Japan – Mochi

You know those times someone – a sibling, friend, or overly persistent coworker – coerces you into going out when all you really want to do is sit in bed in your PJs? You drag your feet the whole time, point out all the mildly obnoxious things that are happening, and generally convince yourself you would have been far happier in bed. Then, sometime towards the end, you finally give in and admit you are having a pretty good time. I hate those times because almost always they end with said sibling, friend, or coworker saying some variation of the phrase “I told you so.” It’s so obnoxious when other people are right.

Well, that happened with this week’s bake. The coercer was my sister who was visiting from out of town and casually suggested making mochi ice cream. In my head I knew that I would eventually have to make mochi, but given how different mochi is from my wheelhouse of cakes and cookies, I was very hesitant. Throughout the whole bake I convinced myself the mochi was a total failure. The dough was too sticky. The matcha was too intense. The rolling process was a mess (it was). But, at the end, I had some of the mochi filled with red bean paste and gave in. The mochi was tasty and looked gorgeous, the ingredients were simple (presuming you have an Asian market nearby), and the bake could probably be perfected in only a few tries. I’m a fan and my sister was right to suggest this bake (although she doesn’t read this blog so she never has to know).

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The Bake

There is one hard thing and one mildly annoying thing about this bake. Mildly annoying – mochi is made with sweet rice flour. At least around where I live this is not sold in any regular grocery store so acquiring it requires a special trip to an Asian market (although while you are there you can stock up on steamed pork buns which is probably worth the trip by itself).

The hard thing is forming the mochi into little balls – to be eaten alone – or into casings for ice cream, red bean paste, or other fillings. The dough is sticky. Really sticky. I give you, Exhibit A:

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Part of the stickiness may be due to not letting the dough cook enough in the pan, but even if I had cooked the dough for another five minutes I still think the resulting mix would be sticky. If you have made mochi before and know this is not the case and the stickiness is a result of an epic user error on my part, please let me know. I can admit failure if it means the next time I make mochi the process will be easier.

The Moment of Truth

Mochi may be the ultimate vehicle for ice cream. The soft dough encasing cold ice cream provides a great texture contrast. Even better – the endless combinations. Don’t like matcha? Use cocoa powder to make chocolate mochi. Don’t like chocolate ice cream? Swap that out with a classic vanilla.  Orange mochi and pistachio ice cream? Why not. Vanilla mochi and red bean paste? Yes please!

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The Recipe

I followed a recipe from Japanese Cooking 101. This blogger, this blogger, and Food52 use a microwave instead of steaming and cooking over the stove. This seems both more efficient and easier.  For my next mochi attempt I will surely try one of those recipes.

160 grams (1 cup) Mochiko (sweet rice flour)

180 ml (3/4 cup) water

400 grams (2 cups) sugar

2 tbsp matcha (or flavoring of your choice)

Cornstarch (at least 1 cup)

Fillings of your choice such as red bean paste or ice cream

Mix the Mochiko and water in a bowl and mix well. Steam the dough for 20 minutes. Transfer the steamed dough into a pot, add the sugar one third at a time until completely dissolved. Once the dough holds its shape when a spoon is pulled across the bottom of the pan, remove from the heat and poor onto a sheet pan heavily dusted with cornstarch. Shape into small balls and eat alone, or shape into pancakes and wrap around the filling of your choice. If using ice cream this part must be done quickly. I would suggest forming the ice cream into balls and re-freezing in advance.

Fun Fact

The Japanese have the highest life expectancy of any country in the world at 83.7 years.

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