Ahh, sweet memories of the Abekawa. Relaxing by the river flowing through Shizuoka, nibbling on the delicious mochi, rolled in sesame flour...
Autumn and winter are the perfect times to enjoy mochi. It's a chewy, rich treat that is difficult to describe to someone who hasn't had it. You could call it a cake. Plenty of people do. But it's not really the kind of cake that you might expect. It's not like, say, a chocolate cake. It's chewy, but not like caramel. It's both light and heavy at the same time.
The most typical of mochi, mochi daifuku, usually comes stuffed with an, which is a sweet red paste made of red beans. It's also called anko, because just saying 'an' can be confusing in a language where it's also an article! It's a little difficult to get stuffed mochi down if you've never made it before, or even if you have. You have to gauge the temperature and make sure you do things right so you don't hurt yourself or ruin the daifuku. It's also a more involved recipe.
However, abekawa mochi -- named after the Abekawa, or Abe River, that flows through Shizuoka -- is a very simple recipe that anyone can do. It was made popular during the Edo Period, a romantic period in Japanese history.
Some of the ingredients may be a little exotic, but fortunately they're not particularly perishable. So you can always order online with confidence that they won't be ruined by adverse weather conditions or lengthy shipping.
2 C mochiko
1 C sugar
1 3/4 C water
1) Combine the dry ingredients except kinako thoroughly. You may even want to run your fingers through the mixture and make sure there are no clumps.
2) Stir the water in gradually, and mix completely, until you have a silky batter.
3) Preheat your oven to 350 F or about 175 C. Using a cooking spray or oil, grease your pan. It should be a small, square pan. You can also use a muffin pan if you know how much you want. Note that mochi will not rise, so however tall the batter is in the pan, that's how thick the mochi will be.
4) Pour the batter evenly into the pan and let it even out.
5) Bake for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This baking time depends heavily on how small the pan is and how thick the batter is. If you bake it for longer than an hour, it will be dry on the top (though still moist otherwise) but some prefer it this way since the dry side is not sticky and doesn't generally interfere with the taste.
6) Remove from the oven and let cool. Turn it out on a plate and take a handful of kinako. Generously rub the kinako all across the moist mochi, careful to cover all surfaces of it.
7) Slice into however many pieces you like. Store in airtight container. Keeps for a few days.
Tips and Such
- If you find the mochi are too sweet for your tastes, reduce the sugar but be sure to compensate by adding more mochiko.
- Mochi are best enjoyed with sencha, Japanese green tea. It is a robust tea that is made without grinding the leaves, so the tenderness and richness is preserved. Although sencha is a favourite tea for mochi, most teas will complement the taste wonderfully.
- Mochi are best enjoyed soon after preparation. The taste of fresh mochi is incomparable. Though they can and do keep for quite some time, like most foods, they are best fresh.
- Mochi may be stored refrigerated, but this will make them firmer and harder to chew. They can be heated lightly to restore their tenderness.
- Do not leave mochi out in the open air for long periods of time. This will cause them to become tough or even rock-hard, which is not what you want...for teatime treats, anyway!
Mochiko is a flour made of glutinous rice. It is a great thickener that isn't a starch powder, but it is extremely sticky. It generally can't be used in the same way as wheat flour, which is the most common flour in much of the Western world.
Kinako is a powder, or flour, made of roasted sesame seed. It is extremely rich and fulfilling.
I hope you'll make and enjoy mochi this season! The cooler seasons are always perfect for its unique taste and texture. Enjoy abekawa mochi with a cup of delicious sencha and think of those lazy days by the river in Shizuoka...
};) Dhiar <3