Mini Mochi Donuts

I’ll admit it–when it comes to what I like to watch on TV I don’t always like what’s mainstream. I’m a total enthusiast for public television and the lack of commercials that go with it, so when I came across a PBS special covering National Doughnut Day this past Tuesday, I placed the remote down at the very mention of Fresh Strawberry Donuts.  In the re-run, the late Huell Howser was driving around LA looking for unusual and historical places to have doughnuts–like a much less edgy version of something Anthony Bourdain might cover.

I have a serious weakness when it comes to doughnuts.  The ironic (and wise) thing is, I almost never eat them.  The last time I had a doughnut was when I visited Top Pot Doughnuts in Seattle a few years ago.  I was attending my very first food photography workshop with Helene Dujardin and two days into my trip I realized that Top Pot Doughnuts was a few doors down from my hotel.  Other than telling you that you must order the unassuming yet incredibly delicious plain cake doughnut when you get there (they spice them with mace!), I will say that Top Pot is a place that shouldn’t be missed if you are a doughnut lover and can remind yourself to have self-control before stepping through the doors.

On none other than National Doughnut Day today, I’d like to share with you a simple recipe for Mini Mochi Doughnuts, a specialty that’s perfect for the mochi lover who wants to celebrate this unique day on a smaller, healthier scale.  Mini Mochi Doughnuts start with a gluten-free rice flour batter that’s made with rice milk, and is later baked off in the oven.  Lightening up the texture of the mochi batter itself sets the stage for highlighting the shiny chocolate ganache glaze, which can be scattered with all kinds of yummy sprinkles and toppings.

As I like variety in color and flavor, I typically divide the prepared batter into 4 portions when I make these doughnuts.  I like to flavor each of the 1/4 portions of liquid batter with different flavorings like cocoa powder, freeze-dried strawberry powder, vanilla bean, and of course my favorite…green tea matcha powder!  These flavorings give a vibrant, natural boost of color, which is always nice when you are making a food item as fun as doughnuts are.

It’s important to remember that there is some baking powder in these Mini Mochi Doughnuts, so it’s best to work with at least two mini doughnut baking pans when making these.  If you let the batter sit around too long before baking, the doughnuts won’t rise in the oven as they ideally should.

Another thing to pay careful attention to is to make sure the mini doughnut baking pans are thoroughly sprayed with non-stick spray before using them.  Mochi batter likes to stick to the pan even after having been baked off, so please don’t skimp on the spray.  And if you don’t have spray, use some vegetable oil and a pastry brush to create an evenly greased layer on your pans.

Cool the mochi doughnuts completely before removing them from the pans, otherwise they will warp under the pressure from your fingers.  You can speed up the cooling process by placing them in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes after they have already cooled for 15 minutes at room temperature.  When they have cooled completely, run a toothpick around the inner and outer edges of the molds, then use your fingers to gently tug the doughnuts as they release them from the pan.

I love that I didn’t have to resort to deep fat frying to make these cuties.  Even if you decide to pass up on the chocolate glaze, the naturally colored plain mochi donuts are just as enticing as the decorated ones are.  The plain donuts make a less sweet snacking cake that’s perfect with a cup of unsweetened Asian tea.  I like to think of these adorable Mini Mochi Donuts as wagashi turned rouge–a traditional treat that’s taken on Western-style individuality and charm.

Mini Mochi Donuts

Makes 18 mini donuts.

Ingredients:

{Donuts}

4 oz. mochiko (sweet rice flour)

3/4 cup rice or almond milk

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp baking powder

Non-stick vegetable or coconut oil spray

sprinkles, for decorating

{Chocolate Ganache}

2 Tbsp heavy cream

1/4 cup chocolate chips

{Variations}

***add one of these options to every 1/4 cup of batter or 1/4 of full recipe***

For chocolate donuts:  1 1/2 tsp cocoa powder, sifted

For green tea donuts:  1 tsp matcha powder, sifted

For strawberry donuts:  1 1/2 tsp freeze-dried strawberry powder (pulverize the strawberries in a spice grinder)

For vanilla bean donuts:  1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Equipment:

large mixing bowl

wire whisk

4 small bowls

1 Tbsp measure

2 mini doughnut pans (I used Wilton)

toothpicks

cooling rack

Directions:

1.)    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously spray the mini doughnut pans with non-stick oil spray.  Using wire whisk, mix sweet rice flour, milk, sugar, vanilla, and baking powder together in a large bowl and mix evenly.

2.)  If you prefer, divide the batter into 1/4 cup portions into smaller bowls, then add one of the {Variations} to each bowl to create flavored doughnuts.  If you don’t, your doughnuts will just be a plain vanilla flavor.  Mix in the powder or paste until each batter is evenly colored.

