I've always thought it's interesting how much Asians love chewy foods. Chewy texture is a treasured characteristic in many foods considered to be delicacies, such as shark fin, abalone, and bird's nest. But it's also the reason that someone in Taiwan thought it was a good idea to put tapioca balls into drinks and invented bubble tea. One of my favorite Asian chewy foods is mochi, a confection made from sweet rice flour. My grandmother made her own traditional mochi pastries with a sweet red bean filling, but I love mochi in any form -- frozen (wrapped around ice cream), hot (in sweet red bean dessert soup), or deep fried (in sesame balls)... I cannot get enough of the stuff.
I had never made my own mochi, however. I remember watching my grandmother make it when I was little and the process looked a bit painful -- she would make the mochi mixture, steam it in the rice cooker, and then pull it out and shape it around balls of red bean filling with her bare hands while it was still steaming hot. I found a much easier way to make mochi earlier this month when I was looking for a recipe for the lunar new year and I came across a recipe for "Baked Chinese New Year Cake" on chow.com.
Apparently this dessert is quite popular in Hawaii and is known as "Butter Mochi" there. It's quite easy to make. You lightly beat eggs, dump in the rest of the ingredients (sweet rice flour, whole milk, sugar, melted butter, coconut extract, and salt), and whisk until smooth. (I didn't have coconut extract, so I used a small amount of LorAnn coconut flavoring instead.) Then you pour the batter into a pan and bake, sprinkling on toasted coconut halfway through the baking time.
I made these bars twice, once with toasted coconut and once with untoasted coconut (the picture above is from the batch with the toasted coconut, which got darker than I would have liked during baking). It turns out there's no need to go to the time or trouble of toasting the coconut separately first, because it toasts sufficiently during baking.
The mochi are delicious, to be sure, but I think it is the superchewy texture that makes them so satisfying, not to mention fun. To me, eating one of these mochi is pure joy.
Recipe: "Baked Chinese New Year Cake" from chow.com.