Sunday, 1 April 2012

Marvelous Mochi: Info, Recipes & Tips (Chocolate Creams, & Home-Made Food Colour!)

Even though this is a long post, basic mochi (just use pre-bought red bean paste, or chocolate chips as a filling) will take you about 15 minutes (I am going to make a nice short post to reflect this!). To make things easier, you can jump to the recipe you want by following this index.

1. Introduction
2. Basic Mochi Recipe
3. Jaffa Mochi
  i. Chocolate Filling: The Easy Way
  ii. Chocolate Filling: From Scratch
  iii. Orange Flavour: Hands On
  iv. Red Food Colour: The Natural, Home-Made Way
  v. Jaffa Mochi Recipe
4. One Final Note

Even if you don't know what it's called, you've probably seen mochi; those mysterious white and pink lumps that go around and around at a sushi train, desired by few, ventured by even less. What are they? you wonder. They don't look like a savoury dish, but surely they're not dessert?

I remember the first time I tried mochi, I had no idea what to make of it. It was squishy, which freaked me out a bit, but it wasn't overly sweet, and there was something... wonderful about it.

I hadn't thought of mochi for a couple of years when, for some reason, a couple of months ago I decided I should try to make them.

As you've probably noticed, googling "mochi recipe" yields thousands of results. In the end, it gets a little much; sure, they're mostly the same, but do I really need to put coconut milk in them? Or vinegar? And if not, how come so many recipes survive without them?

The Dilettante, unfortunately (for him) doesn't really like mochi, so he's very much enjoying having to eat them reasonably regularly over the period of preparation for this post. But it's good for him! (and now, it seems, I've converted him, and he's the one telling me to get back in the kitchen and make some).

Traditionally, mochi is made by cooking glutinous rice then pounding it until it turns into the dough, usually while wearing a loincloth. "Mochi" is this dough; it can be eaten plain, or filled first. Mochi filled with anko (sweetened red bean paste), called "daifuku mochi", is eaten at the New Year for good luck. While this red bean paste is the usual filling, mochi these days can be filled with anything from chocolate chips and caramel to coffee cream or whole strawberries.

But fear not! Because we don't all own loincloths, most mochi these days is made from mochiko, or, as most of us know it, glutinous rice flour. This makes mochi making super cheap and easy.
NOTE Some recipes will ask you to use glutinous rice flour in chunks. I've searched for this but haven't managed to find it. As such, I've only ever used the plain old flour; it costs 99c for a 500g bag (and you might even be able to get it for cheaper, depending on where you shop). Just look around your local Asian supermarket and you'll bump into it.
I'm going to do the recipe like this: first is a basic mochi recipe that you can modify as you like; it's basically the conglomeration of the 600 mochi recipes I read over the internet (if you google "mochi recipe", you'll run into all of them). The second is my "Jaffa Mochi" recipe (including recipes for all of the little additives you'll need), which involves a little (only a little!) more work, but is delicious (if I do say so myself).

I've read a couple of people who say mochi is easy "even for kids". Maybe these people live near a burns unit / don't like their kids, but I certainly wouldn't recommend getting your kids to help you with the dough: it's super hot, and by the time you've comforted them after they've burnt themself, the dough will be cold and unusable. If your kids want to help, get them to pick our flavours and give ideas on what filling to put in. They can also help with prep and mixing.

Some notes on equiptment: If you don't have a spatula, or don't have a good one, Kmart has brilliant spatulas (in 4 exciting colours) for about $2. When I say "very fine wire strainers", I mean "very fine" (Woolies (and probably Coles) have them for about $5), otherwise, your mixture/s will have lumps in them. Cheesecloth is available at fabric stores for ridiculously cheap; ask for muslin, or cheesecloth, and they should direct you to what you want. I initially used a baking sheet, but then I started using a cheap IKEA chopping board. As I've mentioned, mochi sticks to metal like crazy, so using a plastic chopping board is preferable in that respect and the surface of the chopping board is textured, so the starch slips into the cracks, giving your more coverage over the surface and making the dough less likely to stick.