3.)  Spoon 1 Tbsp of the batter into each mini doughnut mold, making sure to keep the middle hole portion of the mold clean and free of batter.  When you are finished spooning out the batter, lightly jiggle the pan so that the batter distributes itself evenly in each mold.

4.)  Bake the doughnuts for 17-20 minutes.  When a toothpick inserted in a doughnut comes out completely clean, remove the doughnuts from the oven and place on cooling rack to cool completely (after the doughnuts have cooled at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, you can then place the pan in the fridge to speed up the cooling process).

5.)  Run a toothpick all along the inner and outer edges of each mold, then gently use your fingers to unmold the doughnuts from the pan.

6.)  Prepare the ganache by bringing the cream to almost boiling either on a stovetop or in the microwave.  Place chocolate chips in a bowl and pour the hot cream over them.  Gradually stir the chocolate until it becomes thick and glossy.  Dunk the top of each mini doughnut in the ganache, then lightly shake off any excess.  Top each doughnut with sprinkles, allow the chocolate to set for a few minutes, and serve.  After the ganache has set, Mini Mochi Donuts can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days.

Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky

Yep, you read it right!  Over this past weekend, I ventured out of my tea-steeped comfort zone and created a Pocky recipe for all those die-hard, peppy coffee lovers out there.  Homemade Pocky always make an elegant cookie to have with a good cup of tea, and these Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky are no exception.

Just last year, I decided to completely nix coffee out of my daily regimen.  Tea gave me all the eye-opening effects that coffee did without the jitters, tummy discomfort, withdrawal headaches.  It’s a good thing I did quit too, because despite the fact that I love to cook, I am the seriously the worst coffee maker out there.  Not counting the K-cup brewer that my in-laws got me for Christmas last year, I can somehow manage to ruin every cup of coffee that I make. Sometimes the coffee I brew tastes like dirty dish water and other times it tastes like jet fuel. For some reason, I can never get it right.  That’s when I started using freeze-dried coffee.

As much as Hawaii is bountiful in its tea culture, it’s perhaps even more well-known for its coffee culture.  Much like they do for tea leaves, soil, climate, and altitude all work together to create complexities in coffee bean flavor.  A few years back when I was on the Big Island, I stopped by a coffee plantation high up in the hills of Kona.  Coffee plants thrive in humid, tropical conditions with a good amount of cloud cover.  Whether referring to tea, coffee, or even wine, term terrior is used to describe a plant’s sense of place, the collective effect of environmental factors like climate and geography on the taste of a product.

kona coffee farm

It was when I spotted some freeze-dried coffee in Hawaii that I began formulating this Homemade Coffee Pocky recipe.  Similar to the freeze-dried strawberries I used for my Homemade Strawberry Pocky, these crystals give us a punch of rich coffee flavor without moisture being an issue.  Where it seems like pouring some espresso or coffee extract into your melted dipping chocolate would instantly give you coffee flavored chocolate, I assure you that it won’t!  You’ll end up with a shaggy, clumpy mess, since both are water based.  The only way around this is to use freeze-dried coffee crystals.

The freeze-dried coffee crystals need to be ground into a fine powder before they can be added to the melted white chocolate.  If you add them directly, the crystals never dissolve and you end up with big, noticeable dots on your cookie stick coating.  The sticks would also be way too strong tasting, as each coffee crystal packs a punch of strong coffee flavor.  The solution is to use a mortar and pestle set to pulverize the crystals.  You could also place the crystals in a Ziploc bag, lay the bag on a flat work surface, and press down on the crystals using a large, heavy pan.

I was surprised that after mixing in my coffee powder to the white chocolate, the color of the dipping chocolate wasn’t as tan as I would have hoped.  Alas, I decided to not add any fake food colorings as I knew the taste of these Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky were already spot on.

Decorate these confections with some of the same freeze-dried coffee lightly crushed, for a sprinkly look.  Another pretty option is to sift leftover freeze-dried coffee powder over the top of the cookies while the chocolate it is setting up.  The warmth of the chocolate will help the coffee powder to bloom and darken in color.

My favorite variety of these Coffee Pocky are the ones drizzled with chocolate and then scattered with toasted macadamia nut bits.  The salt in the macadamia nuts balances out the sweet coffee chocolate base.  This combination is reminiscent of the chocolate covered macadamia nuts that visitors in Hawaii return from vacation with stacks of.

If I was going to violate my no coffee regimen I was glad to have done it with these Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky.  These cookie sticks pack a punch of rich, robust espresso-like flavor, so it’s nice to savor them nibble by nibble.

Back when I made Homemade Green Tea Pocky, I mentioned yuanyang, a popular Chinese drink where coffee is mixed with black tea.  The two flavors are very different, yet amazingly complementary.  Try these Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky with a cup of unflavored, unsweetened black tea, and the next time you’re asked “coffee or tea?” you just might end up asking for both!

Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky

Makes about 20 stick cookies.

