Butter-Mochi, a favorite childhood treat growing up in Maui, Hawaii, is made from mochiko (rice flour), coconut milk, and of course butter. Baked in the oven, the result is a crispy-edged, chewy centered, custardy topped confection that is comforting and addictive. The texture, like most types of mochi, is strange at first – so chewy, almost gluey – but you’ll find yourself standing over the pan, having just one more bite….again.
My favorite recipe is below, but I will admit to a secret trick that not only saves money, but makes it better (in my opinion). I realized I was out of coconut milk once while making butter mochi, so I used regular skim milk and some coconut flavoring. I’m not one for imitation flavorings, and I usually avoid them at all costs, but somehow, it worked. The coconut flavor is more intense (which I like) than when using coconut milk, the recipe is lower in fat and calories (which can be a plus when you eat half the batch yourself), and it is way cheaper than coconut milk (unless you live where coconuts grow wild and you can make it yourself…but even then, sometimes you need a break).
I am all for twisting recipes to use what you have on hand, to save money, to make it healthier, etc. I am also, however, very honest when the result is compromised in the process. Sometimes, it’s worth it. I make low-fat banana bread that, admittedly, isn’t as good as the “real” butter-filled kind, but it’s still pretty good. As a healthy treat, it’s worth skipping the butter.
Sometimes, there is no trade off, and I believe this is one of those cases. I don’t think substituting skim milk makes the mochi any less rich and delicious. Even when I have coconut milk on hand, I prefer to use milk plus flavoring.
- 3 cups mochiko (sweet rice flour – look for this in Asian markets)
- 2 1/2 cups sugar (you could easily use less, depending on your tastes)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 (14-oz) cans unsweetened coconut milk/ Or 3 ½ cups milk (skim or whole, doesn’t matter)
- 5 large eggs
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- If using dairy milk instead of coconut milk – also add 1 teaspoon coconut flavoring
Make sure your rack is in the middle of your oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk mochiko, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. You may want to put your baking powder through a mesh strainer first, or just make sure there are no little clumps of it in the mixture. If they don’t get incorporated, there will be little bitter lumps in your mochi. Whisk together coconut milk or regular milk, eggs, butter, vanilla, and coconut flavoring (if using) in another bowl. Combine coconut and flour mixtures and mix very well. Pour batter into an ungreased 13- by 9-inch baking pan (I like to use glass so I can see when the sides and bottom are nice and brown), and bake until top is golden and edges are brown and crispy, about 1 1/2 hours. You may want to check on the mochi near the end, sometimes big bubbles form, and it is good to puncture them with a knife to let the air out – otherwise the top of the bubble burns and gets hard. Let the mochi cool (if you can), but it is best while still warm. You can cool it completely and refrigerate, but the lovely crispy edges will not remain. Straight from the fridge, the mochi will be hard and not very good, but a couple of turns in the microwave will bring back the nice chewiness. Because it is just so good the first day, I will often make the batter ahead of time, for a potluck or party, and then bake it just before the event. Just be sure to stir it up really well before pouring into the baking pan, as the rice flour will settle to the bottom.
I have yet to meet anyone that does not like butter mochi – especially if they are lucky enough to get it straight from the oven. In Hawaii, you can get it, wrapped in cellophane, in most grocery stores and some gas stations – along with chi chi mochi, peanut mochi, and adzuki bean stuffed mochi, among others – but until I made it homemade, I never knew its true glory – kind of like home-baked chocolate chip cookies vs. store bought. So, I guess I am glad that I moved away to school in New York where they never heard of butter mochi and was forced to figure out how to make it myself!