Mochi are traditional rice flour cakes, eaten year-round, but associated with Japanese New Year celebrations. One of the most common varieties of mochi is daifuku, a sweet red bean paste around which the rice flour dough is stretched.
1 1/3 cup Azuki Beans
Lots of Water
1 tsp. Salt
1 1/4 Sugar, divided
1 cup Glutinous Rice Flour (shiratama-ko)
Potato Starch (katakuriko, or cornstarch for dusting)
and a microwave, yes a microwave.
There are actually two ways to make this. One is easy and the other is even easier. You can use dried azuki beans, soak them over night, and then boil them. Or you can buy pre-made anko (the red bean filling) and save yourself the time involved in cooking the beans. You can also buy anko powder and add sugar and water, but I looked in a lot of shops and anko powder is hard to find. Anko paste can be found in Japanese or Korean specialty shops, and azuki beans can be found in almost any dried food or bulk shop, especially health food stores because they’re renowned to be so good for you.
The glutinous rice flour you’ll have to get at an Asian specialty store, along with the potato starch. If you already have cornstarch, though, don’t bother buying potato starch. Traditionally this is made with Mochiko, a Japanese rice flour, but I found a Thai glutinous rice flour that worked. I had some trouble with shaping the daifuku in the end, though, so maybe go with a box of Mochiko if you can find it. Then you can only blame yourself for being a bad daifuku-wrapper.
If You Buy Pre-Made Paste:
Just divide 1 1/4 cups of it into 12 balls and set them aside.
If You Make Your Own Anko Filling:
1. Let 1 1/3 cups of dried beans soak overnight in 5 cups of water. In the morning, or whenever you get around to it, drain the beans, put them in a large pot and cover them with 5 cups of water. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain the beans. This reduces the starch in the beans and makes them easier to digest.
2. Now put the beans back in the pot, add 6 cups of water and bring it again to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the beans for about an hour, or until they’re soft. They probably won’t even take an hour, but overcooking them is not a big deal since you want to turn the beans into a paste.
3. Drain the beans again, place them back in the hot pot and add 1 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Let the beans thicken by simmering the pot for 5 minutes or so, being careful not to let beans spurt everywhere. It’s really important the filling not be liquidy or it will be really difficult to wrap the mochi. Now mash the beans with a potato masher, or stick them in the blender or food processor. Take 1 1/4 cup of the filling and divide it into 12 balls. Set aside (you’ll have lots of red bean paste leftover, but it’s so delicious you probably won’t mind. It makes a great snack or dessert on its own, or try a scoop of it on top of ice cream. You can also freeze it.
So obviously it’s easier to buy the paste, but it’s just three ingredients, and for all the preservatives and unnecessary ingredients added to the store-bought version, it’s worth it to make the anko filling from dried beans, I think.
For the Dough:
This is maybe not such a traditional method of making dough in a Japanese household, but it’s so, so easy…I actually looked for a different recipe that didn’t involve a microwave, to see how it’s supposed to be done, and I couldn’t find one.
1. Put 2/3 cup of water and 1/4 cup of sugar in a heat-resistant, microwave-safe bowl and mix well. Add a cup of glutinous rice flour and mix well. Put the bowl in the microwave and heat the dough for two minutes. Stir the dough. Heat the dough in the microwave again until the dough inflates (depending on your microwave this could be anywhere from 45 seconds to 2 minutes. You’ll see it deflate when you remove it from the microwave). Stir the mochi quickly.
2. Dust a clean counter and your hands with some potato starch (or cornstarch). Put the hot dough on the counter and divide the mochi into 12 pieces. Be careful not to burn your hands, and add more cornstarch as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the counter. Shape 12 flat and round mochi. You can use a rolling pin dusted with cornstarch or just shape the pieces by hand, but the more circular they are the easier it will be to seal up the cakes.
3. Put a piece of anko filling on a mochi and wrap the anko by stretching the dough around the filling. Repeat for the remaining circles of dough.
I really wish I’d watched this video first. Apparently I’m an expert at messing up even simple instructions. You will do better, I am sure. My bean paste was too liquidy, so my dough didn’t want to to stretch around the filling. It kind of oozed out…the picture at the top was the only daifuku that looked sort of okay….lumpy, but fine. I just scooped the filling onto the dough like dumplings or wontons. Bad idea. Should have separated the filling into 12 balls. The dough stiffens up as it cools down, so wasting time adding the filling with a spoon made it more difficult to wrap as well. I also tore some dough. Really, I did a horrible job, but it still didn’t matter. It tasted amazing. I love the filling and I kept trying to add too much. I don’t like knowing that I just ate a 1/4 cup of flour (these things disappear ridiculously fast,,,), so a higher filling-to-dough ratio works better for me…as long as the paste is paste-y, and not soup-y. This is what my end results actually looked like:
Not pretty, but still so delicious. Next time they will be beautiful. For now, at least my stomach and mouth are happy.