From the Castle in the Sky to the dessert plate in your home.

Recently, we spent a day in the kitchen trying out recipes from the official Studio Ghibli cookbook for Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Our Tiger Moth Crew Stew and Lump of Ham Eaten by Dora turned out great, but there are still more recipes inside Ghibli’s Dining Table Children’s Cooking Picture Book-Laputa: Castle in the Sky (to use the book’s full title), and one of the most beautiful is the Levistone Kohakuto candies.

Confectioners in Japan have been making kohakuto, which translates literally as “amber sugar,” since the Edo period (1603-1867). Though it might look like the rock candy popular in western countries, kohakuto combines a crunchy outer texture with a soft, gelatin-like center. That mysterious combination of physical properties makes it a fitting stand-in for the Levistone, the magical mineral in the pendant worn by Laputa’s female lead Sheeta.

The cookbook is divided into two sections, one recreating dishes seen within the anime and the other for original recipes inspired by it. The Levistone Kohakuto is in the second section, and while Sheeta’s pendant was a rare and highly coveted artifact, the Levistone candies are very easy to make, as the book’s publisher shares in its preview.

● Granulated sugar (250 grams/8.8 ounces)
● Agar agar powder (5 grams/0.2 ounces)
● Blue Hawaii shaved ice syrup (2 tablespoons)
● Water (250 milliliters/8.5 ounces)

● Step 1
Add the water and agar agar powder (which is called kona kanten in Japan, if that’s where you happen to be doing your ingredient shopping) to a pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it boils, turn down the heat and simmer for two to three minutes. Pour in the granulated sugar and cook on low heat for five minutes while stirring.

● Step 2
Add the Blue Hawaii shaved ice syrup to the pot, stir, and turn off the flame.

● Step 3
Transfer the mixture to a tray or other sided container. Once it cools to room temperature, put it in the refrigerator to chill and harden. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t say how long this will take, but various other kohakuto recipes give times of anywhere between two hours and half a day. Thankfully, though, there’s no danger of overchilling the mixture by leaving it in the fridge for too long, so if you check on it and it’s still soft, come back and check it again in an hour or two.

● Step 4
Once the mixture has hardened, take it back out of the refrigerator and cut it into teardrop shapes, just like Sheeta’s pendant, using either a cookie-cutter or knife.

● Step 5
Now comes the hardest part, not in terms of complicated cooking calculations of fine motor skills, but psychological difficulty. The final step in making kohakuto is to place it on a grill or rack and let it dry at room temperature. This takes a long time, with the recipe recommending you let them dry for a solid week, but the reward for your willpower in resisting the urge to eat them before they’re ready is getting to enjoy beautiful sweet snacks with the optimum traditional texture.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what exactly this “Blue Hawaii” syrup is, well, that’s something that Japan itself has trouble explaining in precise terms. It’s sort of an apple/citrus mix, but even if you can’t find it at your local grocery store, theoretically you should be able to use any sort of blue-colored shaved ice syrup and get similar Levistone-like results.

Ghibli’s Dining Table Children’s Cooking Picture Book-Laputa: Castle in the Sky is priced at 1,760 yen (US$12) and can be ordered through Amazon Japan here.

Source: PR Times
Top image: PR Times
Insert images: PR Times, Studio Ghibli (1, 2)
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