Schatzi: Okay, so the new year actually started on Monday, but who’s counting? One of the best ways to ensure good luck in the new year is to eat sweets as part of your celebrations, and for that purpose I submit to you a Butter Mochi recipe.
If you’re not familiar with mochi, it is a cake made from glutinous rice that has been soaked, cooked, pounded into a paste, and then formed into shapes. (Incidentally, if you’ve ever wondered who has the time to do this, just look at the moon. There’s a rabbit up there, pounding mochi. You can see him without even looking too hard.) Mochi comes in many varieties, and is used for many Japanese confections, like manju, chichi dango, and daifuku (one of my favorites is yomogi daifuku). Mochi also has many relatives in other Asian cuisines such as gau, and suman and bibinka, in China and the Philippines, respectively. I’m especially fond of the Okinawan sweet potato mochi.
Mochi is one of those things that has changed a lot over the past century, as people in Hawaii have adapted it to tastes and available products. It’s easy to find recipes for peanut butter mochi, chocolate mochi, pumpkin mochi–whatever! One of the most popular of the “new wave” mochis is butter mochi, which is a coconut custard-like baked mochi. It’s very simple, but rich and sweet. I grew up making butter mochi (among other varieties–microwave gau, anyone?); where the Mainland girls I read about in books made chocolate chip cookies or fudge, my friends and I loved making butter mochi. It’s a very sticky, gooey treat, with a rich sweetness and faintly coconut flavor.
The ingredients are simple enough, but I suggest scouting a local Asian market for the mochiko (sweet rice flour) if it’s hard to find. It’s only a $1.49 at some marts here, but more than double that at Fred Meyer–when I can find it! The batter will look like a liquidy yellow cake batter and fill the pan almost completely, but don’t worry, because it won’t rise very much. It puffs up a bit as it bakes, but deflates as it cools. There are any number of butter mochi recipes online, and most are fairly similar, with only slightly varying proportions. This recipe can take anywhere from 1.5 to 2.25 cups of sugar, depending on your sweet tooth. You can cut out a teaspoon of vanilla, even, if you want the coconut flavor to shine. Another popular variation is to top the mochi with shredded coconut before baking. I never bother.
1 stick butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 16 oz box mochiko flour
1 12 oz can evaporated milk + 1/2 cup water
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
Butter a 2 quart (8×11.5″) pan, and preheat oven to 350.
Melt butter, and let cool slightly. Add vanilla extract, mix well, then add eggs, stirring until well incorporated.
Combine mochiko flour and baking powder in a separate bowl, and whisk together.
Alternate adding mochiko mixture and liquids to the butter and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the liquids. Mix thoroughly.
Pour mixture into pan, and bake for one hour at 350. Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting. Cut into 1-inch square bars to serve–any more is too much!