Ingredients:

12 oz package of vanilla candy melts or 11 oz bag white chocolate chips

1 Tbsp freeze-dried Kona coffee crystals, ground into a fine powder with a mortar & pestle

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 package of grissini, cut into 5″ pieces with serrated knife to make 20 sticks

reserved coffee powder, for dusting

reserved coffee crystals, crushed, for sprinkling

chocolate candy melts

macadamia nuts, chopped finely and lightly toasted

Equipment:

mortar & pestle

serrated knife

double boiler

small bowl

rubber spatula

tea towel

small sifter

large baking sheet fitted with parchment paper

small baking sheet or plate fitted with parchment paper

tall, narrow drinking glass, at least 6″ tall

piping bag fitted with #2 tip or fork

Directions:

Step-by-step photos of the dipping process are in my Homemade Chocolate Pocky post!

1.  Fill bottom of double boiler with water, making sure the water doesn’t make contact with the base of the top bowl of the double boiler.  Bring water to a gentle simmer (bring water to boil, then reduce to very low heat).  Place white chocolate or candy melts in top bowl of double boiler.  Using rubber spatula, gently melt the chocolate.  In a small bowl, mix coffee powder with 1 tsp of vegetable oil.  Add this coffee oil/paste to the melting white chocolate and mix in thoroughly.  If you are using white chocolate (not candy coating) you may need to mix in another 1-2 tsp of oil to get a nice dipping consistency.  Remove the bowl of chocolate from heat, and wipe steam off the outside of the bowl with a tea towel.

2.  Carefully pour the melted chocolate into the drinking glass to a height of 4″.

3.  Dip the cut grissini into the melted chocolate leaving the top 1″ undipped.  As you get further along in dipping, you may need to tilt the glass to distribute the chocolate upwards so that you are able to cover all 4″ of each grissini with the chocolate.  Gently shake off any excess chocolate, then place the dipped cookie on the small baking sheet or plate fitted with parchment.  Let the Pocky stick sit here for about a minute to allow any excess chocolate to pool onto the parchment/paper plate.

4.  Transfer the stick to the large parchment lined baking sheet to fully dry.  Repeat the dipping process with the remaining grissini.  If you use white chocolate, the Pocky take about 1 hour to fully dry/harden.  If you use candy melts, they will take about 20 minutes to dry.  In a pinch, you can place the dipped cookies in the fridge to speed up the drying process.  Homemade Pocky are best eaten within a day or two, as the bread sticks tend to soften with time.

Variation:  Lightly scatter crushed, freeze-dried coffee bits on the dipped Pocky before transferring the cookie sticks to the large parchment lined baking sheet to dry.  Alternatively, you can sift a light dusting of leftover freeze dried coffee powder atop the drying cookies.  The residual heat of the chocolate will help the coffee to bloom and intensify in color.  For Chocolate Macadamia Nut Kona Coffee Pocky, drizzle the dried Coffee Pocky with chocolate candy melts.  Melt the chocolate in a microwave according to package directions. Pour the melted chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a #2 decorating tip and drizzle across the dipped cookie sticks back and forth crosswise.  You can also use a fork to do this.  Scatter finely chopped and toasted macadamia nuts on top of the drizzled chocolate and allow to fully dry before serving.

Bite-Size Spam Musubi with Green Tea Furikake

There is no snack that Hawaiians and locals love more than SPAM Musubi.  I don’t make these very often as I have a love-hate relationship with SPAM, but whenever I head out to Hawaii I am always reminded of how iconic this specialty is in Hawaiian food culture.  And yes, as crazy as it is to say, SPAM musubi are incredibly tasty!

During my college years at UCLA, I participated in an exchange program to study Asian American culture at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  Near my dorm, a local food truck would park itself along the pathway I took to my classes, well-stocked with piping hot SPAM musubis every morning.  I would often pick up a SPAM musubi on the way to sessions, wondering how a snack so seemingly odd could be so delicious.

If we are talking about Asian American food culture, there couldn’t be a specialty more representative of the idea than SPAM Musubi itself.  During WWII, American-made SPAM was actually shipped abroad to feed allied troops.  Musubi, also known as onigiri, refers to a Japanese white rice snack paired with something salty or sweet.  Who would have thought the two ingredients would make such a popular and iconic pairing?

You can tell from these SPAM musubi pillows in the window of a gift shop in Downtown Honolulu that I really wasn’t kidding then I said that this snack is much-loved in Hawaii.  I was really tempted to get one of these, but made the adult decision not to.  If I got a few of them, how fun would my next pillow fight be!?

There isn’t much to making a musubi, the most difficult thing is getting a musubi maker to make all sushi pieces look nice and neat.  I’ve mini-fied my musubis, where 1 regular sized musubi is cut into 3 smaller ones.  These are perfect for a summer party or luau.