Thank you to Barb / winosandfoodies for leading me to the Chocolate & Zucchini post and to Miyoko Schinner, for replying to my rambling email! And, of course, to The Dilettante, for eating all of the mochi with me.

NOTE We didn't have any dragonfruit when I made this recipe today (during photos), so the mochi are yellow, not orange. Of course, you may not use the colouring, or you may use more than I would, so adjust to your preference. 

Basic Mochi Recipe
What You Need
1 cup glutinous rice flour
1 cup water
1/4-1/2 cup sugar (the first time you make it, use 1/4, then make it with more the second time if it wasn't sweet enough for you; I've made this recipe with white sugar, raw caster sugar, and icing sugar and it's worked every time)
Potato / corn starch/flour

Large glass bowl
Plastic chopping board (that you use for baking) / baking sheet
2 plates (1 for the filling, 1 for the finished mochi)
Whisk (optional)
Teaspoon (for spooning filling)

What To Do
Before you start
i. Prepare your filling (if you're going to fill it). If it's creamy, put small scoops on one of the plates (you might like to put a sheet of parchment/baking paper down first to make it even easier) and put them in the freezer before you even assemble your other ingredients. This will make it much easier when you're trying to put it into the boiling hot dough (try to do this the day before so it freezes completely).
NOTE As optional as this sounds, your life will be SO much easier if the filling is completely frozen: it will come off the plate/paper much more easily.
ii. Put a layer of potato / corn starch on the chopping board / baking sheet. I find it best to cover the surface, then put a pile of extra starch to the side so you can easily access more if you need it.
iii. Also put a layer of starch on one of the plates; this is where you will put the finished mochi. Alternatively, put a sheet of baking paper in the bottom of a tupperware container, dust with potato starch, and keep them in there.

Now That You're Ready
1. Put the flour in the glass bowl and add the water. You can mix it with the spatula (pushing the mixture against the side to get out lumps), but using a whisk will break up the lumps quickly. When the mixture is smooth, add in the sugar, and mix until combined.

2. Put the bowl in the microwave for 4 minutes on high ("High" on our old microwave is 800W. In our new microwave (which, unlike the previous one, was made after the fall of the Berlin Wall), "High" (or "100%") results in a more firm dough, which works really well, but if it's a little too tough, try 3:30 on High instead).
NOTE Some recipes will recommend covering the bowl with cling wrap. I find that the cling wrap makes practically no difference to the consistency of the mochi and, worse, sometimes the cling wrap will stretch during the cooking and touch the mochi, which is always annoying. If you don't own a microwave, you can steam the mixture on the stove (I will probably try this at some point and amend this post with proper instructions for that).
3. Just before the microwave DINGs (yours may not "ding", but hopefully you know this), put the starch-covered baking sheet and plate and the plate/bowl containing your filling in your work area.

4. Remove the bowl from the microwave; it will be extremely hot, so use teatowels/gloves.

Straight from the microwave
Run your spatula around the edge of the dough, and mix the dough around to make it all the same consistency (this will also make it easier to get out of the bowl).

All mixed up and ready to dough
 5. Push the dough out onto the baking sheet. Pick up some starch and sprinkle over the top, then put some potato starch onto your hands and smack the top (to cover it properly in starch).

Put the bowl in the sink and fill it with tap water (this will prevent the mixture from setting in the bowl; believe me, you will thank me come washing up time).
You'll need to work quickly before the dough cools, but don't panic. Ever.

6. Put more starch on your hands and split the dough in two, then split each half in half, then in half again; you'll end up with 8 lumps.* Make sure each lump is not touching any other.

7. Pick up one lump. Flatten it into a vague circle and smack it to remove any excess potato starch.

Scoop up some filling (not too much!) and place it in the centre. Pull one edge out and over to touch the opposite edge, then bring in all the sides to meet. Rub the edges together until the ball is sealed. Be careful not to let any of the filling touch the edges, or it won't seal properly.

