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Friday, June 28, 2013

Join me for Merienda: Jess' Baked Individual Chocolate Mochi Cakes

Hello to you, dear reader. Thanks again for stopping by to spend a little while with me in the blogosphere.

Today, we're going to be making a really simple and delicious recipe for baked, individual, chocolate mochi cakes. They are not overly fancy, but you can certainly dress them up; if you choose to take them to get glamour shots or hire a food stylist =p

I have always had an affinity for Mochi. I didn't grow up with that Japanese term /concept of it,though.It was known to me in their Pilipino embodiments as Malagkit,Suman,Bibingka,Tambo-Tambo, Bilo-bilo,Espasol or Palitaw (Note: the following photos of these various Pinoy desserts and the Japanese mochi ,were not made by me, unless otherwise indicated). I'm not sure when exactly was the first time that I ate Japanese style Mochi. It was probably Daifuku, from a local Asian market. Then, later I became familiar with the many other styles and a fun version of Mochi; where you would cut squares from a hard block of Kakumochi, and bake them and they would come out puffy, crunchy and chewy in the middle. Heaven.

Uncooked Malagkit rice

One version of Suman

Bibingkang Malagkit

Do you see the round fluffy balls of mochi in this bowl of Ginataan? Heaven.


Espasol as its sold at the market and from street vendors in the Philippines


A version of Daifuku, filled with sweet bean paste

Kakumochi shown as being cut and grilled

Over the years, I have experimented (when have I not been toiling away in my Food lab?) with different ways to make Mochi in its various international guises. I can tell you that making Daifuku, is some tricky business. People who are experts at making Daifuku, must have asbestos hands. You have to work quickly and you can easily mess up a whole batch of them; if you don't seal them properly. So, I prefer to make cakes out of Mochiko aka Glutinous Rice Flour (which is actually a misnomer because there is no gluten in rice. It's just that it's so pliable and sticky like a ball of gluten, but its elasticity can be attributed to the (here's a copy/paste of scientific babble from the Wikipedia page for Mochi:

'Mochi is a multicomponent food consisting of polysaccharides, lipids, protein and water. Mochi has a heterogeneous structure of amylopectin gel, starch grains and air bubbles.[3] This rice is characterized by its lack of amylose in starch and is derived from short or medium japonica rices. The protein concentration of the rice is a bit higher than normal short-grain rice and the two also differ in amylose content. In mochi rice, the amylose content is negligible which results in the soft gel consistency of mochi.'

Don't you feel super scientific now? =p Anyway, let's get back to talking about mochi cakes. I have made this recipe quite a few times now and most people who've eaten them have loved them. I think that they're used to eating Mochi in its various other forms, but my style is different because its baked. I don't think my method is novel at all, but I can tell you that it is tasty =)


A batch of Chocolate, Coconut Milk Mochi Brownies that I had previously made

Other than just straight chocolate mochi cakes, I have made Banana Chocolate Chip Mochi cakes,Spongy Mochi cakes topped with fruit preserves, I even made my version of oven baked Botsi-Botsi/Buchi-Buchi and pan versions of mochi brownies, but I prefer to bake the cakes individually because I like the fact that they each get their crunchy outer shell, rather than just a few lucky people getting corner pieces. No fancy equipment needed for this recipe, you just need the ingredients, a mixing bowl, wooden spoon for mixing and a muffin pan and maybe an ice cream scoop too; if you have one to your avail.

A note about the flour: Make sure that you are using a fresh package/box of Mochiko; if you use old flour (as with any other recipe) it won't taste right. It'll taste okay, but it will still taste a bit stale and you don't want to waste all your hard energy to produce just 'okay' mochi cakes. You want to make fabulous tasting mochi cakes.

I give Blue Star Brand, Mochiko, 4 Stars =)
For those of you who follow a gluten free regimen: While most of the Glutinous Rice Flour aka Sweet Rice Flour is naturally gluten free and may even say it on the packaging; you should always check to see if it states any other allergy warnings. Such as 'Produced in a factory that also processes, soy, wheat and tree nuts,' something like that. The Blue Star Brand Mochiko's box states that they are a dedicated factory where all they process is rice; so you might want to stick to that brand. It is more expensive than the other brands, but it may be worth its weight in gold; if you have problems with gluten.

