Sorry for the poor photo! Still figuring out the camera settings.
I recently had the occasion to make mochi again and learned a few more lessons in the process: 1) the red bean paste is, indeed, very easy to make (it just takes time), 2) you need heat-resistant fingers, 3) you must work fast, and 4) the dough should be kept covered or a thick unpleasant skin quickly develops.
As mentioned in my first post, mochi traditionally is made from fresh-cooked glutinous rice that is pounded into a smooth mass. (You can read more about it in the article written by the author of the blogs "Just Hungry" and "Just Bento".) One can easily make it at home, although a strong mixer is required to pound/knead the dough sufficiently without the machine overheating. The coagulated mass is extremely cohesive. Using pre-ground glutinous rice flour is a quicker way, but the texture is smoother. One still needs to knead, but for a much shorter time.
Instead of purchasing pre-made red bean paste, I attempted it from scratch this time. Overnight soaking, some boiling, and a simple 1:1 ratio of beans to sugar yielded a tasty, fresh, and much cheaper version. You can either purée the paste to make a smoother version, or just mash it with a potato masher or fork for a toothier texture.
The challenge came during the dough-making process. I must have had beginner's luck in my first attempt, as all 6 of my mochi wrapped easily and came out soft and moist. Now with a baby, cooking can no longer be completed without (sometimes many) interruptions (unless you wait until baby is napping). The first mistake was to let the kneaded dough sit to cool. Try as I did, I could not get the dough to wrap around the filling. After 4 failures, I realised that it may have been the temperature. Fortunately, a quick trip to the microwave rejuvenated the elasticity; but then I was short on dough. So I had to make another batch with patience running thin and a baby threatening to wake up at any moment.
I haven't quite figured out how to work around the hot dough. The fingers may burn, but you quickly learn that the hotter the dough, the easier it is to wrap the filling. Keeping the unused dough covered is also critical to success, as the surface hardens very quickly to exposed cold air. And with harden dough means unpleasant texture and greater difficult wrapping the filling.
After the mishaps from this attempt, I realise that there is probably a reason why mochi can cost so much, as it requires patience and some dexterity. But if you don't mind hot fingers (unless you already have some from regular cooking), making it at home can be extremely rewarding when a craving hits or a relative/friend requests it. As stated before, making it at home is extremely cost-effective and the variations can be limitless, from flavouring the dough, to tailoring the filling to one's desire. You can even just eat the dough straight or dipped in some nut powder.
Red Bean Paste
There may be leftover paste depending on how much filling is used in the mochi. It can easily be stored for several days covered in the fridge.
- 100g red beans
- 100g sugar
- Rinse beans and soak in water overnight.
- Place beans in a pot of water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the beans have "broken" (skin is no longer intact). More water can be added if liquid has run out before beans have cooked fully.
- Add sugar and continue to boil until very thick. Make sure to stir from time to time to prevent the bottom from burning. Mixture will be very thick, and traces of bubbles can be seen clearly (dents).
- Mixture can be puréed if a smooth texture is desired. Otherwise, it can be cooled before using.
- Once cooled, form paste into balls.
Red Bean Mochi -- Yields 6-8 large mochi
Make sure that the dough is covered at all times (including microwaving) or hardened skill will develop. Speed is key as heat is what keeps the dough elastic (and wrapping the filling easy). If the dough gets too cold though, it can be quickly reheated in the microwave on high for 10-20 seconds (depends on the amount of dough and power of microwave).
- 160g glutinous rice flour
- 15g sugar
- 1.4g salt
- 173g water
- Red bean paste
- Mix all 4 ingredients together.
- Cover and microwave on high for 3 minutes.
- Remove and stir with a strong utensil (wooden/metallic spoon, fork, etc).
- Cover again and microwave for another 1 minute.
- Remove and stir 100 times.
- Cover work surface and hands with flour (corn starch, tapioca, etc).
Roll the dough out and separate into equal portions. Cover the unused portions with a wet towel or plastic wrap.
Roll the red bean paste into balls of desired size, if not already done.
Wrap the rice dough over the red bean dough: flatten the rice
flour dough, place the red bean paste ball on top, gently pull the sides of
the flour dough while turning slowly until the dough has fully surrounded the paste filling, pinch the dough ends together until sealed.
- Roll finished mochi in a bit of flour (corn starch, tapioca, etc). Store in air-tight container and refrigerate.
Nutrition (per mochi, assuming 8 total):
- With red bean paste -- 170 calories, 0.13g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 73mg sodium, 38g total carbohydrate, 14g sugar, 2.1g fibre, 3.9g protein.
- Without red bean paste -- 81 calories, 0.13g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 69mg sodium, 18g total carbohydrate, 1.9g sugar, 0.5g fibre, 1.4g protein.
Bottom three mochi were made intentionally funky at the top. I had a different filling (sesame paste), and I fashioned something quick (and haphazardly) to distinguish them.