Matcha Mango Mochi Rolls

Microwave and mochi may not seem like they belong in the same sentence, but yet here it is…Microwave Matcha Mango Mochi Rolls!  Could there be any more m’s in a recipe?

Traditional Japanese sweet rice cake is made from steamed glutinous rice, which is pounded into a paste and shaped to create the chewy, sticky mouthful referred to as mochi.  As authentic as it is to use a steamer to make mochi, there are many other more convenient methods you can use to make mochi, including the stove top, the oven, and even the microwave!  The microwave an ideal place to cook this treat, as any slight degree of overcooking is masked by the fact that mochi already has a characteristic chewiness about it.

These mochi rolls are the not-as-cold and not-as-sweet version of mochi ice cream.  What’s great about them is that don’t require any fancy filling techniques like those needed when making traditional filled mochi.  I make the Matcha Mango Mochi Rolls as I would cinnamon rolls–just spread a cooked mochi sheet with a layer of mango cream, then roll up, chill, and cut with a sharp serrated knife.  If you’ve allowed the roll a proper amount of time to set up in the fridge, you’ll end up with beautiful mochi slices with specks of fresh mango studded throughout.

I love that something as traditional as mochi can be made so simply in the microwave, within minutes.  For the whipped cream filling, feel free to substitute any fruit that you love…strawberries, peaches, or even bananas will work well.  And if you can’t find the freeze-dried fruit, just add more of the fresh fruit.  The filling can also easily be replaced with canned smooth red bean paste, which results in a much more traditional tasting mochi roll.

Matcha Mango Mochi Rolls

Makes 12 pieces.

Ingredients:

{Mochi Sheet}

4 oz. sweet rice flour (mochiko)

3/4 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp matcha powder, sifted

non-stick vegetable oil spray

1 cup dried, unsweetened, shredded coconut

{Mango Cream}

1/2 cup cream

2 Tbsp sugar

1/4 cup freeze-dried mango, ground to a powder in spice grinder

1/4 cup fresh, firm mango, peeled and diced into pea-size bits

Equipment:

microwaveable 9 x 13 rectangular casserole dish

2 medium mixing bowls

rubber spatula

hand-held mixer or whisk

spice grinder

peeler

work surface

large rectangular dish or baking sheet

serrated knife

Directions:

1.)  In a medium bowl, combine mochiko, baking powder, and matcha powder.  Add in water, sugar, and vanilla and mix in thoroughly until you get a homogenous batter.

2.)  Pour batter into casserole dish evenly sprayed with non-stick vegetable oil spray, distributing the batter evenly.  Microwave on high for 5 minutes, or until the mochi sheet is set and a toothpick comes out clean.

3.)  Let the mochi sheet dry to room temperature, then carefully ease out of casserole dish using a rubber spatula.  If it is easier, loosen one half of the mochi sheet, then the other half.

4.)  On top of a work surface, scatter 1 cup of desiccated coconut.  Distribute the coconut evenly into a 9 x 13 rectangle so that the mochi sheet will lay on top of it without making contact with the work surface.  Lay the sticky side of the mochi sheet on top of the coconut. The stickiness of the mochi will cause the coconut to adhere, creating the outer covering for the mochi rolls.

5.)  Make the mango cream by first whipping the heavy cream.  Add the sugar and whip until you get stiff peaks.  Fold in the dried mango powder and the fresh mango bits.

6.)  On the dry side of the mochi sheet, use a rubber spatula to apply an even 1/4″ thick layer of the whipped cream atop the entire sheet of mochi.

7.)  Like you would making cinnamon rolls, take one long side of the mochi sheet, then gradually and tightly roll up until you get a finished, long mochi roll.  Set the roll on a large rectangular dish or baking sheet seam side down, then cover with plastic wrap and set in fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.

8.)  After the roll is properly chilled, remove from the fridge and use a serrated knife to cut out 12 equally-sized pieces of mochi.  Store airtight in the fridge, where the mochi will last 2-3 days.

Neapolitan Mochi Cake

I can’t believe we’re already in the midst of February!  With Valentine’s Day arriving in a few short days, I’m sure you might be thinking of something a little decadent to give to your sweetie this year.  Why not make a heart-shaped Neapolitan Mochi Cake for both you and your love to snack on instead of the same old box of chocolates?

Strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate are one of the most yummy flavor combinations around.  So if your Valentine loves Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches, then they’ll also love this Japanese-style sweet rice cake.  It’s as if the classic frozen treat from Naples, Italy has traveled East!

Back in November, I made Pumpkin Butter Mochi, a type of Japanese wagashi that is generally eaten as a tea snack.  Those individually-sized mochi were made with a base of light coconut milk, the type found in the refrigerator section of your market with a consistency much like regular milk.  This recipe uses real coconut milk, the thicker kind you find in a can.  I figured that since this mochi isn’t stuffed with any filling, full-on extra richness and flavor was the way to go.