Individual Baked Chocolate Mochi Cakes-V,GF

Preheat Oven to 375F

Preparation Time: Approximately 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 25 minutes

2 C Mochiko aka Glutinous Rice Flour aka Sweet Rice Flour
3/4-1 C Dark or Pure Cocoa Powder*
3/4 C Unrefined, preferably organic sugar
4-5 Tb Organic ground flax meal
Pinch of Himilayan Pink Sea Salt
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda

Wet Ingredients:
2 C Water or your liquid of choice (almond milk, hemp milk etc.)
1/4C or less of a Neutral Oil such as Canola or Grapseed Oil
1/2 tsp Pure Vanilla (Optional)

*If you can't have chocolate; you can always substitute it with carob powder, but you will probably want to adjust your sugar content as carob powder is much sweeter tasting than the naturally bitter cocoa powder.


Prepare you muffin pan by wiping it down and then oiling it up with either your preferred spray or by brushing the nooks and crannies with your choice of neutral oil. In a large mixing bowl sift all of the dry ingredients together until evenly distributed. Add your oil and optional vanilla extract and then slowly incorporate the water adding 1 cup at a time. You may find that you might need the full 2 cups depending on the weather/humidity in the air. You want to mix  everything together until it is just slightly thicker than a regular cake batter. You do not want to add too much liquid; so add in that water carefully. Once you've mixed the batter well; let it rest for about 5 minutes.

Batter up! 
I like to use an ice cream scoop to portion out the batter into the muffin pan/s to just a tiny bit more than half way filled (I have a 12 cup muffin pan and I still end up with enough batter for at least 2 more cakes) and set the timer for 25 minutes. If you have leftover batter; you can either pour it into another small pan and bake it or you can even actually cook it in a greased bowl in your microwave for 2-4 minutes depending on your power setting, but the real oven method is better.

When they are done baking, they have lovely domed tops and just look totemo kawaii desune! (so cute).
I usually give them 5 minutes to rest and then I de-pan them and let them cool to room temperature before storing them. I recommend that you store them in an air tight container in the fridge. They will last for about 2 weeks maybe longer, but they're usually all gobbled up before 2 weeks have passed) I haven't tried to freeze them because they're usually all eaten before I would even consider freezing them, but if you need to freeze them; I would recommend that you wrap them individually and seal them in a zip top style bag, before putting them in the freezer.

Why, hello there! Would you like to get to know a chocolate mochi cake better?

Chocolate Mochi cake being overtly brazen and showing off its bottom! =o

How to serve them? These cakes are great to have with tea or coffee. As they are a bit dense, I usually cut them into quarters. They hold up well during travel and can be easily stashed in a sandwich bag for a quick merienda on the go. If they're coming out of the fridge, I usually pop one in the microwave for 30-45 seconds, but you can figure out how you like to eat these lovely baked chocolate mochi cakes, for yourself.
You might even like eating them straight from the freezer, but I would be careful with that. You wouldn't want to get brain-freeze or lose a tooth ;)

I hope that you have fun making these easy and delicious mochi cakes. You can have a lot of fun experimenting with this recipe.

Stay tuned for next week's merienda. As of right now it is scheduled to be my version of sweet tamales done two ways:  Mulberry Almond and Fig Walnut Spice =)

Wishing you good health and happy cooking!



Friday, June 14, 2013

Jess tells tales: Culinary Audacity!

Did somebody say, culinary audacity???!!!
Good morning/afternoon/evening everybody! (I think this is the fairest way to address all of you out there since; most people don't keep the same exact schedules, live in the same time zones or parts of the world).

There are always little bits and pieces of personal anecdotes floating around in my brain and today the one that I've decided to share with you all is about a time when I performed an act of culinary audacity.

A couple years back, I used to spend time in France off and on during holidays/school breaks because during that time I was in a relationship with somebody, who was originally from France. Yes, I had a transatlantic relationship; which sometimes is a bit odd even  to me when I think about it now, but let's get on with the story.

My culinary skills were blooming during this time and the house where I was staying had this really fantastic convection oven. It was awe inspiring to me, especially when I compared it to the boring electric stove and oven that I had back at home. I think that my partner might have even been jealous of the oven, especially when i was busy in the kitchen, having a ball with the awesome kitchen equipment. "Je suis desolée, mon cher, mais tu dois me partager avec la four!' (I'm sorry, darling, but you have share me with the oven! =p

During one particular day, I was making a quiche from scratch and although that doesn't sound outlandish at all, if you've ever eaten or read about my food; you know that I always cook/make everything in my own special way. So, you kn ow already that the crust wasn't made from a rolled out butter/pastry dough and the filling wasn't made with cream or whole fat milk or a billion eggs (I must disclose that I was still just a vegetarian back then; thus the dairy and eggs were not yet excluded).