8. Toss it in your (starch-covered) hands a couple of times to even out the shape, then roll it on the plate to make sure all sides are coated with starch. Put it on the plate.

9. Repeat with the remaining lumps. If one of them splits, EAT IT.


*The first few times I made this, I was lucky enough to get 6 lumps out of the dough, mainly because I was terrified that it would be too thin and wouldn't work. I'd usually only end up with 4 proper mochi after this whole process. Now I can get up to 10 out of the dough and they all work perfectly. It's all about practice, which I've never been very good at either, so don't worry too much. Smaller pieces of dough also mean a better dough:filling ratio. That said, start with what you're comfortable with; once you've made it a few times, you'll be making it like a pro (probably a lot better than I do!)

These are best enjoyed right after they're finished, though they can be kept for a couple of days; put them in a container as suggested above, but keep them at room temperature. If they have a creamy filling, you should eat them as soon as you make them; storing them in the fridge changes the consistency, though you may like them a little chewier.

Jaffa Mochi
This involves a little more prep, but it's absolutely worth it. If you'd rather just buy flavour and colour, you can buy them at most supermarkets (just note: many commercial orange essences and red colours contain colour 120, which is made of crushed up beetles, or artificial red colours, which are banned in the EU and the US. Essences also often contain nasty chemicals like propylene glycol. If you're lucky, you may be able to find completely natural colours and flavours; if you find them in Brisbane, please let me know!)

Because the dough is super hot, freezing the filling the day before will make it much easier to work with (I made some filling and froze it then forgot about it for a week, so it was super easy to work with because it was like LITTLE ROCKS. Best of all, it stayed completely solid while wrapping it in mochi, but then became soft (like filling should be) because the dough was hot enough).

Chocolate Filling: The Easy Way
What You Need
1/4-1/2 cup unwhipped / 1/2-1 cup whipped HealthyTop (most Australian vegan stores now carry it; in other countries, it is shelf stable, so if you don't have a store nearby that stocks it, either get it shipped to you, or make the "From Scratch" version, below)
1/2-1 cup Good quality dark chocolate - we use Callebaut 53.8% chocolate chips (it's dairy free)

Small metal bowl
Electric beaters
Small container for melting chocolate (I use a cheap mug)
Baking/wax paper

What To Do
Before you start
i. I usually make this using HealthyTop left over from the night before and stored in the fridge, so whip up a heap for dessert one night then make mochi the next day! 
ii. If you're making this with new HealthyTop, MimicCreme (the makers) recommend putting the bowl and electric beaters in the fridge along with the HealthyTop while it cools (for around 1-2 hours before whipping). You can read more detailed instructions on their website.
iii. And one final thing! If you have HealthyTop in your freezer, you'll have to wait for it to defrost a bit before you can whip it up. The usual way of making this will leave you with a completely smooth chocolate cream, but if you add in the chocolate when it's still partly melted and then whip the heck out if, some of the chocolate will set, making a chocolate cream with little chocolate chips. It's up to you and it all depends on what you want 

Now That You're Ready
1. (If it isn't already whipped) whip up the HealthyTop (according to their instructions). Once it's whipped, put it in the freezer while you melt the chocolate.
2. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler or in the microwave. If melting it in the microwave, put the chocolate in a bowl or mug and put it in the microwave on High for 30 seconds. Mix it with the spatula and repeat 30 seconds bursts until it's mostly melted. After that, stir until it's all liquid.
3. Take the HealthyTop out of the freezer and pour in the chocolate. Whisk until the mixture is completely combined and smooth. Try not to eat it! You can also add a little orange flavour at this point if you'd like to make the filling jaffa-y.
4. Put a sheet of baking paper onto the plate. Using a teaspoon, make small scoops of the cream and put on it; try to make a ball shape, but don't worry too much.
5. Place in the freezer until you're ready to put it in the dough.

If you don't have access to HealthyTop, use your favourite chocolate pudding recipe, or use the one below.