For the chocolate layer of this cake, use the best baking cocoa you can find.  The darker and better quality your cocoa powder is, the more brownie-like the chocolate layer of this mochi cake will be.  And for the pink layer, I’ve added a bit of strawberry syrup, the kind they use in Italian sodas.  It’s the best way to get some bright strawberry flavor and pinky color into the top layer of the cake.

Enjoy some freshly baked mochi cake with your sweetheart this V-day!  Diced into little bits scattered over ice cream, or cut into thick slices for snacking, this popular Asian treat is made even more delicious and charming with classic Neapolitan flavors mixed in.

Neapolitan Mochi Cake

Makes 1- 6” mochi cake.

Ingredients:

8 oz. mochiko (sweet rice flour)

1 cup coconut milk (the kind from a can)

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

1 Tbsp strawberry syrup (I used Torani brand)

Non-stick spray

chocolate sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

Equipment:

large mixing bowl

wire whisk

3 small bowls

scale

6” heart-shaped cake pan (I used Wilton)

piece of foil to cover cake pan

cooling rack

Directions:

1.)    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Using wire whisk, mix sweet rice flour, coconut milk, water, sugar, vanilla, and baking powder together in a large bowl and mix evenly.

2.)    Using the scale, weigh the mixed mochi batter (minus the mixing bowl).  Divide the number by 3, then place each amount of that measure into 3 separate smaller bowls.  One bowl will be for the chocolate batter, one bowl will be for the strawberry batter, and one bowl will be for the plain white batter.

3.)    Into a 1/3 portion of the full amount of batter, add the sifted cocoa powder and mix in well.  Spray cake pan with an even spray of non-stick spray.  Pour the cocoa batter mixture into the pan and shake gently to even out.  Cover loosely with foil and bake in oven for about 10 minutes until lightly set.  When it is lightly set, you should be able to touch the center without any residual batter getting on your finger (I’m going to refer to this as the “finger touch test.”  The edges of the cake will also have slightly pulled away from the pan.

4.)    When the cocoa layer is set, pour the plain vanilla portion atop the set cocoa layer, and lightly shake to even out the layer.  Cover with foil loosely, and bake for about 20 minutes until lightly set.

5.)    When white vanilla layer has set (use finger touch test) make the strawberry batter.  Mix 1 Tbsp of strawberry syrup into last portion of batter and stir in well.  Pour atop middle vanilla layer, and gently shake to even out in the baking pan.  Loosely cover with foil and bake for about 35-40 minutes until fully set (use finger touch test).  The cake will also have slightly puffed up and pulled away from sides of pan.

6.)    After removing baked mochi from oven, place on cooking rack to cool completely.  When completely cooled, slide knife between edge of cake and inside of baking pan to help remove it from the pan.  Flip the cake out and enjoy!  To store mochi, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.  Mochi is best eaten fresh, within a few days of baking.

Pumpkin Butter Mochi

My trip over to Little Tokyo a few weeks back inspired this Pumpkin Butter Mochi recipe.  As the leaves are turning and fall is officially in full swing, this sweet rice cake pairs a traditional Japanese tea snack with a classic autumn fruit…pumpkin!

I’ve chosen to use pumpkin butter in this recipe, but a spiced canned pumpkin pie filling will work just as well.  Pumpkin butter is a bit thinner and more acidic than pumpkin pie filling, although both typically have the same spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg) mixed in.  Because pumpkin butter has more acidic liquids like lemon or apple juice added in, it’s less starchy and less sweet than its counterpart.  I actually find the “fruit butter” idea confusing, because fruit butters like pumpkin butter generally don’t contain fat.

Enjoy these pumpkin butter mochi with a cup of clean, grassy sencha or a toasty cup of houjicha–a roasted green tea.  It’s really important not to overbrew Japanese green tea, so 2-3 minutes at 175 degrees is ideal.  Overbrewing green tea will result in a bitter, harsh tasting liquor, so if you enjoy green teas it’s a good idea to invest in a temperature controlled electric kettle or even just an instant thermometer.  You’ll be able to keep those subtle, umami notes of Japanese green teas that will pair harmoniously with these chewy, lightly sweet pumpkin butter mochi.

Pumpkin Butter Mochi

Makes 12 cakes.

Ingredients:

8 oz sweet rice flour (mochiko)

1 1/2 cups coconut milk

2/3 cup white sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla

1/3 cup pumpkin butter or spiced pumpkin purée

katakuriko (potato starch) or cornstarch

non-stick spray

Directions:

1.)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a medium mixing bowl, mix together rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, and vanilla, and mix rigorously with a spoon or wire whisk until the mixture is homogenous.

