Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, August 7, 2002


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FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Strawberries wrapped in red bean paste were given an outer coating of pink mochi during a class at Lyon Arboretum on Saturday.



Mochi many ways

Peanut butter, chocolate, strawberries
and more create a rainbow of flavors

Stir creative process with microwave mochi recipe


By Eleanor Nakama-Mitsunaga
Special to the Star-Bulletin

When it comes to unique flavor combinations, we in Hawaii do not flinch. This is, after all, the land of li hing Gummi Bears, poi cheesecake and arare cookies. It's not surprising that innovative ideas for mochi -- that sticky, beloved Japanese confection -- would follow the same quirky path.

Imagine fresh strawberry mochi or mochi filled with peanut butter, chocolate kisses and marshmallows. Although a far stretch from the traditional red bean-filled rice cake, these concoctions are sure to tempt the local palate. Or so believes Eleanor "Ellie" Urakawa.

Urakawa, a retired state and Aloha Airlines employee, has been perfecting the art of mochi-making for 30 years, since receiving her first recipe for chichi dango (the traditional pink-and-white layered mochi) in 1972.

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FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Urakawa said the exact proportions of ingredients were unimportant. "You don't have to be too particular. Just add things to taste."



For some, it's cookies; for others, it's cakes and pies; but for Urakawa, it's mochi. "I just love working with mochi," she says.

With a bit of encouragement from family and friends, that love grew into a first-time teaching experience at the Lyon Arboretum, "Mochi Madness!" The class turned out to be aptly named. Urakawa's July class and a second this weekend filled up almost as soon as they were posted.

At the heart of Urakawa's sweet concoctions is a simple microwave mochi recipe consisting of mochiko (rice flour), water, sugar and a pinch of salt. Armed only with her hands, a bowl, a plastic knife and a microwave mold, Urakawa spent two hours mixing, cutting and rolling, like an automated mochi-making machine.

Her seemingly effortless manner and laid-back style had the class in awe. No magic here, though; "This is just my way of doing it," Urakawa repeated throughout. "You can come up with other ways and use other ingredients."

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FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Crunchy and smooth peanut butters were mixed with kinako, or soy bean flour. That mixture was then wrapped around chocolate candy Kisses to make a decadent mochi filling.



First, mochiko, water, sugar and salt were mixed until smooth. A few drops of food coloring may be added at this point, or even a drop or two of flavoring, such as strawberry or orange.

Urakawa advises adding only a hint of flavoring, however, so the mochi is not overwhelmed. The mixture was then microwaved in a plastic tube cake pan (available at Daiei or Marukai). The key to cooking the mochi evenly is a succession of microwave power levels -- 3 minutes each on low, medium and high levels.

Cooking under way, Urakawa prepared fillings. Homemade red-and-white bean filling remains her favorite, but she said prepared an (bean paste) works just as well.

Fresh strawberries were first on the agenda. "I made this after a friend brought back strawberry mochi from Japan," Urakawa said.

The strawberries were rinsed and dried. A bit of red bean filling was then molded around each one.

A peanut-butter mix -- plain and crunchy, mixed with kinako (soy bean flour) to alleviate some of the stickiness -- was used in combination with red-and-white bean pastes and to cover Hershey's Kisses candies.

"I started experimenting with different fillings because I found that many people didn't like the an filling," Urakawa said.

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AYUMI NAKANISHI / ANAKANISHI@STARBULLETIN.COM
Eleanor Urakawa's mochi creations reflect endless colors, textures and flavors.



All of the fillings were made into meticulous round balls and set aside.

Throughout the class, questions arose on exact ingredient amounts, but Urakawa's reply was always: "You don't have to be too particular. Just add things to taste."

As each batch of mochi finished cooking and cooled a bit, Urakawa worked with deft speed to assemble her little morsels. The mochi was cut into pieces, then flattened into a circle and wrapped around a pre-rolled filling, using a skillful pinching technique.

The fresh strawberries got a pink mochi wrap, the peanut butter-an combo a light green. The most decadent was a filling of Hershey's Kisses and peanut butter, covered in chocolate mochi made by adding melted chocolate chips to the basic recipe.

One of Urakawa's favorites is a chestnut-and-white-bean-filled mochi flavored with a dash of sesame oil and sesame seeds. "Kids really like marshmallow and blueberry filling," she added.

She once tried spearmint flavoring. "I didn't like it because I thought I was chewing gum."

By the end of class, everyone was clamoring for Urukawa's sweet creations. She sent them off, exclaiming, "Now go home and make mochi!"

The inspiration is set. How does mochi filled with caramel or red coconut balls sound?


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AYUMI NAKANISHI / ANAKANISHI@STARBULLETIN.COM
A plastic knife is best for slicing mochi into single portions.



Stir creative process with
microwave mochi recipe

Begin with Eleanor Urakawa's recipe for basic mochi and get creative:

Microwave Mochi

1-1/2 cups mochiko (rice flour)
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
Katakuriko (potato starch) or kinako (roasted soybean flour), for dusting
1 cup tsubushi an (mashed bean paste) or koshi an (smooth bean paste)

Mix mochiko, water, sugar and salt in a bowl. Lightly coat a microwavable tube cake pan with cooking spray. Pour mixture into pan and cover with plastic wrap or a microwave cover. Microwave 3 minutes on low, then 3 minutes on medium and 3 minutes on high, for a total of 9 minutes.

Cool in microwave 5 to 10 minutes, then turn onto a Teflon-coated baking pan sprinkled with katakuriko or kinako. Cut into 16 pieces.

Dust hands with katakuriko or kinako and flatten each piece. Place 1 tablespoon an in center of each piece. Bring edges together and pinch to seal. Shape as desired.

Note: This recipe is based on microwave wattage of 1,000. Depending on your microwave wattage, cooking time may need to be adjusted.

Nutritional information unavailable.

Variations

>> Add fresh strawberries, peanut butter or sweet chestnut covered with bean paste.
>> For chocolate flavor, stir 1/4 to 1/3 cup melted chocolate chips into mochi batter before cooking.
>> Add a few drops of food coloring into batter for color variation.
>> A few drops of flavoring (strawberry, grape, orange, blueberry, etc.) may also be added.


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