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Homemade Mochi for the Lunar New Year

You don't have to take a trip to the fro-yo store to enjoy fluffy, chewy mochi.
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It's always more fun to DIY. Every week on Food52, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: You don't have to take a trip to the fro-yo store to enjoy fluffy, chewy mochi. Celebrate the Lunar New Year by making a batch at home with help from Cynthia of Two Red Bowls.

Is there any food happier and cuter than mochi? A gentler incarnation of a marshmallow, it is subtly sweet and powdery pastel, with a hint of coconut and a pillowy-soft chew.

Mochi is traditionally eaten around the Lunar New Year (in fact, the Chinese version, nian gao, literally translates as “year cake”), and that means it’s currently mochi high season. There’s no better time to learn how to make mochi yourself.

Traditionally, making mochi actually sounds pretty labor-intensive. It’s made, more or less, by taking gigantic mallets to a pile of cooked sweet rice and pounding the crap out of it until it forms the chewy, tender consistency that we know and love. So violent for such a cute dessert!

We're not going that route. Instead, armed with some flour made from that same sweet rice, you can make your own mochi with a recipe that’s practically foolproof and not nearly as much of a workout.

Makes about 2 cups of small pieces

1 cup sweet rice (mochiko) flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup water

3/4 cup coconut milk, or about half of a 13 1/2-ounce can

Sweet potato starch or regular cornstarch, for dusting

Preheat oven to 275° F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish or line it with parchment paper. (For thicker mochi, use a 9 x 9-inch glass dish and bake for longer, about 90 minutes.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the mochiko, sugar, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water and coconut milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until the mixture is smooth and no lumps remain. Unlike most baking, you don’t need to worry about overmixing the ingredients, since mochi is dense and chewy to begin with.

Pour the mixture into your lined baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 60 minutes. The mochi is done when it's soft and gelatinous but holds its shape when touched. It's important to cover the mochi because leaving it uncovered will result in a drier, cakier texture.

Let cool completely or overnight. Dust a surface with your starch (or simply use more mochiko flour) and turn the mochi onto the surface. Sprinkle starch over the mochi.

Wrap a knife in plastic wrap to prevent sticking, then cut the mochi into small pieces, dust again with starch or flour, and serve!

This is only a basic mochi recipe, waiting to be dressed up however you like. Add about a teaspoon of matcha powder to the dry ingredients to make green tea mochi, or a flavored extract to the wet ingredients to flavor it to your liking.

I’ve often seen the plain version colored with a few drops of red food coloring, too, to turn it a dainty pink. Finally, you can use it to wrap around fillings, like red bean paste or ice cream. Go to town -- and happy Lunar New Year!

Photos by Cynthia of Two Red Bowls

This article originally appeared on Homemade Mochi for the Lunar New Year

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