Years ago my friend Emmie (who does this awesome line of cards, and I’m not just saying that because I apparently inspired her “meat birthday card” but because her cards are truly awesome) made a dessert for a get together of ours.
This was especially impressive as she claims to have no real talent for cooking, and in fact would often call me up and tell me about how she would make herself dinner and then look at it, puzzled at that fact that the food she made was totally unappetizing. She claimed this happened on a regular basis.
This baffled me. If you are going to go through the trouble of making food for yourself, why would you make food that was unappetizing?!?! That’s what frozen/canned food is for! When I make food for myself I make sure to use only the type of food that I like!
For instance, when you open up a can of soup, you hope that most of the stuff in the soup is what you like but every now and then there’s that soup where you like MOST everything in it, but they stuck the lima beans in there, and you really can’t stand lima beans, so you spend most of the time while eating the soup picking them out.
Now if you had actually MADE the soup, you wouldn’t have bothered to put the lima beans in there in the first place. You have total control over what goes in? So if you are cooking, how is it that the food you make is completely unappetizing to you?
But I digress (something that I am oft to do). There are many things that baffle me about Emmie, and this is just one minor bafflement. I bring this all up because Emmie had brought to a get together a dessert that she made… and it was delicious. Mochi Pudding.
I have had mochi before, usually wrapped around ice cream. But here was delicious chewy mochi baked in a pudding form.
AND my friend, the woman who claimed that she couldn’t cook, had made it.
I asked her about and she said it was SUPER easy. INCREDIBLY easy. SO EASY that a trained chimpanzee could make it. This, of course, meant that she was equating herself to a chimpanzee, but I overlooked that obvious self deprecating slight and told her again how tasty her mochi was. She deflected the compliment and just said “It’s just easy.”
I like to test run cookbooks before I actually buy them and this one was no exception. It definitely had a lot of flash, but a lot of the recipes border on the whole molecular gastronomy trend, which I have mixed feelings about – but that’s another post for another time.
Dessert Fourplay didn’t necessarily have desserts that I would make, but on the whole it had a lot of great ideas, things I wouldn’t necessarily think to do. It’s a book I might invest in buying, not for the recipes per se, but more for the ideas that they bring to table.
And that’s where I saw the recipe for making mochi. He described a recipe for a strawberry rhubarb compote filled mochi, but I didn’t have any freeze dried strawberries in the house (who randomly has freeze dried strawberries?). But I did have freeze dried apples (okay, actually I have to admit I have a lot of freeze dried fruit in the house. Freeze dried apples, mangoes and blueberries currently. So it wouldn’t have been OUT of the ordinary for me to freeze dried strawberries, but I just didn’t have them that day).
But as I read the recipe I realized that Emmie was totally right. Making mochi is downright ridiculously easy. SO insanely easy that an UNtrained chimpanzee could probably make it. So I whipped up what will soon be my go-to recipe for the “oh crap, I need to make an impressive dessert in less than an hour” situation that some how seems to come up in my life.
Note: Whilst baking, I was listening to Goldfrapp’s latest album Head First. It’s a total retro electro disco 80′s throwback which is great if you like that sort of thing.
Ridiculously Easy Apple Compote filled Mochi with Caramel Sauce
(loosely based on a recipe from Dessert Fourplay by Johnny Iuzzini
Basic Caramel Sauce
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup heavy cream.
2 Tbls water.
2 tsp sea salt (or less if you don’t like is as salty as I do)
1. Put sugar and water in a large saucepan and stir to dissolve sugar into water. Take a pastry brush and “wash down” the sides of the saucepan with water to remove all sugar crystals. If you don’t, the sugar will crystalize and it’s a pain in the butt to caramelize properly.
2. Crank the heat up to boil, then lower heat to medium high and cook until liquid starts to turn golden amber.
3. Do not stir, but you can swirl the sugar around while cooking it. When it hits the golden amber stage, pay attention and start pulling the pan off the stove and swirling it around so all the color is even distributed. I like to pull my caramel to a dark brown, almost mahogany color, but if you aren’t experienced in making caramel or don’t like the smokey flavor that a dark caramel gives, don’t risk it and turn off the heat. Be really careful as caramel can go from delicious dark brown to burnt black quickly and you have to start over.