I got my musubi maker at Marukai, a Japanese grocery store in Los Angeles.  If you can’t find one, no biggie–just shape the rice into rectangular pieces about the size of a tic tac box, perhaps a bit thicker.

In Japanese cooking, furikake is a condiment that’s commonly scattered over hot rice.  The most common furikake seasonings have flakes of nori (dried seaweed), sesame seeds, or even bonito flakes in the mix, and are commonly used in musubi making.

sencha tin for furikakeWhat makes my musubi recipe extra special is my Green Tea Furikake that’s used to sprinkle over the rice layer of this onigiri.  As you can see from my Homemade Washi Tea Tin, the mix is made with sencha green tea, a steamed Japanese green tea with a spinach-like taste.  Korean red pepper flakes and toasted sesame seeds are also in my Green Tea Furikake, which I originally used to scatter over popcorn as a snack.  Here, sprinkling this mixture over hot or warm rice helps to soften and bloom the tea, and the result is a musubi with a slight vegetal taste and boost of umami flavor.

And if you are feeling a bit lazy like I often do, you can skip the sushi making entirely and just place all the cooked musubi ingredients into a bowl.  I got the idea to do this after Ngan over at Ngan Made It fried up some Panko Breaded Shrimp the other day.  All the same tastes without the fuss–what a clever idea Ngan!

If you want a true taste of Hawaii, this is the recipe where it starts.  Wrapped in little musubi packages or tossed in a bowl, these Bite-Size Spam Musubi are a simple way to appreciate the melding of Asian and American cultures in the islands.  Be generous with the Green Tea Furikake–it’s that little something special that makes these local treats taste over-the-top amazing!

Bite-Size Spam Musubi with Green Tea Furikake

Makes 24 mini musubis.

Ingredients:  

1 can of Lite SPAM

3 Tbsp low-sodium teriyaki sauce or 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce mixed with 1-2 tsp of brown sugar

4 cups just-cooked medium or short grain white rice (I used Calrose), cooled to a temperature where you can handle it with your hands

4 sheets Nori dried seaweed

Green Tea Furikake

Equipment:

sharp chef’s knife

frying pan

small bowl

large piece of plastic wrap

scissors

musubi maker (optional)

bowl of water for making sushi

worksurface

Directions:

1.)  Cut the SPAM.  From each can of SPAM, you should get 8 large pieces (and 24 small pieces, enough for 24 Bite-Size Musubi).  Slide the meat out of the package, then cut once in the middle to create two halves.

Cut each half into half again, then each of those halves into half again.

Since we are making Bite-Size/Mini Spam Musubi, now sit the pieces up on their base and cut so that you get 3 pieces of mini SPAM from each of the regular size pieces.

2.)  Dunk each slice of meat in to some teriyaki sauce.  Just lighty coat the pieces and shake off any excess.

3.)  Pan fry the slices on a hot pan set on low heat for 5-7 minutes, or until you get a bit of a glazed crust on each piece.

4.)  Prep a work surface by laying down a large sheet of plastic wrap.  With wet hands, scoop some of the prepared rice into a musubi maker that has just been run under cold water (this prevents sticking).  Place enough rice in the mold so that when it is evenly compressed, it reaches 1″ up the mold.  For my mold, I used about a 1/2 cup of cooked rice.

rice in musubi maker5.)  Push the rice block out of the mold using the top piece of the musubi maker.

6.)  Generously sprinkle the Green Tea Furikake on the rice block.

7.)  Place the pan-fried pieces of SPAM on the furikake sprinkled rice block, then use a sharp knife just run under cold water to cut out 3 mini musubis.

8.)  Roll each musubi in a 1″ strip of nori cut with scissors, using dabs of water to adhere and seal the nori around the musubi.

Try these Bite-Size Spam Musubi with some of Lupicia Fresh Tea’s Hua Ki tropical Hawaiian Blend and mahalo for stopping by!!

Homemade Green Tea Pocky

Welcome to Matcha Mondays here at Thirsty for Tea!

I’ve finally given into my obsession with matcha.  Inspired with so many ideas for using my favorite green tea powder, I realized that dedicating Mondays to my matcha related posts is best way for me to celebrate this very special ingredient.  After all, a boost of vibrance and some caffeinated pep could only make your Mondays that much better, right?

***Easy Brew Tip for a Frothy cup of Matcha: In a jam jar, add 1/2 – 1 tsp of matcha powder, then add 1 cup of water @ 175 degrees F.  Screw the lid on the jar tightly, and shake for 1-2 minutes like a bartender… your tea will be unbelievably frothy!  Truth be told, this is much more effective than using a matcha whisk, but you should still get one because they are just so unique and beautiful!