Chocolate Filling: From Scratch
What You Need
1 cup cashews
1 cup water
1 cup chocolate / chocolate chips

Small saucepan
Baking/wax paper

What To Do
Before you start
i. The cashews should be soaked for a couple of hours before blending. Place the cashew in the blender or another container and add hot tap water (boiling the cashews will result in a more "savoury" taste, so please soak them) so they're completely covered. Soak for at least half an hour; the longer you soak the nuts, the smoother the cream will be. I like to soak overnight at least; if you have to go to work, just change the water in the morning before you leave so they can continue to soak during the day (in the fridge!), then use them that night.
ii. Measure out the chocolate and have it sitting beside the stove so you can just add it when you need to.

Now That You're Ready
1. Drain the soaking water from the cashews, then return them to the blender. Add in the water and blend until completely smooth, around 2-4 minutes. A Vitamix would be great (we'll happily accept donations), but we just have a plain Kitchenaid blender that does a great job (UPDATE: A Vitamix or Blendtec will make ridiculously smooth cream (as we've discovered), but the fact still remains that a good quality blender, if the cashews are soaked for long enough, will make a very smooth cream). If you're worried that your blender may not cope, soak even longer and/or with hot water so the nuts are soft, and consider straining the cream so it doesn't have large chunks of nut in it.
2. Pour the cream into the saucepan; turn the stove up to a medium heat. You'll need to keep a close eye on it so it doesn't burn. Whisk it as it begins to heat up; it will start steaming and thicken. When it starts to hold its shape, take it off the heat, continuing to whisk it. Add in the chocolate bit by bit, whisking until it is all melted and combined.

3. Scrape the mixture into the bowl with the spatula, and let it cool. Put a sheet of baking paper on the plate. When it gets cooler, make some scoops with the teaspoon, put on a plate, and place it in the freezer. When the rest of the pudding has stopped steaming, cover in plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

Orange Flavour: Hands On
What You Need
Around 2 tablespoons orange zest (if you don't have zest in the freezer, this is the zest from about 2 medium sized oranges)
Juice from half of an orange (under 1/4 of a cup; don't use commercial orange juice)

Microplane / zester, or very fine grater
Mortar and pestle
Very fine wire strainer or cheesecloth
Bottle / cup / container (to store the mixture)

What To Do
1. Zest the oranges (if you don't have zest). Put the orange zest in the mortar.
2. Cut the orange in half and roughly squeeze one half into the mortar (i.e. don't worry about getting every single drop of juice out, just stab a knife into the flesh then squeeze it a couple of times: you should only have about 1/4 of a cup of juice. Don't worry about it too much, just don't have too much juice).

3. Begin pestling! Get all of that oil out of the skin. You shouldn't have to pestle for too long; just make sure all of the zest has been ground.
4. Try it. It will be sour, but probably won't taste particularly orange-y. Add in another tablespoon of orange zest (you will, of course, have bucketloads of it frozen from the last time you squeezed your own orange juice) and get back to pestling.

5. Taste it again. It will still be sour (don't worry; the sugar in the dough will make sure your mochi isn't sour) but should taste orange-y. Repeat step 4 if you don't think it's orange-y enough (though don't expect it to taste EXACTLY like orange).
6. Place the strainer over the storage container (or funnel, if putting it in a bottle). Pour the mixture in and press it through the strainer with the back of a spoon until you're just left with a dry, zest paste (if anyone can come up with something super useful to do with this, let us know in the comments!) If using cheesecloth, pour the mixture into the cheesecloth then squeeze out every last bit of liquid. Seal the container and store in the fridge.

Red Food Colour: The Natural, Home-Made Way
When I was testing this recipe, we had some dragonfruit (or "pitaya") lying around, so I thought I'd experiment with that for colour. As with kale, Woolworths and Coles would have you believe the dragonfruit is a mysterious, magical fruit that can only be harvested at midnight on the first full moon after the solstice. In reality, dragonfruit grows wonderfully and pretty easily (at least in our (sub-)tropical climate!), often growing wild in banana plantations (for example). You can buy it inexpensively at many fruit stores (Ashgrove Fruit Market often has it, as well as Yuen's Fruit & Veg Market), and occasionally you'll see it at Woolworths or Coles.