4. Immediately pour the heavy cream into the pan carefully. This will stop the cooking, but also cause a huge amount of steam and boiling. This is why you need to use a large saucepan (even if you are only making this small amount of caramel. Take a whisk and stir the caramel around until all the hard caramel is dissolved.
5. Sprinkle and whisk in salt. Cool the caramel in the pan and drizzle with a spoon onto the plate with the apple compote mochi. Or pour it into a squeeze bottle (like the old school diner ones that use to serve mustard and ketchup – you can get them at any restaurant supply place for cheap) and squeeze out the sauce all pretty like on the plate.
Note. The caramel sauce isn’t vegan. But you can make vegan caramel sauce by substituting coconut milk for the heavy cream.
1 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean – split in half lengthwise
1 Tbls + 1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tbls dark rum, brandy or calvados
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of cloves
pinch of nutmeg
dash of salt
3 Braeburn apples, peeled, cored, cubed into 1/4″ cubes.
1. In saucepan, combine the water, sugar, vanilla bean with seeds intact, rum, spices and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until sugar dissolves and the whole thing thickens – about 5 minutes.
2. Add apples, bring back to a boil, and simmer until apples are tender and liquid has reduced – about 15 minutes.
3. Cool, then remove vanilla pods (you can rinse and save them for making vanilla sugar).
1/2 cup freeze dried apples (about 10 g)
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup mochiko (glutinous rice flour)
pinch of salt
green food coloring (optional)
about 1 cup of water
1. Line two empty egg cartons with plastic wrap and dust with potato starch.
2. Dust a work surface generously with potato starch.
3. Put the freeze dried apples in a food processor/spice grinder/blender or an old school mortar and pestle and grind to powder.
4. Put the flour, the freeze dried apple powder, the sugar and the salt into a microwave safe bowl. Add 3/4 cup of water (and two drops of green food coloring if using) and mix into a paste. Cover with plastic wrap and stick it in the microwave for 90 seconds.
5. Take out and stir mixture. If the mixture seems tight, add the remaining 1/4 water. Cover back up with plastic wrap and microwave for another 60 seconds. The dough should darken and become opaque.
6. Working quickly, roll the warm dough into 1/16th thickness. Cut 3 1/2 inch rounds of dough (I use a wide rimmed jar since I don’t have a cookie cutter that size). Holding the round of dough, put about 1 tablespoon of apple compote into the middle and pinch the dough around it to close it (you can stretch the dough if you need to) and place the mochi dumpling in the egg carton seams side down.
7. Repeat for the rest of the dough, cover with plastic and refrigerate until you use.
8. Plate with some apple powder and caramel sauce.
Note 1. You can just skip the apple powder and caramel sauce and just pop them in your mouth and eat them.
Note 2. You can buy some dulce de leche (caramel milk) and spoon just a little bit (1 teaspoon) in each mochi, before you add the apples. Then the caramel is built in!
Note 3. These are vegan if you omit the caramel. I have a recipe for a vegan caramel that I developed for a Seder I’m going to, so I’ll be sharing that in one of my upcoming posts. But if you want to make this vegan you can skip the caramel, or make the caramel with a vegan milk substitute of your choice (soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk). I would probably use 3/4 vegan milk for every 1 cup of heavy cream that I use, as most vegan milk is thinner than heavy cream.
Note 4. You can totally adapt this mochi recipe to make plain mochi, or any other fruit flavored mochi by just using freeze dried fruit crushed to powder. You can get freeze dried fruit at most health stores and Whole Foods, as well as Trader Joe’s.
Note 5. Both the apple compote and the caramel sauce can be doubled while making it. The apple compote is delicious over waffles, pancakes, and on toast or vanilla ice cream. The caramel sauce is your everyday delicious caramel sauce that can be used on ice cream, in coffee drinks or whatever use you want to pour caramel sauce on. For me, that would be pretty much everything.