By Kaori Becker
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Edited by Liz Bevilacqua and Sarah Guare
Art direction and book design by Carolyn Eckert
Indexed by Christine R. Lindemer, Boston Road Communications
Cover and interior photography by © Nordeck Photography, Inc.
Additional photography by Kaori Becker, 7, 45, 55, 58, 78, 155, 159
Food styling by Jeffrey Larsen and Koka Yamamoto (mochi animals)
Illustrations by © Andrea Kang
Text © 2020 by Kaori Becker
Ebook production by Slavica A. Walzl
Ebook version 0.0
November 24, 2020
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my mother, Yukiko Zinke, and all of my Japanese ancestors
A Life and Love in Mochi
1. Mochi Making Basics
2. Daifuku (Filled) Mochi: The Dough
Steamed White Daifuku Mochi
Microwaved White Daifuku Mochi
Nutella and Strawberries Mochi
Japanese Plum Wine Mochi
Mango Mochi with Fresh Mango
3. Daifuku (Filled) Mochi: The Fillings
Tsubu-An and Koshi-An (Sweet Red Bean Paste)
Traditional Shiro-An (Sweet White Bean Paste)
Vanilla Custard Filling
Matcha Cream Cheese Filling
Black Sesame Cream Cheese Filling
Strawberry-Rose Cream Cheese Filling
Taro Paste Filling
Chocolate and Peanut Butter Filling
Chocolate Truffle Filling
Matcha Truffle Filling
Earl Grey Truffle Filling
Strawberry-Rose Truffle Filling
4. Decorating Mochi
Authentic Nerikiri Dough
Quick and Easy Nerikiri Dough
5. A New Year's Tradition: Pounded Mochi
Pounded White Mochi
Yaki Mochi with Sweet Soy Sauce
Ozoni Soup (Savory New Year's Mochi Soup)
6. Odango: Balls of Fun
Matcha Dango with Matcha Sauce
Zenzai Soup with Odango (Sweet Red Bean Soup with Mochi Balls)
Matcha Anmitsu with Mango Dango
7. Baked Mochi
Kuri Manju (Baked Buns with Sweet Bean Filling)
Japanese-Style Mochi Cupcakes with Sweet Red Bean Filling
Plain Mochi Donuts
Chocolate Mochi Donuts
Black Sesame Mochi Donuts
Apple Cider Mochi Donuts
Coconut Chi Chi Dango
Chewy Mochi Waffles
Crispy Tofu Mochi Waffles
Chocolate Mochi Brownies
Matcha–White Chocolate Mochi Brownies
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A Life and Love in Mochi
My job is made of rice, sugar, water, and love.
I am a mochi maker, following in the footsteps of my mother, Yukiko, who showed me how to make mochi during my college years. Together, my mother and I have taught the art of mochi making to guests from all over the world in our cozy home kitchen in the Bay Area. We've created easy and delicious mochi recipes to the delight and wonder of our guests, family, and friends. Through teaching and making, we have realized that the process of making mochi is a process of love. By that, we mean that the act of making mochi brings people together.
Every step in mochi making — the mixing, the steaming, the pounding, and especially the filling process — is an activity that brings out stories, jokes, and smiles. When you're sitting around a table using your hands to make mochi (or play with it!) and breathing in the aromatic scent of cooked rice, sugar, and sweet red bean paste, you can relax and become a child again. When you tap into your inner child, you let your guard down and have fun. In between bites of sweet mochi, you never know what stories and memories will arise, followed by reassuring smiles and heaps of laughter. Guests in our mochi classes have entered our kitchen with a nervous spirit and have left joyful, grateful, and uplifted through making mochi with others. They get to know the other people at the table, and often leave feeling more connected and trusting of people who were strangers just hours before.
Making mochi is as much about creating community as it is about creating food.
Wait . . . What Is Mochi?
Mochi is a form of sticky rice cake made from Japanese short-grain rice called mochigome. Mochigome is a satisfyingly chewy, sticky rice that is naturally sweeter than ordinary table rice. Mochi itself is neutral in flavor and can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes. It can be eaten on its own with soy sauce, or it can be sweetened and filled with sweet fillings. Mochi flour can also be used in classic desserts, such as brownies and donuts, lending them a unique, chewy texture. Mochi continues to appear in the dishes of many countries besides Japan, and its popularity is ever increasing.
Mochi has been held in high regard within Japanese culture for generations, with rice itself being revered as the "gift of the gods" and considered an omen of good fortune. These little cakes were first enjoyed exclusively by the emperor and nobles, but they were later used as religious offerings to the gods in Shinto rituals. With time, this auspicious delight became an integral part of the Japanese New Year, Girl's Day, and Children's Day celebrations, as well as enjoyed in households throughout Japan both for festive occasions and as a treat in everyday life.