Many people use beet juice / powder for the red colour, and you're welcome to if you can't find dragonfruit / love beetroot / think you know better than me / actually know better than me, but dragonfruit is a much brighter pink, and doesn't involve opening a can. And I hate beetroot (now I reveal my secret). Adding the colour is, of course, optional: if you don't add it to the dough mix, the orange flavour will lend it a light yellow colour, which will lighten even more when it cooks. Adding in the red colour will (depending on how much you use) take it anywhere from light orange, to peach, to pink.

NB Not all dragonfruit have red flesh: two types have white flesh (which I didn't know until I read the Wikipedia article about them). The red fleshed variety is called the Costa Rican pitaya and is the only one I've ever seen in Australia, but you never know (and then I happened to see a recipe in a cooking magazine that used white fleshed dragonfruit). Some shops will sell half-dragonfruit, which is always a good way of knowing the colour on the inside.

What You Need
1 dragonfruit

Very fine strainer / cheesecloth
Bottle / glass / container (to store liquid in)
Deep bowl (if using cheesecloth)

What To Do
1. Cut the dragonfruit in half. Depending on your cutting practices, either skin it, or scoop the flesh out.
2. a. If using a strainer Place the strainer over the storage container, then place the flesh in the strainer. Push the flesh with the back of a spoon until all the liquid comes out.
b. If using cheesecloth Cut the flesh into small chunks. Place the chunks into the cheesecloth one at a time and hold inside the bowl (the sides of the bowl will make sure any juice that goes astray will end up in the bowl. As an added precaution, don't wear your "going out" gear, and place the bowl in the sink before starting. SQUEEZE. Repeat with remaining chunks. If doing this with children, make sure they're wearing white.
3. Put your incredible, home-made colouring in the fridge!

Jaffa Mochi Recipe
And now with these powers combined, we will have: JAFFA MOCHI!

Follow the Basic Mochi recipe as above, but add just over a cup of glutinous rice flour and just under a cup of water. Because of the orange flavour, it's probably best to use at least 1/3cup of sugar, but adjust to taste. Make sure the flour and water mixture is completely combined (/smooth) before adding in the flavour and colour.

1. Add in about 2 teaspoons of the orange flavour. Mix it in, then taste; it will only be subtle, but if it's too subtle (i.e. you can't taste it) add in 1 more, taste again, and repeat until you're happy. The mixture will be a light yellow / orange (depending on the colour of the orange flavour).
2. Add in the red colour, starting with 2 teaspoons, and adding more until you're satisfied with the colour. If it hits peach, you've probably added enough; any more and it will go pink (unless you want pink, in which case, go ahead).
3. Continue as normal with the recipe. The chocolate filling will melt really quickly, but should be nice and solid by the time the dough is ready. Just remember: work briskly.
4. Eat immediately or leave sit until cooled. It is best to eat it soon after preparing; if you put it in the fridge, the texture will change slightly to more chewy.

Variations Mix up where you put the orange flavour: plain mochi with jaffa filling (add orange flavour to the chocolate filling), or orange mochi with jaffa filling. Or mess with your guests / tasters / self by making several batches, all white, but each with a different flavour / filling; hours of amusement!

Just one final note...
I'm sure you've probably bought your loincloth and are thinking about how exciting it will be to make mochi TRULY from scratch. You've searched out the glutinous rice and it's even now sitting in your fridge, soaking. My advice: RUN.

I cooked the rice and it all came out nicely. I added it to the mortar and began pestling it.

30 minutes later, it was a lumpy, sticky mess. Sure, it was a "dough", but it was... yucky? We ended up just frying up lumps of it, which were kind of tasty when coated in soy and sweet chilli sauce. For all of the work, I think my sweat did more to sweeten the mixture more than anything else.

