These are kabocha squash-flavored manju (steamed buns). For people with a sweet tooth, try it with sweet bean paste (the three buns in the back of the picture). The "ogre manju style" buns (the three in the front) use kabocha rind, for a slightly sweet, thickly textured macrobiotic steamed bun. Both are made with the same basic dough.
If making the version filled with bean paste, roll the paste into balls for later.
Mix the steamed kabocha (with or without skin) together with the dry ingredients, adding water until it doesn't look powdery anymore. When making the ogre manju style, steam the rind for longer.
Do not over-knead the mixture or it will not rise well.
Dust your hands with flour or katakuriko as you shape the dough into balls. For the bean paste version, wrap the dough around the bean paste balls. For the ogre manju style, mix in the extra chopped kabocha rind and then shape into balls.
Steam in a steamer for 10 minutes. This time, I steamed them with a wet cloth underneath. You can either cover all of them with paper towels or wrap them individually.
Once they're steamed, if you intend to serve them on super-thin strips of wood (a traditional way of presenting food), be sure to wet the wood first or they'll stick.
I make these sweet bean paste-filled steam buns every year for the PTA café at my daughter's school festival.
Story Behind this Recipe
I often used baking soda in the past, but the recipe turned out bitter, so I tried using baking powder instead. When I added kabocha, I ended up with a delicious springy steamed bun.
The dough mixture will stretch a lot, but if you make it too thin, the bean paste will leak out after steaming. Keep the dough thick when wrapping the bean paste.