Mochi has an incredibly long and rich history in Japan, but it's hard to know exactly when it was first created, and by whom. The earliest hint comes from steaming tools archaeologists uncovered, similar to those used for mochi making, which date back to the Kofun period (250 to 538 CE).
Plain mochi is consumed most often by Japanese people at the start of each new year. Every new year, Japanese families will place kagami mochi (a large mochi cake topped with a small mochi cake and a citrus called a daidai) on an alter to bring good fortune. For centuries, Japan has depended on the annual rice harvest as its main source of food, so making mochi at the start of the year represents bringing good luck into the new year, both in harvest and in life. Traditionally, farmers offered mochi to Shinto gods as a gift, to celebrate the rice spirit's arrival. Farmers would recite prayers and give offerings for a successful rice harvest for the coming year. It is believed that giving mochi to others brings good luck upon the giver's household, family, and daily life, and it brings good fortune to the receiver of the mochi as well.
Inadama is the soul or spirit of rice. According to Japanese culture, each grain of rice has a soul, and rice is alive in its hull. Japanese people believe that mochi's inadama can revive and fortify those who eat it. In the past, mochi was given to women after childbirth to strengthen their bodies and help them recover. Even in noodle shops today there is a dish called chikara udon, or "strength udon," which is a noodle soup that contains large pieces of mochi. Because pounded mochi contains the spirit of rice, it has long been considered to be a source of divine strength, and this idea lives on in modern Japanese society as well.
My Life with Mochi
I grew up eating mochi, and lots of it!
From the huge daifuku mochi (mochi stuffed with sweet red bean paste) we would buy from the local Japanese grocery store to the smaller mochi we got for a dollar apiece at church bazaars run by Japanese moms, mochi has always been a delicious source of comfort. I also remember eating mochi while visiting relatives in Japan. I've always loved the smooth, supple, sticky outer layer of rice complemented by the soft or textured red or white bean paste in the middle.
When my mom taught me how to make mochi, I was in graduate school, working toward my English teaching certification, yet I found myself growing more interested in mochi making. I would talk to my mom over the phone about each element of the process. I would ask her to send me step-by-step photos to post on the small blog I had created. Although I had invested so much time, effort, and money in my graduate studies, my heart and mind were inexorably being pulled in another direction. I felt the most joy when I came home to cook in my kitchen. Eventually, cooking became a calling I could no longer ignore.
When I started teaching cooking classes, I advertised a number of topics — including how to make Vietnamese pho and Indian curry — but it was our mochi class that was the most popular. A steady stream of people kept signing up to learn about it. There is no denying that there is something special about mochi!
I'm forever fascinated by mochi's versatility. It offers endless possibilities for fillings, flavors, and cooking methods. Today, mochi is found in many savory and sweet dishes, with a large variety of unique flavorings. The recipes in this book indicate the many ways that mochi is enjoyed in Japan and throughout the world. Traditional mochi pounded from Japanese sticky rice is eaten most commonly during the new year, but this doesn't mean all mochi is consumed only in January. Mochi, in its many varieties — from mochi balls called odango to frozen ice cream mochi to filled (daifuku) mochi — is eaten year-round in Japan and other parts of Asia, and around the world. Many people love its texture and delicious taste.
I delight in creating and tasting new mochi flavors in Japan, the United States, and around the world. Indeed, most of my travel to Asian countries is for mochi research (my excuse to binge on mochi!).
The results of my experiments became the recipes that I'm sharing with you. This book features the diverse and mouthwatering flavor combinations and recipes my mother, our cooking assistants, and I have discovered while experimenting, eating, and teaching people about mochi. Savory or sweet, traditional or new — there is something here for everyone!
My first hope with this book is that it motivates you to cook mochi with your family and friends. As you make mochi, more love and connections will be created, jovial conversations will be had, and sweets will be consumed that leave your bellies full. My second hope is that this book encourages you to think about your roots and how you can keep the memories of your family alive through the art of creating and enjoying food together. Finally, I hope you enjoy our recipes, and that you improve upon them, adapt them, and make unique creations of your own.
In life, as with love and mochi, the possibilities are endless!
Mochi has been made in households across Japan and around the world for centuries. You don't need any special equipment to make it. You can purchase special tools to make the process smoother, but I encourage you to first try out the recipes with kitchen implements you already have on hand. Equipment aside, mochi ingredients like mochiko (mochi flour) are easy to find at your local grocery store, Asian market, or online. I will walk you through the five methods of making mochi that I use, as well as some tips and tricks for decorating your finished mochi to perfection.
