It is a mochi, with a soft and silky outer layer containing a good amount of ice cream inside. Let’s discover this Japanese delicacy called mochi ice cream (雪 米 糍), or bubbies.
What is a mochi?
Mochi or omochi (餅), means cake. It is a preparation made with glutinous rice called mochi gome (糯米／もち米), which means sticky rice. It accompanies many recipes in Japan.
Mochi is obtained by kneading cooked glutinous rice, which then takes on the appearance of a particularly viscous dough stuffed with various ingredients.
Mochi belongs to the family of wagashi. Wagashi are, in Japanese cuisine, all of the typical and traditional pastries. These are opposed to yogashi, which refer to Western pastries.
Among wagashi, you can find yokan, nerikiri, dorayaki, but also dagashi and mochi in different forms.
In Japanese, wa means Japanese, and kashi means candy or cake.
The different kinds of mochi
- Dango 団子
A skewer of 3 mochi balls.
- Daifuku 大福
Filled with anko, a sweet bean paste, strawberry, or green tea.
- Sakura mochi 桜餅
Pastry made from sweet rice with a lightly savory cherry leaf. The leaf is edible.
- Mame Mochi
This version is stuffed with black beans.
- Ichigo Daifuku
This is a version that contains a whole strawberry inside as well as a sweet stuffing, most often anko, in a small round mochi. Because they contain strawberries, they are usually enjoyed during spring.
This is a seasonal mochi stuffed with red bean paste. Indeed, it is only enjoyed during the spring and autumn festivals.
- Kashiwa mochi
This mochi is traditionally served on May 5th for the boys’ festival called Tango no Sekku. It is stuffed with sweet azuki red bean purée and wrapped in a kashiwa (oak) leaf that can not be eaten.
- Kusa mochi or yomogi moshi
This is a jelly made from sagebrush and glutinous rice.
Summer dessert made with kuzuko powder, sugar and water on top of it. Kuzuko is a starch powder made from a plant called kudzu.
- Yukimi Daifuku
Literally, “snow daifuku”, which is today’s mochi ice cream recipe.
What is the origin of mochi?
Mochi appeared in Japan towards the end of the Jōmon period, about 2,000 years ago, and was introduced from Southeast Asia at the same time as rice-growing.
During the Heian period about 1300 years ago, it was a staple of festivals and religious offerings.
During the Muromachi period, about 700 years ago, it found its place in the composition of Japanese pastries with the development of the tea ceremony.
The recipe would be of Chinese origin.
Mochi is consumed on special occasions, especially during the New Year holidays. Its preparation is a festive ritual called mochitsuki.
It also perfectly accompanies the traditional tea ceremony, which I discuss in detail in the post about matcha ice cream, and is most often enjoyed with a drink. As a festive ritual, it is very common for mochi to be made and cooked in the street, especially in public.
The mochi is considered as a vessel for the spirit of the divinities which is why on festive occasions, Japanese people gather in the streets to pound rice and make mochi in public.
Japanese people eat an average of one kilogram of mochi each year, mostly during the first week of January.
Incidentally, in Japan, the expression “mochi skin” means a skin soft and firm but plump. Do not try to equate it with the expression “baby skin”, because the difference is that in Japan, “mochi skin” only applies to women and has a strong sexual connotation.
The mochitsuki ceremony
Mochitsuki is a Japanese culinary technique. It is the act of pounding steamed glutinous rice in order to prepare mochi.
The steamed rice should be pounded while it is still hot but not boiling. It is placed in a mortar called usu and pounded using a mallet with a handle. This mallet is called kine. The mortar is actually the size of a small barrel a couple feet high, usually made of wood, but can also be made of stone.
To do this, you have to swing the mallet by lifting it over the shoulder and try to land it on the rice. It is crucial not to touch the side of the mortar at the risk of bursting wood chips in the rice or in the case of a stone mortar, to burst and break the mallet.
In addition to the person who is pounding, another person must turn the rice over. Several people take turns and considerable coordination is needed to perform this maneuver without interfering with each other.
Usually, the men hammer and the women turn the rice over, adding some water from time to time if it becomes too dry. The rice should be pounded until a smooth dough is obtained. The sticky dough thus obtained is cut and shaped into small balls.
Of course, the Japanese have since invented electric machines to do this work, these same machines are multifunctional, and also help in the manufacture of bread or pizza dough for example.
Although most Japanese buy their mochi ready-made, purists will swear that machine-made mochi will never taste as good as handmade ones.
The mortar is very bulky and requires storage space that city dwellers usually do not have.