If you are thinking about doing it, there's a recipe here, and a really handy tip for steaming glutinous rice without a steamer here. I may try it again some time and maybe it will work, but right now I'm very much put off.

Your terrifying host. OMNOMNOMNOM.
And there you have it! It's not scary, it's not incredibly time consuming, and it can be pretty much entirely home-made. So what's stopping you; off to the kitchen!

- The Academic


  1. What a project - James, I am in awe! I fell in love with mochi when I visited Japan a couple of years ago and have always thought about yet never plucked up the courage to make it at home. I've just been eating those inferior (but still OK!) boxed ones from the Asian supermarket. Now that you've shown off jaffa flavoured ones, I'm acutely aware of what I'm missing out on.

    1. I've been dying to make these too! in fact I've had a bag of glutinous rice flour for about a year (no shit) I dont have a microwave but apparently you mix the dough with boiling water...

      Am inspired to try now! thanks guys!

  2. I didn't even know you could make mochi from glutenous rice flour. I've only made it the old-time way by pounding sweet rice — in normal clothes, I might add. (Kind of the rice equivalent of making seitan from gluten-flour.) And not for a long, long time since that method doesn't encourage repetition. Also, I didn't fill and eat it, but made baked mochi, in which the mochi puffs up dramatically in the oven and becomes an amazing chewy treat. Once I discovered I could buy frozen mochi and then bake it, I did that a couple of times. But it's been ages since I've had mochi (the baked kind) and I wonder if the dough you describe would bake into puffs like my beloved mochi from the past. I may have to try this — both ways.

  3. Great project James. I am impressed withyour efforts.

    1. Thank you for sharing that article with me; was very helpful! It's just a shame uni/life got in the way of my testing for this project haha.

  4. Oh My! must. eat. mochi. now.

    I will definitely try the rice flour. my efforts using glutinous rice have so far yielded only gluppidy glup.

    1. I found a recipe that said to put cooked glutinous rice in the food processor, but, at the risk of ruining $400 worth of food processor, I think I'm just going to stick to glutinous rice flour :P

      I was a bit over it (understandably) after testing for this, but the time may be approaching to try it again! Let me know how it goes when you make it :)

  5. Ah, I LOVE mochi! I usually get lazy and just stop with a plain/vanilla version, but now I'm totally inspired. I want to try all of these flavors! You are amazing for making this post. Bookmarking right now!

    1. Glad we could inspire you! I had to take a bit of a break, but I feel the call of mochi again :P Will probably make again this week. Let us know how you go with making them, and what other combinations you come up with :)

  6. I just made these according to your recipe, and they turned out nicely. I did the plain ones, it was surprisingly easy and it was weird to see the watery mixture of flour and water turn into dough in the microwave. Mine became really ugly and uneven but I guess that practice makes perfect.

  7. Wow! looks so good. One of my favorite food. It's looking right back at me.
    Remember the old days when I was still training in Australia and so much desserts at  Richmond cafes literally the desserts feels like heaven!

  8. It looks tasty and delicious. Maybe I will try this and combining it with House Cocktails, Drinks from Hawthorn Restaurants . I think this is really great combination.

  9. For me, one of the kind desserts, Because mochi is one of my favorites. hope chapel st restaurants will sell mochi someday.

  10. It really looks good and delicious. Actually I experienced to eat Mochi when I was in Japan just for vacation. Maybe american food melbourne can make like this, but I'm not sure.

  11. I will definitely try this. Hope I can get the perfect blend of chocolate filling and dough. I will share also some of this to my friends in Mornington Restaurants after making it.

  12. Mochi is one of my favorite food. I really want to try this and give also to my special friend who working in on of the best restaurants docklands. I'm sure she gonna love this.


We absolutely love getting your comments. Really. Truly. If you have something to say, we'd love to hear it. Just think of the vibrations of excitement you'll give us, and how your good deed for the day will be done.