Mochi is made from mochi rice (in the case of pounded mochi) or mochi rice flour, water, and sugar (if making dessert mochi). Mochi can also be filled with a variety of flavors, from traditional bean pastes to non-traditional chocolate truffles.
Bean Paste Fillings
Adzuki beans. These are used to make sweet red bean paste, including tsubu-an and koshi-an. They are sometimes called azuki, aduki, or red mung beans. They have a characteristically earthy flavor and natural sweetness, which make them the perfect bean for filling mochi. Among the legume family, adzuki beans are the highest in protein and the lowest in fat. Other benefits include high levels of potassium, fiber, B-complex vitamins, and minerals such as iron and zinc. Whole, dried adzuki beans can usually be found at the local Asian store in the dried legumes section, or online.
Tsubu-an and koshi-an. Tsubu-an is the coarse version of sweet red bean paste (anko), and koshi-an is the smooth version. You can buy premade sweet red bean paste at most Asian grocery stores or make your own. The ingredients for sweet red bean paste are simple — adzuki beans, sugar, and water. For tsubu-an, the beans are cooked, then mashed with sugar without ever passing through a blender or sieve. This results in a chunky, almost fudgy texture beloved by many mochi connoisseurs. Some, like me, prefer tsubu-an for the texture it brings to mochi. For koshi-an, the adzuki beans are also cooked, but then they are mashed, blended, and pressed through a fine-mesh sieve before being mixed with sugar. This results in a smooth, velvety paste.
Shiro-an. This sweet white bean paste is made with large lima beans (also known as butter beans), sugar, and water. Shiro-an is available commercially, though it may be hard to find. Make your own by following the recipe.
Sweet Rice and Sweet Rice Flour
Sweet rice. This is what makes mochi what it is: a sticky rice cake. In Japanese, this rice is called mochigome, meaning "mochi rice." The Japanese style of sweet rice is a short-grain rice. The grains look more opaque and white compared to regular short-grain Japanese rice. Sweet rice can also be called sticky rice. When cooked and pounded, the grains of this rice start to meld and stick together, becoming one large mass. Found at most Asian grocery stores, this type of rice is used to make the traditional hand-pounded (or machine-pounded) mochi during the new year.
Mochiko. Also known as sweet rice flour, mochiko literally translates to "mochi flour" in Japanese. Mochiko is uncooked sweet rice that has been pulverized to a powder. My favorite brand of mochiko is made by Koda Farms, a third-generation Japanese family-owned rice farm in California. Mochiko is the best ingredient to use when making the standard sweet daifuku mochi. Mochiko can be found in Asian grocery stores across North America and online.
Kiri mochi. Several recipes in this book require either home-pounded mochi or a product called kiri mochi, which is commercially produced plain pounded mochi cut into solid rectangles. Kiri mochi can be used wherever plain pounded mochi is required — for example, in Yaki Mochi with Sweet Soy Sauce and Bacon-Wrapped Mochi. Kiri mochi is generally sold in bags of individually wrapped rectangles, available at Japanese grocery stores or online. You can also use sprouted brown rice mochi squares in place of kiri mochi.
Dusting and Flavoring
Matcha. This high-quality green tea, ground into powdered form, comes in two main grades: ceremonial and culinary. Culinary grade is a less vibrant green and tastes more intense, bitter, and grassy compared to the ceremonial grade. Culinary grade matcha is cheaper and can be used in all the recipes; however, I do recommend using ceremonial grade in any recipe where matcha's taste and color really need to shine, such as in the Matcha Syrup and the matcha agar cubes in the anmitsu recipe. Reputable brands of matcha include Maeda-en, Matcha Love, and any matcha produced in the city of Uji, Japan (a city known for being a producer of matcha).
Yomogi. This flavoring is made from the leaves of the Japanese mugwort plant (yomogi) that have been dried and pulverized. Its taste is slightly similar to matcha but with an earthier, herbier flavor profile. Fresh yomogi is not commonly found in the United States, but you can find the dried version in Japanese grocery stores or online. Yomogi-flavored mochi pairs excellently with a topping of kinako powder.
Kinako. Literally translated as "yellow flour," kinako is simply roasted soybeans that have been finely ground into a powder. Rolling mochi dough in kinako gives it an earthy, nutty flavor — similar to that of peanut powder — with a beautiful golden hue that many love. You can find kinako in Japanese and Korean grocery stores or online.
Sesame seeds. Sesame seeds add a delicious nuttiness to mochi and work well as mochi toppings. Simply dip mochi in a bowl of water, shake off the excess, and drop the mochi into a generous bowl of black, white, or mixed black and white sesame seeds. Roll the mochi around in the bowl. The seeds adhere to the mochi, for a special, more traditional look.
