Monday, January 14, 2013

Mochi - without a microwave

I discovered mochi by chance in Hong Kong in 2011, and Andy and I both dug it. Not enough to, like, pine for it or anything - I wasn't having dreams about mochi. But I would have liked to have some more. Then in September and October, while perusing The New Scoop (which I reviewed here) I saw the chapter on ice cream mochi. The author said mochi was just not possible without a microwave or a mochi machine, but instead of letting it go, I took that on as a challenge. I googled, and found James & Matt's mochi post the most helpful - they mentioned cooking mochi dough on the stove top, and even though it wasn't a part of their tutorial, just knowing it was possible was enough for me. I got some glutinous rice flour, and then eventually got around to making it. It took me two tries to get it right, using two very different methods.

First Attempt

The first time I tried it out, I used the recipe for mochi dough from The New Scoop, because I had a hard copy I could keep on the kitchen bench while I worked. My only variation was to cook the mochi in a bowl over a pot of simmering water, hoping that would do the trick.

I double-boiled for 10 minutes and thought that must surely be enough - the dough was getting dry around the edges, and the consistency was different.

So I took it off the heat and did the rest of the work. I kneaded my dough, briefly. I cut it into pieces, formed balls, and filled them with a mixture of rice bubbles, tahini and toasted sesame seeds.

All the while, I thought that all the dramatic explanations of how to make mochi, with dire warnings about hot lava-esque dough that sticks to you and itself and everything, were a little over the top. Sure, the dough was hot, but it was a bit easy to work with, really!

The ease which marked my mochi experience was the first indicator that I had done it wrong. Biting into them was my second clue. Instead of sticky, chewy, gluey dumplings, these were soft and doughy. The flavour was a little bit chalky - not unpleasant, but similar to icing sugar.

Second Attempt

A week or so later, I decided to try again. This time, instead of assuming a double boiler would work without actually looking up a specific stove-top recipe, I did a more thorough search. I found this gem of a video.

Short summary: instead of cooking the dough and then forming dumplings, this recipe turns the process upside down - steam the pre-formed dumplings. Revolutionary.

So I did! The only change I made to the recipe was to use corn flour rather than wheat starch, which may have been a mistake - these mochi did not stay soft at all.

1 1/4 c. boiling water
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. corn flour
2 1/2 c. glutinous rice flour
filling of your choice

In a big bowl, dissolve sugar in boiling water. Add flours and mix them in. Knead for a minute or two, until the dough resembles play dough in texture.

Break off small pieces of dough, roll into balls, and flatten them. Place your filling in the middle and then pull the dough around the filling, sealing it in.

Place the finished dumpling on an oiled steamer pan. When the pan is full, steam the mochi over gently boiling water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the rest of your mochi.

I used two fillings: in some, peanut butter mixed with icing sugar; in others, pieces of mango. The peanut butter, of course, melted as a result of being steamed for 10 minutes. So instead of nice, round mochi dumplings, I had flattish, blobby things.

Take the mochi off the steamer tray immediately, trying not to break them. This is where I got to experience the joys of molten, sticky mochi dough. A few busted open, so I ate them right away.

Put the (unbusted) mochi straight from the steamer into a container of coconut (or sesame seeds, crushed nuts, icing sugar, etc) and shake them around to coat.

 Eat them within 12 hours. Fridging them made them firmer, but still chewy and nice - on the first day. By the second day they were hard from the fridge, and reasonable (but not great) when they came up to room temperature. By the third day, they were practically inedible. In future, I will cut the recipe down to make only what we can eat in the same day. This batch made 24, which in hindsight is only worth making to bring to a party or something.
Mango mochi looks a little bit like a soft-boiled egg.
So the form-then-steam method is the way to go for those who, like me, don't own a microwave. Or for those who don't want to knead and mould molten hot mochi dough.  It won't work at all for ice cream mochi, and isn't the best for runnier fillings like peanut butter, but I think I'll try mixing the nut butter with some crumbs of something to see if that firms it up.
Yummy chewy mochi. 


Hannah said...

I now have no microwave either and, while I love mochi, I have to be honest with myself: I will totally absolutely always just end up eating peanut butter mixed with maple syrup with a spoon instead of putting in your level of effort.

Joey said...

I too am a mochi convert, but normally I have to get friends to bring some back if they go on holiday. I've tried the readymade ones you find over here but they're just not the same. I made them once before, years ago, and I'm pretty sure there was no microwave involved either. Glad you cracked the microwave-less method - those look pretty awesome.

Mattheworbit said...

Yours look really good!! James has practiced, and practiced, and made mochi so many darn times, with so many recipes - not sure if there might be any time-saving/easy tips on the blog post he did on them here? -

Colynn O said...

I've never had mochi before, but I've always wanted to try it. This looks really intriguing. I think I may have to make these when I'm feeling particularly ambitious. :)

Tiago said...

But, what ingredients does it takes? I have being living in a rent apartment in buenos aires and I have a lot of free time, so I am learning to cook Argentinean food (is delicious!!) but I would like to expand my habitability to others ethnic foods!!

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