Just last weekend, my husband and I visited a Thai restaurant by my parents house in Rowland Heights called Coconut Bay.  Paying for our bill on the way out, I saw the most delightful box of cookies peeping out just in front of the register…Matcha Cream Pocky!  Despite that it was double the price of its chocolate and strawberry counterparts, they instantly became a must-try, must-buy item.  You simply cannot be a tea-obsessed blogger and not report back on green tea flavored Pocky!

Inspired by my love and memories of Pocky as a child, I got to work on my Homemade Chocolate Pocky and Homemade Strawberry Pocky posts last week.  I decided to post this Green Tea Pocky recipe as the last of my 3 part Pocky series because now that we’ve covered the basics we can get a bit more adventurous!

To make Homemade Matcha Pocky, you want to start with the best-quality matcha you can find.  Being able to control the quality of the ingredients you are working with is what makes these biscuits worth making (and eating!) at home.  From the Pocky boxes pictured above, you can see that both the strawberry and matcha varieties are artificially flavored.  Using powdered freeze-dried strawberries (for Homemade Strawberry Pocky) and a brilliant natural matcha (for Homemade Green Tea Pocky), we get the most wholesome flavor and beautiful coloring in our stick biscuits.  There’s simply no need for the fake stuff here.

Black sesame and coconut are the toppings I used for my Homemade Green Tea Pocky.  The savory and slightly roasted taste of black sesame seeds cut through the sweetness of the white chocolate for a well-rounded, umami-inspired bite.

I also chose unsweetened, desiccated coconut to decorate with.  Dried coconut gives a tropical touch to the stick cookies, and a light and fluffy looking finish.  Try not to use regular sweetened shredded coconut here, as the combination will be way too sweet.

A pairing that will probably make you think twice is what I call my “Yin Yang Pocky.”  If you’ve ever visited modern Chinese tea shops (the ones with boba milk tea) you might be familiar with Yuanyang, also known as Hong Kong Style Coffee-Tea. This drink is mostly tea with a bit of coffee added in for a boost in flavor and caffeine.

Not as harsh as coffee and not as mild as tea, this Yuanyang blend strikes the perfect balance between Yin (here, the stronger and darker coffee) and Yang (the lighter and brighter tea).  For my Yin Yang Pocky, I sprinkled gourmet coffee vermicelli sprinkles atop my tea infused biscuit sticks.  These are exceptionally delicious if you love the taste of Yuanyang!

Ok, I think it’s time for me to go on a bit of a Pocky hiatus now.  For you Pocky lovers out there, I hope you’ve had a good time reading my last 3 posts!  Pocky are really the quintessential Asian tea cookie, so nibble away at these lovely biscuits while slowly sipping your favorite brew (might I suggest a thick, hot cup of frothy matcha?).  Keep that happy buzz going until the next Matcha Monday!

Homemade Green Tea Pocky

Makes about 20 stick cookies.

Ingredients:

12 oz package of vanilla candy melts or 11 oz bag white chocolate chips

1 Tbsp matcha powder

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 package of grissini, cut into 5″ pieces with serrated knife to make 20 sticks

matcha powder for dusting

unsweetened, desiccated coconut flakes

black sesame seeds

coffee sprinkles (I used Cacao Barry Coffee Vermicelli)

Equipment:

serrated knife

double boiler

small bowl

rubber spatula

tea towel

small sifter

large baking sheet fitted with parchment paper

small baking sheet or plate fitted with parchment paper

tall, narrow drinking glass, at least 6″ tall

Directions:

Step-by-step photos of the dipping process are in my Homemade Chocolate Pocky post!

1.  Fill bottom of double boiler with water, making sure the water doesn’t make contact with the base of the top bowl of the double boiler.  Bring water to a gentle simmer (bring water to boil, then reduce to very low heat).  Place white chocolate or candy melts in top bowl of double boiler.  Using rubber spatula, gently melt the chocolate.  In a small bowl, mix matcha powder with 1 tsp of vegetable oil.  Add this matcha oil/paste to the melting white chocolate and mix in until you get an evenly green colored dipping chocolate.  If you are using white chocolate (not candy coating) you may need to mix in another 1-2 tsp of oil to get a nice dipping consistency.  Remove the bowl of chocolate from heat, and wipe steam off the outside of the bowl with a tea towel.

2.  Carefully pour the melted chocolate into the drinking glass to a height of 4″.

3.  Dip the cut grissini into the melted chocolate leaving the top 1″ undipped.  As you get further along in dipping, you may need to tilt the glass to distribute the chocolate upwards so that you are able to cover all 4″ of each grissini with the chocolate.  Gently shake off any excess chocolate, then place the dipped cookie on the small baking sheet or plate fitted with parchment.  Let the Pocky stick sit here for about a minute to allow any excess chocolate to pool onto the parchment/paper plate.

