Daifuku are sweet rice cakes. They’re wonderful for munching on during the Olympics. Daifuku is the Chinese name; in Japan, they are called mochi. [PH: I’ve been corrected on this; please see comments.] They are not baked, but rather steamed (or, in this modern take on the recipe, microwaved).
Ok, now most of you are wondering what the heck I’m talking about. I ran across these things in a Chinese grocery and, being the adventurous type, had to try them at least once. I loved them, and so did the kids. And they’re easy to make, so why trek all the way to the Chinese grocery?
Our partners in crime from our adoption trip to China described them as, “A cross betwen a marshmallow and a gummy bear,” which is the best explanation I’ve ever heard. Plus, they’re stuffed with sweet red bean paste, a ubiquitous ingredient in Chinese desserts. In fact, in China, McDonald’s doesn’t serve apple or cherry pies, they serve pineapple or red bean pies (although I had a heck of a time convincing the girl at the register that I did, in fact, know what the red beans were and I really, really wanted one… or, actually, two… yum!).
The sweet rice flour and red bean paste can usually be found at Oriental groceries.
1 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup water
Red bean paste for filling (I buy mine in a pouch, pre-blended, but you can buy the beans in a can and prepare the paste yourself)
1. Mix rice flour and sugar in a microwavable bowl. Stir in water. You will have a goupy batter or a soupy dough, depending on your point of view.
2. Microwave the mixture for about a minute. Parts of the batter will start to cook and solidify. Stir (as best you can) and microwave again. The dough will start to expand. Cook the dough until it is somewhat stiff (probably two to three minutes); it may start to look a little translucent. Do NOT overcook it.
3. Dust a clean surface with rice flour. Cut a corner off the pouch of red bean paste. Squeeze out some paste and form into a marble-sized ball; roll it in the rice flour (just enough to keep it from getting too sticky). Make twelve balls.
4. Using two soup spoons, scoop out a spoonful of the cooked dough. Use the second spoon to try to get the glob off of the first spoon. DUST YOUR HANDS WITH RICE FLOUR! (You will be sorry if you don’t.) Take a ball of red bean paste, and put it in the middle of the glob. Trying not to burn yourself (it really retains heat), pull the dough around the bean paste and pinch to seal. Dust (or roll) the finished daifuku with rice flour and place, pinched side down, on a plate (make sure the seam side has plenty of rice flour dusting, or it will stick).
5. Daifuku can be served warm or cold the next day. Don’t let them sit for more than a few days; they dry out and get rubbery. I wouldn’t recommend storing them in the refrigerator, either.
6. Option one: add a half teaspoon of green tea ground to a fine powder for green tea daifuku. Option two: puree strawberries and use in place of the water. You will need to add more than 2/3 cup of strawberries to get the right consistency for the dough.
Make sure you put the bowl and spoons in the sink to soak immediately to get the rice flour dough off. Remember, they mortared part of the Great Wall with this stuff!