It’s magical. It’s mesmerizing. It’s mochi.

Our frenzy for mochi has its roots in our childhood. Growing up, we frequently made the “cousin” desserts to mochi, niangao and yuanxiao. Niangao is a traditional Chinese sticky rice cake baked with nuts and in our family, plump, juicy raisins. Although this dessert is most popular for the purpose of celebrating Chinese New Year, we can’t help but bake it up year-round.

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Yuanxiao, on the other hand, are hand-rolled balls of glutinous rice flour enfolding red bean, walnut goodness (the Yan family classic) or in other cases, black sesame or peanut butter. They’re boiled in water until they become glisteningly smooth and semi-translucent. Noms.

In this special case, we boiled them with mung beans.

Although we grew up loving these Chinese sticky rice varieties, we weren’t exposed to Japanese mochi until the froyo boom of 2012, and from then on, it was a mochi explosion! We’ve had mochi in a cupcake, mochi bites in a popsicle, ice-cream stuffed mochi, and matcha mochi; we were also giddy connoisseurs at Penn’s student-organized annual Mochi Fest, featuring strawberry cheesecake and nutella stuffed mochi. The next logical step was to make mochi ourselves, and boy was it worth it. We’re gearing up for fall with our mini pumpkin mochi.

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Fall-inspired mochi

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Freshly steamed

Black Sesame Pumpkin Mochi

Dough

  • 100g pumpkin puree
  • 80g glutinous rice flour
  • 20g rice flour
  • Water, as needed

Filling

  • 30g red bean paste
  • 3 tbsp ground black sesame
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp canola oil

Directions:

Mix all filling ingredients together. Set aside.

Mix all dough ingredients (minus water) together to form dough. Add water one teaspoon at a time until the right consistency is achieved. The dough should be moist enough that it is easily moldable and won’t crack when you bend it.

Tear off a piece of dough and shape it into a ball. Place the ball in one palm and use your other palm to flatten the dough into a pancake. Add filling to the center and fold dough over, pressing the ends together to encase the filling. Roll in your palm to smooth the outer surface of the dough and form a ball. (Tip: If the dough is too dry and cracks, you can salvage your mochi by dipping your finger in water and smoothing out the cracks, just like you do with clay. Then add more water to the dough.)

Add indentations with a spoon to emulate a pumpkin. Add a raisin for the “stem.” You can press down semi-firmly to make sure the raisin stands, meanwhile flattening the balls into a more realistic pumpkin shape.

Line steamer with parchment paper and steam for 10 minutes. Recipe makes 8.

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Adapted from Haw Berries and Kumquats 

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