4.  Transfer the stick to the large parchment lined baking sheet to fully dry.  Repeat the dipping process with the remaining grissini.  If you use white chocolate, the Pocky take about 1 hour to fully dry/harden.  If you use candy melts, they will take about 20 minutes to dry.  In a pinch, you can place the dipped cookies in the fridge to speed up the drying process.  Homemade Pocky are best eaten within a day or two, as the bread sticks tend to soften with time.

Variation:  Generously or lightly scatter desiccated coconut, black sesame seeds, or coffee sprinkles on the dipped Pocky before transferring the cookie sticks to the large parchment lined baking sheet to dry.  Alternatively, you can sift a light dusting of matcha powder atop the drying cookies.  The residual heat of the chocolate will help the the matcha to bloom and intensify in color.

 

Homemade Strawberry Pocky

The first time I ate Pocky was in the late 80’s when there were only two flavors of Pocky to choose from:  chocolate and strawberry.  At the time, I would score a box of the yummy sticks about once every month or so at the Sanrio store.  My mom would bring me to look for Hello Kitty treasures and a box of the cookies would come with.  In the dental office next door, my older sister would be getting her braces tightened, while I shopped away.  Her pain was my gain.

Strawberry Pocky always seem to play second fiddle to Chocolate Pocky.  If I remember correctly, the box for Strawberry Pocky circa 1989 was always smaller than that of the chocolate variety, and it wasn’t as widely available either.  This was frustrating for a gal who loved everything pink (and purple) at the time.

Now that I’m much older and know how to cook, I’ve created what I consider the perfect recipe for Strawberry Pocky, every bit as delicious as the chocolate kind.   My secret ingredient? Freeze-dried strawberries!

These light-as-air strawberry pieces are really great for snacking, and came out on the market a few years back.  They are very sensitive to air and moisture, so pulverize them in your spice grinder immediately before you plan on making the chocolate, otherwise the strawberry dust has a tendency to clump and cake up.  Powdered freeze-dried strawberries are ideal for adding a punch of vibrant fruitiness to melted white chocolate, mousses, and frostings, and they also help to create the most lovely shade of pink .

My new blogger friend, Ngan, of Ngan Made It, added a comment to my Homemade Chocolate Pocky post the other day where she mentioned how she enjoys plain biscuit sticks that are paired with dipping cream.  Yan Yan is a brand of these snacks.  Like a cousin to Pocky, you eat these cookies by using them to scoop out a globs of thickened strawberry cream, bite-by-bite.

If you want to enjoy these strawberry cookies with minimal fuss, you can actually serve the strawberry flavored chocolate in small bowls as a dip.  This is also a great way to use the leftover dipping chocolate.  When the temperature of the dip is slightly warm (but not hot), its consistency becomes frosting-like and pleasantly goopy–the perfect time to start scooping away!

Today I’ve used some unsalted, chopped pistachios, French dark chocolate sprinkles, and Omega-3 rich ground flax seed to decorate these cuties.  My adornment of choice are actually the same freeze-dried strawberries that are used in making the chocolate, finely chopped into little bits.  The tartness of the unsweetened freeze-dried berries balances the sweetness of the white chocolate just perfectly.

I hope you have a good time making these Homemade Strawberry Pocky.  This is an ideal cooking project for little kids or for anyone who’s a kid at heart.  With a fresh and brilliant boost of natural strawberry goodness, this simple confection becomes surprisingly sophisticated and incredibly delicious–a delightful treat for both children and adults alike!

Homemade Strawberry Pocky

Makes about 20 stick cookies.

Ingredients:

1-11 oz package of white chocolate chips

3/4 cup freeze-dried strawberry slices (I used Trader Joe’s brand), pulverized into powder with a spice grinder

2 Tbsp + 1 tsp vegetable oil

1 package of grissini, cut into 5″ pieces with serrated knife to make 20 sticks

finely chopped freeze-dried strawberries

finely chopped pistachios

crushed flax seeds

sprinkles

Equipment:

spice grinder

serrated knife

double boiler

small bowl

rubber spatula

tea towel

large baking sheet fitted with parchment paper

small baking sheet or plate fitted with parchment paper

tall, narrow drinking glass, at least 6″ tall

Directions:

Step-by-step photos of the dipping process are in my Homemade Chocolate Pocky post!

1.  Fill bottom of double boiler with water, making sure the water doesn’t make contact with the base of the top bowl of the double boiler.  Bring water to a gentle simmer (bring water to boil, then reduce to very low heat).  Place white chocolate in top bowl of double boiler.  Using rubber spatula, gently melt the chocolate.  In a small bowl, mix powdered freeze-dried strawberries with 2 Tbsp of the vegetable oil.  Add this strawberry paste to the melting white chocolate and mix in until you get a evenly pink colored dipping chocolate.  Mix in another 1 tsp of oil, then remove the bowl from heat, and wipe steam off the outside of the bowl with a tea towel.

