

To create perfect meringues, the egg whites will have to be whipped very firmly and to understand if you are doing everything correctly there are two tests. The first is the visual one, in fact, the mixture must always be shiny and frothy. You can do the second test with the whips. In fact, detaching the latter you should notice a tuft of egg white with the tip. Everything must be similar to a sort of frothy and shiny cloud.

giardino zen meringhe

Prepare a baking tray with a baking sheet and then transfer all the mixture into a sac-à-poche with a round hole nozzle. Form small disks from 2 to 4 cm in diameter (this depends on the size of your final zen garden) well spaced apart. Then put them in the static oven preheated to 75° for about 2 hours.

Your meringues will have to dry slowly in the oven and as soon as they are completely dry, take the pan out of the oven and let it cool completely before removing it from the pan.

Step 5: Serving the Zen Garden

Now you can let your imagination run wild and build your edible zen garden according to your preferences! In case you want some ideas, below you will find some reference images. If you decide to try this recipe, send us your photos in the comments below or on our social pages, we are curious to see your creations!

Sources: pandispagna.net, giallozafferano.it, Pinterest, Wikipedia