Here is the breakdown of the recipe/method:


I guess this method would be similar to a pâte brisée (this is in a different font because I couldn't remember the alt + shift # for the 'a' with the l'accent circonflexe)  method, but instead of using butter; I used a vegetable oil. When you use oil instead of butter/shortening; the dough is softer and more malleable. I still was careful to not over knead the dough; so that the pastry would still be flaky. The fact that the dough was soft, made it easy to press into and unfluted glass casserole dish (yes, a glass casserole dish!, what a maverick move!)

These are not photos of the quiche I made. These were definitely prettier  than the one that I made, but  in this photo they are using glass bakeware is a bit similar to the one I use, except that the dish was not fluted.

Again, this is not a photo of the quiche that I made. I chose this one from the search because it shows the traditional fluted edges of the quiche crust and the filling reminds me of what my quiche filling looked like.


I don't remember all of the vegetables that I used, but I remember there being tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, onions and some sort of cheese. The custard was made out of low-fat milk and a few fresh farm eggs, salt and pepper.

I remember that while I was making this quiche; that I was looked upon with frantic eyes worried about time constraints because we had to go to a dinner party at a relative's house. It was totally crazy because the party was only a few hours away and this quiche still had to be cooked. I reassured them that it would be cooked and ready to go before we had to leave. Ahahahahaha, you would normally let a quiche rest until a least room temperature before thinking of trying to serve it!

Qui est cette fille qui n'est pas française qui veut faire une quiche à sa façon et le servir à de vraies personnes françaises?Who was this non French girl attempting to make her own style of quiche and to serve it to real French people! Elle est tellement folle! She's mad, I tell you! Maaaaaaaad!!!! =p

Relax though, the quiche was cooled down to at least room temperature before we headed out for the party. I cut it close though, the cooling time was only 30 minutes before we had to leave. When we got to the dinner party; it was setup outside in their yard on a long picnic table setup family style. We placed the food that we brought in the middle of the table. We did the obligatory kiss line as you do in France (a tip for those of you who aren't used to kissing people to greet them: Make sure that if you're getting 2 or more kisses; that you turn your head properly; so that you don't end up kissing somebody's nose or even directly on the lips by accident =0 ) and then found our places at the table. There was a bit of banter and then we started to serve the food. The relatives saw the quiche and asked who had made it and it was explained that I had made it and they seemed surprised. They started to cut into the quiche and thank goodness it held up and the crust did as well. The quiche looked good and there were no complaints, but I do remember explaining that it was a different style of quiche ;) It was 'nouvelle quiche.' =p One of the Aunts really enjoyed it and I think that was good enough for me.

My culinary audacity was not received with a riot of French people leading a revolt trying to corner me into the bastille, until I came back out wanting to cook in the traditional style. No, instead, they were smiling, happy, had no problem eating a piece of two while carrying on a conversation with me.

Zut alors! J'ai gagnée! ( I won! *insert metaphysical victory lap here *) ;p

What can I say? I was audacious in a culinary way back then and I continue to be as such, at present. There are no limits as to what you can and cannot cook (or do in general, for that matter). You may be better at making some things than others, but just because I'm not Korean, doesn't stop me from making my own versions of Kim Chi and Gochujang. The way I make my Vegan,Gluten Free, Kim Chi would certainly be called audacious in comparison to what the traditional method/ingredients. Even the Pilipino dishes that I make are considered pretty audacious  to those relatives who can't  quite wrap their heads around that I don't use any meat, seafood, patis (fish sauce), bagoong (fermented fish paste) in my cooking. I have fans though who who really enjoyed my version though and that's a nice feeling =)

So what can you take away from this tale? I guess that you shouldn't be afraid to go for it. How I didn't feel intimidated to make a non-traditional quiche for actual French people; is a bit of a puzzle for me, but maybe it can be chalked up to being young and brash. I was passionate about something and had enough confidence in something to share it with everybody. 

Well, that's it for my tale of my culinary audacity. I know that when I was thinking about this earlier in the day that it made me smile and laugh.. I was standing back and looking at my younger self and saying 'Wow, that was a bold move. You crazy girl.'

 Je vous souhaite à tous une bonne santé et de bonheur! (Wishing you all good health and happiness)

Jusqu'à la prochaine fois  <3  Until next time ,


Je t'aime et j'aime l'audace culinaire ainsi ! <3