2.  Carefully pour the melted chocolate into the drinking glass to a height of 4″.

3.  Dip the cut grissini into the melted chocolate leaving the top 1″ undipped.  As you get further along in dipping, you may need to tilt the glass to distribute the chocolate upwards so that you are able to cover all 4″ of each grissini with the chocolate.  Gently shake off any excess chocolate, then place the dipped cookie on the small baking sheet or plate fitted with parchment.  Let the Pocky stick sit here for about a minute to allow any excess chocolate to pool onto the parchment/paper plate.

4.  Transfer the stick to the large parchment lined baking sheet to fully dry.  Repeat the dipping process with the remaining grissini.  The Pocky take about 1 hour to fully dry/harden.  In a pinch, you can place them in the fridge to speed up the drying process.  Homemade Pocky are best eaten within a day or two, as the bread sticks tend to soften with time.

Strawberry Pocky with toppingsVariation:  Generously or lightly scatter finely diced freeze-dried strawberries, chopped nuts, crushed flax seeds, or sprinkles on the dipped Pocky before transferring the cookie sticks to the large parchment lined baking sheet to dry.

Homemade Chocolate Pocky

If you aren’t already familiar, Pocky are those easy-to-eat stick biscuit cookies from Japan that come in that catchy red box.  These handy and delicious biscuits are popular enough now that you can commonly find them in the Asian food aisle of your local market.  Having an almost cult-like following, Pocky are easily the most loved cookie in Asian American culture, like an Oreo cookie of the East!

Pocky are really such a perfect snack, you may wonder why anyone would ever bother making them at home.  My answer to this is that making Pocky at home is almost as delightfully fun as getting to eat them.  For me, the challenge is making them with as much precision as possible, the way I imagine they are made at the Pocky factory, wherever that may be.

I’m doing a Pocky Series this week, where I’ll be sharing 3 easy recipes for Homemade Pocky in some tasty variations to make your time worthwhile.  Today we’ll start with the classic: Chocolate Pocky, the most popular and recognizable of all Pocky varieties.

It all starts with toasted grissini, or thin Italian bread sticks.  I found mine in the bakery section of Safeway/Vons here in California.  I like to use the grissini that are most uniform in size and shape.  These thin bread sticks also come in more rustic style where each stick is more free form and not as straight, so it’s totally up to you which type you use, just make sure to grab the package that is plain in flavor…no garlic bread sticks here!  Since grissini are super long, you’ll use a serrated knife to cut them to a more Pocky-like height before dipping.

Use only the best quality chocolate can find here.  I like to mix a good semi-sweet chocolate with Swiss dark chocolate for a bit of bitterness and depth.  And since we aren’t going through all the effort of actually tempering, be careful not to over heat the chocolate during the melting process.  Just when it’s gently melted and beautifully glossy, it’s ready for dipping.

And as a riff on the original, I’m also making some decorated Pocky with crushed hazelnuts.  Some other yummy toppings might be salty roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, or even some macadamia nut bits for a Hawaiian twist!

I’m decorating another set of the cookies with some naturally dyed sprinkles I found at Homegoods the other day.  The just-off primary colored sprinkles make the Homemade Pocky look extra charming and party ready–a fun twist on Pocky that you can’t just grab off the grocery market shelf.  If you are interested in these all-natural sprinkles, I found some online, where they have several other colors to pick from.

Homemade Pocky make a festive confection for parties, yet they can also make the most elegant light dessert with a cup of after dinner tea.  I consider them like chocolate bark on a stick–super easy to make, even easier to eat, and always a crowd pleaser.

If you love Pocky treats, stay tuned!  I have a few more Pocky-licious creations that I’ll be posting about in the next few days!

Homemade Chocolate Pocky

Makes about 30 stick cookies.

Ingredients:

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate

6 oz dark chocolate

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 package of grissini, cut into 5″ pieces with serrated knife to make 30 sticks

1 cup finely chopped hazelnuts

sprinkles

Equipment:

serrated knife

double boiler

rubber spatula

tea towel

large baking sheet fitted with parchment paper

small baking sheet or plate fitted with parchment paper

tall, narrow drinking glass, at least 6″ tall

Directions:

1.  Fill bottom of double boiler with water, making sure the water doesn’t make contact with the base of the top bowl of the double boiler.  Bring water to a gentle simmer (bring water to boil, then reduce to very low heat).  Place semi-sweet chocolate in top bowl of double boiler.  Using rubber spatula, gently melt the semi-sweet chocolate.  When the semi-sweet chocolate has almost all melted, add the dark chocolate and mix together.  When all the chocolate is just melted, mix in the vegetable oil, remove from heat, and wipe steam off the outside of the bowl with a tea towel.

2.  Carefully pour the melted chocolate into the drinking glass to a height of 4″.  Keep the remaining melted chocolate aside, preferably in a warm place.