Mochitsuki is most often practiced as a traditional activity during the holidays, especially the New Year holidays. Many community groups plan a mochitsuki event 3 days before the new year.
What is mochi ice cream or yukimi daifuku?
Mochi ice cream, also called by the brand Yukimi Daifuku, is a very modern version of mochi, filled with ice cream. Mochi ice cream, also called Bubbies in Hawaii, has become an international dessert, a staple of popular fusion cuisine in North America, Europe and Africa.
Mochi ice cream is a ball-shaped dessert, slightly flattened. It is based on glutinous rice pastry on its outside layer, often colored and flavored, with ice cream inside. The outside is usually sprinkled with cornstarch.
There are many flavors, but the most common are: matcha (green tea), vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, mango or red bean.
What is the origin of mochi ice cream?
An older form of mochi ice cream was produced by the Lotte Group, a Korean agribusiness company, in 1981. These manufacturers first used rice starch instead of sticky rice dough, and some kind of rice pudding instead of ice cream.
Frances Hashimoto, the former CEO of the American company Mikawaya is known to be the creator of the modern mochi, and for introducing the product to the North American market.
Frances Hashimoto’s husband, Joel Friedman, originally conceived the idea of wrapping small ice cream balls in mochi rice cupcakes. Frances Hashimoto took her husband’s idea and made it a fusion dessert, popular in the US and everywhere else, with seven flavors in production.
Mikawaya is an American confectionery specializing in Japanese desserts, pastries and snacks. It began producing mochi ice cream in the US in 1993, making it the first American company to make this dessert.
The frozen treat was so popular that it won 15% of the frozen dessert market in the first four months after its introduction.
Mikawaya’s mochis are now sold in most major US supermarkets. Mochi ice cream is the biggest selling product of Mikawaya.
Defining cooking and baking in the Land of the Rising Sun as an art is a given. Colorful and with the most graceful shapes, Japanese sweets, especially wagashi, attract the taste buds of gourmets of all ages and are a delight for the eyes of pastry lovers or those eager to try something different.
You should definitely try to make this homemade mochi ice cream!
- ⅔ cup glutinous rice flour
- ⅔ cup water
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 cup cornstarch (or potato starch)
- Ice cream (different flavors)
- Using the ice cream scooper, place a scoop of ice cream in each cupcake liner. The ice cream melts quickly, so immediately place the cupcake holders in the freezer for a few hours or until the ice cream scoops are completely frozen.
- Once the ice cream scoops are frozen, mix the glutinous rice flour and the sugar in a bowl and whisk the mixture.
- Add water and mix well until obtaining a homogeneous mixture.
- Coloring of the mochi dough (optional)
- Add food coloring, a little juice or some purée (ideally from the same fruit as the ice cream) to the mixture and stir.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
- Place the bowl in the microwave and heat it at high temperature for 1 minute.
- Remove the bowl and stir the content using a rubber spatula.
- Cover again with plastic wrap and bake for 1 minute. Stir again, cover and bake again for 30 seconds to finish baking.
Cover the countertop with parchment paper and generously sprinkle with cornstarch (or potato starch).
- Transfer the baked mochi dough on it.
- To prevent it from sticking, sprinkle cornstarch (or potato starch) on the mochi once again.
- Apply generous amounts of cornstarch on the rolling pin and on your hands.
- Once it has somewhat cooled down, roll the mochi dough into a thin layer using the rolling pin.
- Using parchment paper, transfer the mochi dough to a large baking sheet.
- Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Remove the mochi dough from the refrigerator and cut out circles using the cookie cutter.
- Dust excess starch with a pastry brush.
- If any part is sticky, cover first with cornstarch (or potato) and dust off.
- Place plastic wrap on a plate, then add the cut mochi circle and put another layer of plastic wrap on top of it.
- Repeat for every mochi circle.
- With the leftover mochi dough, roll it into a ball, then spread it again into a thin layer and cut out circles from the dough.
- On the countertop, place a sheet of plastic wrap. Place a mochi circle on it.
- Take a scoop of ice cream from the freezer and place it on the mochi wrapper.
- Pinch the four corners of the mochi circle together to wrap the ice cream scoop.
- When the mochi becomes sticky, sprinkle some cornstarch on the sticky area and seal the opening.
- Quickly cover with plastic wrap and turn over to close.
- Place each mochi ice cream in a tray so that it retains its shape.
- Repeat the operation. Work on one frozen mochi at a time to keep the ice frozen.
- Put the frozen mochi back in the freezer for a few hours.
- When they are ready to serve, leave them at room temperature for a few minutes until they soften a little.