Inspired by the plethora of kakanin rice cake sweets at Dia de los Difuntos, I decided to make some glutinous rice flour treats of my own. Enter the red bean mochi.
Mochi is a Japanese sweet with dough made from sticky (glutinous) rice flour, filled with red bean paste, strawberries, ice cream or other fillings. Traditionally, mochi is made in a ceremony called mochitsuki, where glutinous rice is soaked overnight, then pounded with a large wooden mallet. While one person wields the mallet, another person turns the mass of rice. They must keep a steady rhythm to avoid injury! You can check out a high-speed demonstration of mochi pounding in this video.
Making the dough is quite simple, and requires only glutinous rice flour, sugar and coconut milk. You can substitute regular milk or water if you don’t have coconut milk, but the results are definitely better with coconut milk. For the filling, I used canned sweetened red bean paste that I picked up in Brussels. If that isn’t available, you can make red bean paste from scratch by cooking red beans until they are softened, mashing them until smooth and sweetening them, preferably with rock sugar.
After the dough comes together, you need to steam it. I don’t have a steamer ring on hand, so I improvised by flipping a pasta plate upside down and putting it in a large pot. For added stability and to eliminate rattling, I put a clean dish towel underneath the plate. Then, I scooped the dough into another pasta plate, covered it with plastic wrap, and put the plate on top of the overturned plate. The pot was filled with 3″ of water and the dough was cooked for about 28 minutes.
To test whether the dough has been steamed long enough, stick a chopstick into the center. It should come out relatively clean and there should be no uncooked flour residue.
Next, you divide the dough, press it into disks, fill it with red bean paste and close the seams to form round mochi. Now, this is easier said than done. All the recipes I’ve seen sort of gloss over the wrapping part by saying “pinch the dough shut,” but it’s actually kind of tricky to gather the dough at one point and not have wrinkles or pleats. Think about it: if you pull the edges of a circle together, they don’t line up neatly! So if anyone wants to share their technique for getting perfectly spherical mochi of uniform thickness, I’m all ears.
You can use coconut flakes or toasted glutinous rice flour to dust the surface of the mochi, but I had roasted peanuts on hand, so I used that instead.
As I was looking at this plate, I was sort of cooing at the mochi. “Why hello there, my pretties!” My roommate gave me a look of consternation. But seriously, doesn’t the mochi speak to you too?
Based on Christine’s Recipes
220 g glutinous rice flour
110 g sugar
200 g coconut milk
200 g red bean paste
coconut flakes or crushed peanuts to dust the top
Mix the flour and sugar together, then slowly add in the coconut milk and stir until combined. Press the dough together, then place in a shallow bowl and cover in plastic wrap. Steam for 25-30 min, or until the dough has cooked through and a chopstick stuck into the center can be removed cleanly, with no uncooked flour. Allow the dough to rest for a few minutes, until it is cool enough to handle. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts. Roll the dough into a ball, then flatten it into circles. Place about a tablespoon of red bean paste in the center, then pinch the seams shut. Sprinkle coconut flakes or peanut dust on top.
Yield: 12 mochi