3.  Dip the cut grissini into the melted chocolate leaving the top 1″ undipped.  Gently shake off any excess chocolate, then place the dipped cookie on the small baking sheet or plate fitted with parchment (I used a paper plate).  Let the Pocky stick sit here for about a minute to allow any excess chocolate to pool onto the parchment/paper plate.

4.  Transfer the stick to the large parchment lined baking sheet to fully dry.  Refill chocolate in glass to 4″ as needed.  Repeat the dipping process with the remaining grissini.  The Pocky take about 2 hours to fully dry/harden.  In a pinch, you can place them in the fridge to speed up the drying process.  Homemade Pocky are best eaten within a day or two, as the bread sticks tends to soften with time.  You can use leftover dipping chocolate for baking or fondue!

Variation:  Generously or lightly scatter finely chopped nuts or sprinkles on the dipped Pocky before transferring the cookie sticks onto the large parchment lined baking sheet.

Matcha Sea Salt Fries with Sriracha Ketchup

matcha fries w napkiFrench fries are the ultimate comfort food.  As plentiful as fries are at restaurants and fast food places, I almost never order them.  For some strange reason I feel that I’m only entitled to eat fries if I’ve put in a proper amount of time and effort into making them.  Knowing that I’ll have to go the extra mile to get that perfect fry assures that I always eat them at their best, freshest, and crispest, and more importantly it helps to limit the frequency that I eat them.

Consider these fries to be an Asian twist on a classic.  In the kitchen, matcha is easily added to blended drinks and baked goods–it’s less common to find it used in savory form.  The matcha sea salt in this recipe goes well as a condiment not only for fries, but for dusting over other similar snacks like chips, popcorn, snacking crackers, and even rice.  Matcha salt lends a subtle, earthy, veggie-like flavor to the french fries.  If you’ve ever checked out the snack section at your Japanese food market, these fries remind me of seaweed-sprinkled potato chips, except much more delicious!

One more ingredient that I’ve thrown into this matcha salt mix is some cayenne pepper as my hubby and I love some kick in our food.  The earthiness of the matcha balances out the heat of the pepper powder really nicely so that the heat you really taste comes from the spicy Sriracha Ketchup that’s served along with the fries!

If you want to lower the heat a notch I’d suggest playing around with the amounts of cayenne and Sriracha used.  I wouldn’t take them out completely though, because they definitely add something special to this homemade treat.
It’s the weekend!  Churn out a basket of these beautiful hot frites for your friends and they will love you that much more.  Remember, only one potato per person!  It’s true, good things come in small batches.  And just as you would sip and savor a hot cup of frothy matcha, nibble and indulge in these Matcha salt fries, knowing that they aren’t so easy to come by.  Slow down and take time to enjoy…with a snack as delicious as this there’s just no other way it should be done!

Spicy Matcha Shoestring Fries

One potato = 1 batch = fries for one.

Ingredients:

{Shoestring Fries}

1 medium russet potato

peanut oil for frying

{Matcha sea salt}

***This amount makes enough for 4-6 batches of fries

1 1/2 tsp matcha powder

1 tsp fine sea salt

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

{Sriracha Ketchup}

2 Tbsp ketchup

small squirt of Sriracha

Equipment:

mandolin with julienne attachment or chef’s knife

large cutting board

large pot for frying

small bowl

thermometer for oil

paper towels

baking sheet

tongs or Chinese wire mesh strainer

Directions:

1.) Using mandolin or chef’s knife, cut potato lengthwise, into uniformly thick (as much as possible) skinny shoestring fries, with a thickess of 1/8″.  After the potato is cut, use paper towels to blot the surfaces of the potato pieces dry.  In a small bowl, mix together matcha, salt, and cayenne pepper.

2.)  Pour oil into a large frying pot so that it goes up the sides about 1″-1 1/2″.  Heat oil to a temperature of 400 degrees F.  When oil hits 400 degrees, place half of uncooked potato sticks into the pot gently.

Cook for 1 minute, then remove the pieces with tongs/strainer onto a paper towel lined baking sheet.  Bring oil temperature back to 400 degrees, and repeat the process with the other half of the uncooked potato sticks.

3.)  With all the potato pieces now par-fried (the potato is cooked, but not yet crisp), bring the oil temperature back to 400 degrees once again.  Place half of the par-fried potato pieces into the hot oil and cook for about a minute, or until golden brown.  Remove and place on the paper towel lined baking sheet, placing some new paper towels down if necessary.  Bring oil temperature back up to 400 degrees, then repeat this process with the other half of the par-fried potato pieces, removing after a minute when fries become golden brown, then place on the baking sheet with paper towels.

4.)  After the fries have blotted on the paper towels, scatter the fries with the matcha salt to taste.  In another small bowl, mix together the ketchup and sriracha.  Serve fries hot with spicy ketchup and enjoy!

making matcha fries 5