2.)  Give the muffin pan a thorough, even coating of non-stick spray.  Spoon 1 1/2 Tbsp of the mochi batter into each cavity, and place in oven to bake for 10 minutes.

3.)  After 10 minutes, remove the muffin pan from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.  Use the back of a teaspoon or other utensil to indent a small, shallow “ditch” into each of the mochi cakes (I used the handle of a jam spreader).

4.)  Spoon 1 tsp of pumpkin butter or spiced pumpkin purée into each shallow mochi cake “ditch,” then cover the filling with 1 Tablespoon of the remaining mochi batter.  Spoon this remaining batter on carefully so that the pumpkin butter or purée is fully covered.

5.)  Bake the filled mochi cakes in the oven for an additional 15 minutes or until cakes are very slightly puffed and surface is dry to the touch.  Let mochi cakes cool completely in pan before removing.

6.)  After cooled and removed from the pan, generously coat the mochi with katakuriko or cornstarch on a dry work surface, then use a wire mesh sieve to shake excess starch off of the cakes.  Mochi cakes are best eaten within a day or two of baking them.  You can store them in the fridge for a slightly longer shelf life, but this will result in a slightly stiffer textured mochi cake.

Equipment:

12 cavity standard non-stick muffin or tart pan

wire mesh sieve

rounded teaspoon measure or other similar utensil

Step-By-Step:

Use a lightened coconut milk for a lighter textured mochi cake

Mix the rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, and vanilla together

You will get a thinned pancake batter consistency

After the first 10 minute bake you will see the edges slightly part from the muffin tin, but the centers won’t be fully set yet

Create some “ditches”

1 tsp of pumpkin butter only…resist the temptation to over-fill

Cover the filling with the mochi batter completely for a fully sealed mochi cake

Potato starch, similar to cornstarch and equally messy

Potato starch is like cornstarch and equally messy

Shake off the excess!

Shake off the excess

Autumn, Japanese style.

Love these Japanese mochi cakes?  Check out my post on Japanese tea and wagashi here.

Japanese Tea & Wagashi, A Match Made in Little Tokyo

A few weeks ago I made my way over to the Japanese American Museum in Little Tokyo for the Los Angeles International Tea Festival.  In its third year, the festival showcases the best and most unique finds in LA’s ever-growing tea scene.  There were a host of vendors this year, including the Chado Tea Room, Ito En, and Harney and Sons.  The festival is a great place to learn about brewing tea, cooking with tea, tea and health, and even how tea is grown.  It’s also a great place to learn more about tea in the context of Asian and Japanese culture.  You can even watch Chanoyu in practicethe ritualistic and fascinating art of the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Tea, modern in practice and steeped in Asian tradition

These gift shop finds at the Japanese American Museum make me happy

You can find these “Generational Teas” at the Japanese American Museum in LA.  Each tea blend honors a specific generation of Japanese Americans, from Issei (1st generation) to Gosei (5th generation)

On my way out of the tea festival, I decided to do a some shopping (and food-seeking) on 1st Street and walked straight over to Fugetsu-Do, a Japanese confectionary that specializes in wagashi.  This unassuming, quaint shop has stood the test of time.  In fact, it’s considered the oldest shop in LA’s Little Tokyo.

Wagashi are sweet, dense artful little Japanese cakes created specifically to be paired with Japanese green teas.  These creations are rarely served as desserts in Japan.  Instead, they are enjoyed as a light snack or refreshment or during a tea ceremony.  Literally translated, “wa” refers to “Japan” and “gashi” refers “sweets.”  Many wagashi reflect natural themes like birds, plants, and fruits, taking inspiration from classical poetry or art. These beautiful small cakes are typically made with ingredients like rice flour, agar-agar, or bean paste, and rarely contain dairy.

An unassuming storefront on 1st Street in Little Tokyo

Artfully crafted wagashi in many shapes and colors

Since 1903 this historic little shop has made all kinds of wagashi like mochi (japanese rice cake), manju (flour cakes with sweet red bean paste), and dango (little sweet rice ball dumplings).  Even after being sent to internment camps during WWII after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the owners of this family owned business–the Kito Family–ventured back to Los Angeles to reestablish their business.

Fugetsu-Do is a must-go if you are ever passing through Little Tokyo.  Like a sip of tea, a bite of one of these beauties is like a step back in time.  The shop owner, Brian Kito, is always resisting the idea of renovating the store as he strives to preserve the shop’s historic charm and timeless Japanese style.  Christmas and New Year’s are busy times for Fugetsu-Do, so if you want to try some of their beautiful and unique treats, fall might be just the time to do that!

And if you want to make your own mochi at home, here is my recipe for Pumpkin Butter Mochi, a recipe that pays homage to the seasonal wagashi of autumn.