Katakuriko. Also known as Japanese potato starch, katakuriko is used for dusting the mochi as you shape it, preventing the large mochi mass from sticking to your hands and the cutting board. It also allows you to easily shape and form each individual piece of mochi. Katakuriko was once derived from the roots of the dogtooth violet, but nowadays it is made from potatoes. You cannot substitute American brands of potato starch for katakuriko. If you can't find katakuriko, use cornstarch instead.
Cornstarch. An alternative to katakuriko used for dusting mochi, cornstarch can be found in any grocery store in the United States. It is not as finely powdered as katakuriko, but it still does a great job. I often use it more than katakuriko because it keeps the mochi drier and less sticky for easy handling, and is also more readily available than katakuriko.
Agar powder. This ingredient is essential to making kanten, which is a type of Japanese jelly. In fact, kanten is the Japanese word for agar, although the term refers to both the ingredient as well as the gelatin-like pudding made with it. Instead of using gelatin to make Jell-O, most Japanese recipes will use agar/kanten powder. Unlike gelatin, agar/kanten is entirely vegan. In addition, it has no taste and is semitranslucent. Also unlike gelatin, it can set at room temperature and produces a firmer texture.
A large steamer. Almost any kind of steamer will work when making mochi; there's no need for it to be fancy. We use a stainless steel steamer that consists of two parts: a pot on the bottom and a perforated basket section that sits on top of the pot and lets steam in. A lid on top seals in the steam. You can find steamers at local Asian grocery stores or markets, but basically any kind of steamer can be used to make steamed mochi.
Three-foot square of white cotton cloth with a tight weave. This cloth is a necessary part of steaming mochi. It is placed over the top of the steamer basket to prevent the mochi batter from spilling into the steaming water. You cannot use cheesecloth, as its weave is not fine enough to catch the mochi batter. You can buy cotton cloth, such as muslin, from fabric or kitchen supply stores to make this.
Food-safe disposable gloves. Vinyl, polyethylene, or nitrile (not latex) food-safe gloves are useful if you choose to work with the mochi right out of the steamer or microwave, something we often need to do because it's easier to break off pieces and shape them when the mochi is still quite hot. It's important to find powder-free food-safe vinyl gloves when working with hot mochi.
A large, heavy-duty cutting board, preferably wooden. When we steam mochi, we often make large batches (25 to 30 pieces), which calls for a large cutting board. Wooden boards work best, although a durable, heatproof plastic board can be used instead, if that's all you have.
Large wooden or metal bowl. You'll need a large bowl for pounding the cooked sticky rice. During mochitsuki, the traditional mochi-pounding ceremony, a large, heavy wooden bowl called an usu is used for pounding the mochi. However, any large metal or wooden bowl will do the job.
Food-safe wooden or plastic mallet, or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. If you are making mochi the traditional way, you will need a pounding implement. It's important to find mallets that are not treated with chemicals, and you should be wary of nonwooden mallets in particular, as they may not be food-safe. If you do not have a mallet, you can use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment to pound the mochi instead.
"This book is a great starting point for chefs new to making mochi, and a wonderful addition to any library collection." – Booklist
“Kaori isn’t just teaching you how to make mochi. She’s teaching the art as well as the technique behind each adorable design, breaking it down so that it’s super easy to follow. She connects you to her heritage throughout the book and shows you the endless sweet possibilities with mochi!” – Hetal Vasavada, author of Milk Cardamom
“Mochi making is a paramount tradition that brings joy and delight to every generation of the Japanese people. I am so happy that Kaori put together this book so the magic of mochi can be shared with everyone.” — Namiko Chen, founder of Just One Cookbook
“Kaori Becker shows us everything we need to know about the marvelous world of mochi!” — Daniel Shumski, author of How to Instant Pot and Will It Waffle?
“I become more fascinated by Kaori’s cute and delicious mochi world every time I turn the page, and I get excited about what I’m going to make. I’m sure you will too.” — Maki Ogawa, coauthor of Yum-Yum Bento Box
“Mochi is an important part of the food landscape in Japan, from an ingredient in savory soups to sweet strawberry-stuffed ichigo daifuku. Mochi Magic shows how absolutely simple it is to make at home, even in my tiny Japanese kitchen!” — Brian MacDuckston, founder of Ramen Adventures
“Thank you, Kaori Becker, for generously, lovingly sharing your mochi-making expertise with us! Mochi Magic, with its oodles of adorable, doable mochi sweets, is a perfect blend of instruction and inspiration. Kaori-san, you are our mochi muse!” — Elizabeth Andoh, founder of A Taste of Culture
- On Sale
- Nov 24, 2020
- Page Count
- 192 pages