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May 11, 2011

my first ichigo daifuku, with frills

It started simple enough; the most traditional Japanese confectionery using cherry blossoms is, hands down, sakura-mochi. But as I avoid pretty much everything with anko (sweet adzuki bean paste), those anko-filled sakura mochi has never appealed to me.


That said, I don't mind ichigo daifuku, or daifuku mochi filled with a strawberry and anko. Perhaps that's because the use of a strawberry as the filling results in lesser amount of anko involved, making it easier for me to handle. Fresh, slightly tart berries also cut back the otherwise clogging sweetness of anko. And as I found out that I prefer sakura-an (sweet white bean curd flavored with cherry leaves and colored in pink) to regular adzuki-based anko, I thought I'd try and make ichigo-daifuku using sakura-an, thus sakura ichigo daifuku. Simple enough, right?




Well, things started getting complicated when I suddenly remembered that I rather enjoy cream-filled daifuku and mochi ice cream (ever tried yukimi-daifuku? or mochi cream?) - and thought I'd try and make ichigo daifuku using sakura-an AND whipped cream.


I searched for recipes on the Internet, and found a few without trouble; I decided on this recipe (in Japanese), as the process looked fairly manageable, using microwave to make the mochi dough and all. Or so it seemed, perhaps very misleadingly to me at least.


As far as ichigo daifuku is concerned, there is no shortage of recipes in English on the Internet. And many are similar in that you first wrap hulled whole strawberries around with anko and shape them into balls; mix shiratama-ko (a type of glutenous rice flour), sugar and water to make the dough, heat in the microwave until cooked; roll the dough out into several thin pieces (this process involves a lot of potato starch to prevent the dough from sticking to your fingers and everything in the vicinity); wrap a strawberry-anko filling with a piece of mochi shell, and repeat with the rest of the filling and shells.
I always knew that wrapping the filling with mochi shell would be the most challenging part for me, but what makes matters worse is that when you use whipped cream in the filling, you need to cool your thin mochi shells a little before wrapping the filling, as any heat from the mochi will melt the cream. But to better wrap the filling and shape your daifuku, most recipes usually tell you to work with the dough while it is still hot, as it is more smooth and elastic, making it easier to shape the daifuku and pinch the seam closed. And I had never even made daifuku myself, with or without whipped cream in it. You see the problem now?


And so I tried valiantly, and failed spectacularly; they were all either shapeless, shell torn, or seam unclosed - or all of the above. For my meager honor's sake, the mochi dough was fine and things went well at least until the final wrapping part, which ruined everything. And despite their sad appearance, the resulting mess that was meant to be ichigo daifuku was downright delicious. That was probably why I decided to give it another shot immediately - if they hadn't tasted so good, I don't think I would have bothered to try it again.


Over the period of a month, I tried them four or five times, with no visible improvement whatsoever in my mochi-wrapping skills. There were always a few that didn't come to shape a form at all, and the rest of them would look resolutely ugly. My sister, who happens to be extremely neat-handed, declared them to look like Oba-Q. Well, I couldn't agree more...
But really, these sakura-cream ichigo daifuku (strawberry mochi with whipped cream and cherry blossoms - or, as I'd privately call, 'my sakura-mochi') tasted so good I wouldn't mind continuing on my practice. And if you've enjoyed store-bought ichigo daifuku (or any daifuku-mochi for that matter), you'll love the home-made fresh ones.


To make cream ichigo daifuku, prepare the mochi shells and strawberry-anko filling following an ichigo-daifuku recipe of your choice, then whip some heavy cream (1-2 tsp for each mochi cake) until stiff while the mochi shells cool. Place a heaping teaspoonful or so of whipped cream in the middle of a mochi shell, place the strawberry-anko filling (tip side down) gently on top, and wrap the filling carefully around with the shell taking care not to break the mochi or let the cream escape from the shell. Place the finished daifuku seam-side down and repeat with the rest.


To make them sakura-cream ichigo daifuku, swap sakura-an for the regular adzuki-an and add a bit of cherry blossom flakes as soon as the mochi dough is cooked; you can wrap the finished mochi with a salt-cured cherry leaf, if you prefer.
Served with freshly-brewed Japanese green tea, these can be the ultimate Japanese(ish) teatime treat in the springtime. Totally worth the trouble!


* This was intended to be a part of sakura sweets post I am putting together, but since this got quite long as it is, I've decided to do a separate entry. I'll do the full sakura post tomorrow. See you around! cx

8 comments:

Melissa said...

I tried making some mochi recently and it was a disaster. That mochi dough is really difficult to work with! My daughter and I were a mess by the time we eventually gave up on the whole thing. I don't think I am dedicated enough to try 4 or 5 more times like you did. That's awesome :)

Wanderer said...

Oishii...

:p'

Emma said...

Wow, what persistence! I love the idea of lightening the texture of an otherwise heavy dessert with a bit of whipped cream. This will be a good project for a rainy spring day...

Kelly said...

Adorable. I have a thing for sakura (not so much to eat but to look at). I love to collect things with cherry blossoms on it so this sounds fab.

Kayla said...

My mochi wrapping skills ain't that great either. I made kashiwa mochi recently, and they ended up looking horrible. I think your mochi looks great! Cookpad is certainly my favorite sites for Japanese recipes. I might try this recipe too!

Unlike you, I like anko in mochi. I can't stand zenzai though. It's just too sweet!

chika said...

hi guys, thanks for your comments...

Melissa - aaah i only tried 4 or 5 times because i had believed, apparently too optimistically, i'd get better at it after a few tries. how wrong i was! well at least they all turned out tasting good.

Kayla - funny thing is, i don't like anko but i do like oshiruko/zenzai - i find them taste lighter and less sweet than regular anko!

Adelaide said...

my mochi-wrapping skills are equally bad (if not worse!)
mochi is so yummy, and i've never tried it with a sakura-an paste, since I'm not a huge fan of azuki beans either...
this is cool! i'll try a new filling. :)

Natalie Jones said...

As someone who can be totally ham fisted in the kitchen at times I have got used to using shortcuts to make things look perfect when I'm doing a large order, because I can't afford a bad health day when I shake and make a mess of things! For Mochi I have bought a mould, this one to be precise, http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Flexible-Silicone-Bakeware-Muffins-Baking-Tin-15-Hemisphere-Silicone-Mould-/320865273802?pt=UK_HomeGarden_Kitchen_Cookware_GL&hash=item4ab50f87ca#ht_4356wt_1197 in which I lay my covering first, then add my ingredients, just leaving me to fold over the Mochi and make it tidy. Then I put them in the fridge for a while, to set, and when they turn out they are perfectly shaped!

Now my only problem is getting hold of Sakura essence in the UK. :( I joined Amazon Japan, but they won't ship to the UK, and the shipping companies won't use Amazon! Very frustrating!