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Bento Recipes: Sakura Mochi, non-cherry cherry treat


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Rose pink Why is this called sakura mochi? That means "cherry rice cake," but there's no cherry involved. These pink-tinted, sweet-bean-paste-filled rice pastries are traditionally eaten during cherry blossom viewing parties. They're supposed to be wrapped in a preserved, salted cherry leaf. Those are in short supply over here.

I finally got some recipes I like! Here they are:

Sakura-Mochi (Mochiko Version) - This is fairly easy to make.

What you need:

    1/3 cup of mochiko (rice flour)
    1 cup of water
    1 cup of all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup of sugar
    red food coloring
    about a cup of anko (sweet red bean paste)
    cooking oil spray

Mix the mochiko and water until the mochiko is dissolved, then stir in the rest and add two drops of red food coloring. When you finish you should have a nice light pink batter.

Heat a frying pan up to medium, spray in a touch of cooking oil (not much - these things can't stick to the pan, but they should also not be greasy!), and spoon in the batter, a tablespoon at a time.  Each tablespoon will make one "pancake." Spread it out in a circle or oval with the back of the spoon. Fry for about one minute. It's ready to flip when it starts turning translucent. Turn, and leave it for only a few seconds before removing it from the pan and placing it on a plate to cool. If you cook it too long it will turn tough and chewy. It should keep its nice pink color, with no trace of browning. Spritz another touch of cooking spray into the pan. Repeat. You'll get lots of mochi pancakes out of this. See above - those things are stacked over two layers deep! - and then add a few more for those I sampled in the name of quality control.

When you've fried all the batter, take each pancake, turn so the less-pretty side faces upward, put a generous dollop of anko in, and pinch the edges together so they stick and you end up with what looks like a pink pot sticker. Resist the urge to eat them all right then, because if they're made right they are sweet and tender and more-ish!

Sakura-Mochi (Rice Cake Version) - This is an okay recipe. I tried it because not long ago I bought some frozen mochi, thinking that they were similar to the daifuku I like so much. Wrong! They were like miniature hockey pucks. What could I do with these things? I tried a bunch of recipes I found on the web, and learned mainly that, when cooked, these cakes have much in common with Super Elastic Bubble Plastic. However, I found a way to use them in a daifuku recipe, so here you go, in case you ever find yourself in a similar predicament. You need:

    5 pieces of dried rice cake (pink if you got those)
    5 tbsp of sugar
    5 tbsp of water
    some anko
    katakuriko or cornstarch
    and a cutting board or some other working surface

Put the rice cakes, sugar, and water in a bowl and microwave them for a minute or two until the rice cakes soften. Mix the stuff around with the back of a fork. Mix some more. Microwave a little more if you need to. Mix. Add a drop of red food coloring if you have the white kind of rice cake. You should end up with what looks like a really big wad of pink chewing gum. Spread flour on the working surface and flour your hands really good, then take about a tenth of the "gum" and shape it into a round. Use the katakuriko or cornstarch like flour dust the working surface and keep the pink goo from sticking to everything. Put some anko in the middle of the round, then fold it over and pinch the edges. Makes about 10 cakes. It's best to eat these the same day, because the shells tend to stiffen.

Pretty in pinkSakura-Mochi (Onigiri Version) - This is the easiest of the three recipes. Simply make some rice, adding 1.5 tablespoons of sugar and one drop of red food coloring to the water for each cup of dry rice. When that's cooked and cooled down enough to shape without burning your hands, make anko-stuffed onigiri with it. Wrap a salted cherry leaf around the outside of each one - or, if you're like me and don't have a cherry orchard handy, use celery or lettuce leaves. (Remove the leaf before eating, of course.)

Sakura-Mochi - Easiest Version - This is, in my opinion, the fastest and easiest way to make sakura mochi, if you have anko that is firm enough to shape. The Chinese anko I've tried works well for this. Japanese anko tends to be too soft.

What you need:

    1 cup of mochiko (rice flour)
    3/4 cup warm water
    4 tbsp of sugar
    2 drops of red food coloring
    3/4 cup of firm anko
    parchment paper
    katakuriko or cornstarch
    cherry or lettuce leaves

Set a steamer on the stove to heat up.  Cut the parchment paper into 16 2" squares. Mix the mochiko and sugar, mix the water and food coloring, then put it all together and mix until it forms a dough. (Because you're using rice flour the dough won't be stretchy the way regular dough is; the texture should be similar to very soft Play-Doh.) Pick out a blob of dough and roll it into a walnut-sized ball, then poke a hole in the middle and insert a ball of anko the size of a large marble. Squish the dough closed over the anko, roll it in your hands to smooth it out, then place it on a square of parchment paper. Repeat until you run out of dough. place the dough balls in the steamer, leaving about an inch between them so they won't stick together. Steam them on high for 10 minutes. Take them out, let them cool for a few minutes, then flour your fingers well with katikuriko/corn starch and gently peel them off the parchment paper, in the process coating them so they won't stick to everything.

Ideally these should be wrapped in a cherry leaf, but since those are not abundant in the US I suggest substituting part of a lettuce leaf, torn into a 4" piece and wrapping one side as seen in the onigiri sakura mochi picture.