Dec 14, 2012

Red Bean Mochi

When I was little and used to play cards with my cousins, they always, always told me I had 'stinky hands', that is, every card I dealt or touched was a bad one. I don't take it personally, I was bad at cards, even UNO. But with cooking is different,  I'd like to say I'm pretty decent at it, except for Mochi. I have stinky hands with Mochi, that is, until yesterday.

Mochi used to always kick my ass. How can something so simple be so very hard? The instructions on the Koda Farms Mochiko box along with dozens of blogs tell you the same method - mix, cook in the microwave, knead, cut up and wrap around a filling. But I couldn't get it right - it always turned out hard and gummy at the same time, and it always tasted raw, especially after being wrapped around ice cream and frozen. It's like the whole wide world could get mochi right except me, or more over, my stinky hands. So I gave up the microwave method and went back to my roots.

I am a strong believer that if you look deep enough, there  are similarities across all cultures when it comes to food - an empanada is a meat pie is a calzone is a pate chaud, and so on and so forth. So I had to look at this differently - how would this be cooked in a different culture? Well duh - sweet rice flour with a filling is the Vietnamese dessert Che Xoi Nuoc - the sweet soup with mung bean filled dumplings topped with thick coconut sauce and peanuts. Duh and Duh. So on my mochi journey I went with great success I might say!

I originally got the idea from  here , where the mochi was steamed. The recipe worked for me, although I needed to add more flour for a knead-able  consistency, but the key take away was the use of wheat starch - this gave the mochi a pillow-y soft tenderness that stayed soft until the next day.

Now for those of you playing at home: Wheat Starch is wheat flour that has been processed to remove the proteins, including gluten. It works as a thickening agent and stabilizer in a variety of things from cereal and cake mixes to food sweeteners and is used wherever tenderness in food, especially dough, is needed. I'm no Alton Brown, so I don't know how it does that, but it sure does make a difference in the pillow soft, cloud-like little treats over over lumpy, gummy dough balls, that's for sure.

In my research though, I have found many conflicting sources - some say that it is gluten free and others who say it is debatable. If you have a gluten allergy, I strongly suggest omitting it and replace it with  more sweet rice flour, just to err on the safe side.  It will still taste good, although the dough does not stay soft for as long.

You can buy wheat starch from Asian markets, but I bought mine from my local middle eastern market, and of course, when in doubt - look online.

There are also two ways to cook this. According to many YouTube videos, it's steamed - but I really liked the boiling method, which is the one I grew up with and was much easier. Also, after testing both methods, the mochi balls turned out to be more soft and tender and stayed that way for longer when I boiled it, but only by a little bit. 

If you really are a traditionalist, you can steam it using the makeshift steamer method I posted about here. This works well if you decide to halve the recipe and make only one batch. Since I made a whole crap load of these, the plates got too unwieldy and hot, even for my asbestos hands, so the second batch was boiled. 

This recipe makes a about 20 mochi balls. The filling I used was a make shift red bean filling made by pureeing a can of drained and rinsed kidney beans with sugar and a little milk to smooth it out, but you can buy red bean filling from your Asian market, or fill it with whatever you like. 

I also made some with Nutella filling and rolled it in crushed hazelnuts. Believe it or not, I actually liked the traditional better! 

Red Bean Mochi

For the Red Bean Paste:

1 x 14oz can red kidney beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained.
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup shredded coconut
2 Tablespoons coconut milk (or regular milk) 

For the Mochi:

1 1/4 cups very hot water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup wheat starch
3 cups sweet rice flour (also called glutinous rice flour)

Make the red bean paste:

Place the red beans in your food processor with the sugar and coconut and and 1 tablespoon of the milk. Pulse until the beans become a paste. Be careful not to over work it, it will make your paste runny and hard to work with. Add more milk if the mixture feels dry.

Heat up a non stick skillet and spray with 

Make the Mochi dough 

In a large bowl combine the water and the sugar and salt and stir to dissolve. Whisk in the wheat starch, then add the sweet rice flour, 1 cup at a time. Mix till it has the consistency of play-dough.  

Pinch off a golf ball sized piece of dough and roll it into a ball. Flatten it out in the palm of your hand so it makes a disc.

Put a teaspoon of the red bean paste in the middle

Fold the ends over to close and pinch off the sides. Throw the excess dough into the bowl to use for the next ball.

Roll the mochi ball between your palms to create a nice rounded ball. Continue until all the dough is gone. At this point you can dot a little red food coloring on the top for decoration. I did this so I could tell which batch was boiled and which was steamed, but it is a nice touch. 

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. While that's heating up, put the shredded coconut in a shallow bowl or pan.

Once the water is at a rolling boil, drop in the mochi balls one by one, waiting 30 seconds before adding another. 

The mochi is cooked when they float to the surface, about 3-4 minutes. 

Remove with a slotted spoon and shake the mochi over the pot to remove excess water. 

Roll the mochi balls in the coconut while they're hot so the coconut sticks 

Allow to cool before enjoying. 

Or not.

These will last about 2 days at room tempreture in an airtight container. 

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