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Can someone analyize this Mochi making process?

With a mochi addicted daughter, I've sought to make my own Mochi at home. I'm talking about the kind of mochi usually eaten on New Years day...the kind made at various Mochitsuki events, pounded sweet rice.

Originally, I hoped to purchase an electric Mochi Machine similar to a bread machine but have been unable to locate one. All online sources are completely sold out. I've emailed Zojirushi and they've discontinued theirs. After searching the internet, I came up with this site

http://www.popsynth.com/

which suggests a method of combining the rice cooker and the bread machine. After 3 batches, I've had limited success. Each batch yielded a mochi cake that was way too moist when cooked. Each time I soaked the sweet rice overnight. When cooking the first batch, I drained the water till it was probably 1/8" over the rice. I cooked it in the rice cooker and let it steam an additional 15 minutes before putting in the bread machine. When I took it out and shaped it, it was exciting because they looked great. When I went to cook them, they blobbed out into a shapeless form of goo. So I decided to freeze them. That didn't help. They just hold too much moisture. So the next batch, I reduce the water to just level with the rice. I ended up with the same results, froze them again, same thing. This last batch, I drained out almost all the water. You couldn't even see the water in the rice. 3 cups rice and maybe a cup of water. When the rice cooker turned off, it was still crunchy on the top portion. I put it in the bread machine anyway. The machine pounded out most of the crunch but still, it's way too moist.

When I buy the mochi, it is usually frozen. I put it in the microwave turning it over once during heating ....cooking it until it puffs up. When I remove it, it's still round, holding it's shape, so that I can run it under water and then roll in sugar and kinako mix. The home made stuff is just too moist. If I reduce the cooking time to the point where it remains in it's round shape, it's just too gooey. I usually throw these into donburi and let them soften. When I try this with the home made ones, even from frozen, they just kind of goo out, dissolving into the donburi broth, which defeats the purpose.

Any of you mochi connoisseurs have suggestions? I even sent my hakujin husband to Mitsuwa the last time he was in Orange County on business to look for a machine. They don't know when they'll get any in.

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  1. I think homemade mochi recipes turn out mochi that just isn't meant to be toasted. I don't know what the process is that gets the ones you buy (they're just plain round disks, right?) so hard and firm, but maybe it's just not reproducible at home. I looked at the site you posted and it looks like they are also making the softer-type mochi, which will definitely get gooey if you try to toast it. But you could just roll those in kinako powder.

    My mom used to make cocoa, poi, coconut or butter mochi and they were all very yummy for snacking out of the pan. But for those mochi disks you like to toast, you may just be better off buying them and storing them in the freezer.

    1. I know...that's what I'm thinking! But you know me! Well you don't know me!....when I find something I like, I always try to come up with a home made version. We do roll them in kinako but you can barely keep them in round shape, they're so moist. I'm clueless on this one. I figured there'd be someone who'd made them without a machine, electric or old fashioned! Thanks leanne for your reply!

      1. I used to make mochi with the "hammers" and a granite bowl. Rice was washed and soaked over night and put into wooden trays for steaming, the rice was not cooked in a rice cooker with water. We used to meet at a nursery that was heated by steam, a pipe was run from the boiler to an improvised steamer. The boxes were open, top and bottom, a layer of dowels and a bamboo mat kept the rice in the box. Three or four boxes were stacked, someone kept time, the bottom box would be removed, a new box put on top. There was a cover for the box on top, and a bleached rice sack was over each box. The rice from the bottom box was "tasted", if it was done, it was dumped into the granite bowl, if the rice wasn't done, it was put back in the stack. So, instead of cooking the rice in a rice cooker, try steaming in a double boiler.

        I looked at the link, the mochi pictured would have not passed the "Obachan's" approval, and the picture of the "pounded" mochi looked too wet. Someone would dust their hands with rice flour and dust the pounded rice with flour and pinch off balls of mochi, there were ~10-15 people around a table, to receive the pinched off balls and shape them into mochi, one sort of spun the balls while they rested on the table. The "pinching off" had to be learned, done properly there would be no seams/rough spots on the top of the piece, we did not roll a tube and slice off pieces. To pinch off a ball, a circle was made with thumb and forefinger and the dough was forced or pushed through that circle, then twisted or pinched off.

        Similar to working bread dough with flour, work your pounded mochi with flour. I don't make bread, but often buy pizza dough from a pizzeria, the pizza dough I buy would be too wet for mochi, the picture of the pounded mochi in the link, looks wetter than the pizza dough I buy.

        When the rice is being "pounded" in the bread maker, the steam is captured and returned to the mochi, when I used to make mochi, the steam evaporated.

        The granite bowl broke ~30 years ago, a replacement couldn't be found and a machine was purchased. For a couple of years, there was still a gathering, but there was nothing to do. Instead of making a year's supply for 4-6 families in late December the machine is now shared by 2-3 families.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Alan408

          Wow...what an informative reply! what a shame about the bowl! My family owned a grinder that they would loan to the church for the annual mochitsuki. I have no idea who ended up with that or what they did with it. When you say you purchased a machine, do you mean an electric one? Do you think steaming it in a double boiler would reduce the amount of liquid in the rice? If so, how long would you suggest steaming it? I've thought about maybe spreading the rice out on a sheet pan to cool and maybe get rid of some of the excess steam. Maybe if I do that and leave the lid to the bread machine open it would work?

