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!!