          1. re: mrsmegawatt

            When you say you purchased a machine, do you mean an electric one? ~1980 the granite bowl broke and for the next year's batch a "machine" was purchased, it was electric, put in washed/soaked rice, depress a lever (button), and wait, balls of rice cakes came out an opening, they were shaped and laid out on a dusted table for cooling. Are you letting your mochi rest before using ?, maybe that helps reduce the moisture ?. It is a commercial duty machine, something a mochi shop would have, 5 lbs of rice.

            Do you think steaming it in a double boiler would reduce the amount of liquid in the rice? If so, how long would you suggest steaming it? Our steam process allowed for excess steam to vent out, towels for absorbing condensation so I feel wet rice was to be avoided. I only remember two people who tasted the rice for "doneness", it must have been a learned task. Keep using the rice cooker and see below.

            I've thought about maybe spreading the rice out on a sheet pan to cool and maybe get rid of some of the excess steam. Maybe if I do that and leave the lid to the bread machine open it would work? I think spreading out the rice is a good idea if you cook in a rice cooker, if your bread machine will knead when open, then that is a good thing to try too.

            I live in San Jose CA, we have a manju shop, I don't remember seeing plain mochi in their cases, they do offer kinako. There are several locations in my area selling frozen mochi year round, and the church around the corner sells plain mochi in December.
            Kinako costs $1.10 each, frozen is ~$2 per dozen.

            I will send a couple of emails to the people (2) I know who have machines , I will post their responses.

            1. re: Alan408

              The Manju shop here charges $3 per pound. It's not much really. I would just like to learn to make it on my own just in case their situation should change. There have been times when I've gone downtown to get 6 or 7 pounds and have stood in line behind someone who buys everything they have. I'm standing there thinking "What the heck is my daughter going to eat now?" Those are the times we resort to bacon/weenie fried rice. She loves that too.

              Thank you for all the answers/suggestions. You are a wealth of information. I will think about everything you said for my next batch. When you talk about the test for doneness, it reminded me of one time when I was at the church with all the older women. It was Mochitsuki day and they were trying to teach us teens the pinch and form process in making the patties. I'll never forget them squeezing and pinching that hot rice like it was nothing. We were all screaming "ouch ouch ouch" while they all laughed. Great memories!

              1. re: mrsmegawatt

                I received responses from the mochi machine owners.

                The big machine has been retired, its owner is in his late 80s. "No, I don't use it any more, everybody is gone" was his reply.

                The other machine was purchased in 1993 from Marukai in Gardena, CA, cost was $202.76. Cooks up to 10 cups of rice. The brand is "Tiger" and the owner recommends it, "I would recommend it and by now I'm sure things might even be improved with this type of machine."

                1. re: Alan408

                  Thank you so much Alan. I've pretty much abandoned this method of bread machine/rice cooker. I tried one more batch, reducing the water. I spread the rice out till all steam was gone. I left the bread machine lid off so that all steam would escape. It was the same result...wet dough. So then, I really took the time to knead in more mochiko. The end product was the same. Flavorful but way too moist. For now, I will continue to purchase from our local shop which at times can be hit and miss. My friend daughter lives in Irvine and her boyfriend works at Marukai. She says she will have him take a look for me.

                  I really thank you for your research and input. So very nice of you!

                  Oh yes... last night I made lumpia for dinner. Just for kicks, I sliced up one mochi cake into 3rds. I had it in the fridge so it was beginning to harden. I rolled them up in the lumpia wrapper and fried them too. I mixed some shoyu and sugar for dipping. They were different...fun!

            2. re: mrsmegawatt

              My mom is an expert. I kept making the same errors and this is what she told me: first, you did right: Soak your mochi rice overnight. Next day, DRAIN FOR AT LEAST 1/2 HR... Then steam. to do this, you have to use like a bamboo steamer over 4 cups of water(for 4-5 cups of sweet mochi rice, drained) Or you can use a regular double decker style steamer, but the electric steamers (the kind you can steam veggies and fish, etc) allows too much water through it. When that it cooked, the grains will look sorta transluscent...you can then put it in your bread maker, I guess. My old panasonic mochi maker does not steam properly, so after steaming on the stove, I use the mochi maker to pound it. My mom can judge by looking at the rice if it needs a little more water, and she sometimes adds 1/4c salted water... I just add 2 T water, and that usually is enough. Being korean, when the mochi is bouncing in the machine in a ball stage, we lift it out and place it in a shallow pan lightly coated with sesame oil. Then we let it cool. You can, however, lift it into a plastic pan, and shape using katakuri, or potato starch. Good luck... hey, isn't that the whole point of mochi???

            3. re: Alan408

              leave the bread maker open, if using one.

            4. Last time I was in the US I looked for and found a mochi maker (in a big Korean - Asian grocery store in Washington DC). It was HUGE (and pricey) so didn't bring it back.

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