Last week, I gorged myself.
And I blame Chef Jeffrey Stout for it.
You see, after a recent trip to Hawaii, I happened to post a photo on Facebook of a unique sweet treat that I enjoyed there that was quite new to me: butter mochi.
Stout, former chef of Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino who’s now building his own restaurant, Orchard City Kitchen in Campbell, did what any self-respecting chef would do when he spied the photo and sensed my longing — he emailed me a recipe for it.
It was far easier to make than I thought it would be. When I tried a piece, I immediately ate a second, then had to restrain myself from reaching for a third.
Chef, what have you done!
The recipe comes from Stout’s neighbor, Taryn Esperas, who has been known to make this for neighborhood block parties, where it’s always one of the first things to be gobbled up.
It’s cake. But not. It’s custard. But not really. It’s sort of its own delightful hybrid.
Imagine digging into a very eggy, vanilla-rich custard — only it’s not spoonable, but so dense, bouncy and chewy that you can pick it up with your fingers to enjoy, much like a brownie or bar cookie. There’s just something so comforting and satisfying about it.
Its unusual texture comes from the fact that it’s made with mochiko flour or sweet rice flour that’s easily available on the shelf at Japanese markets. It is cooked glutinous rice that’s ground so finely that it resembles cornstarch. That also makes butter mochi naturally gluten-free.
They sure don’t call it butter mochi for nothing. It is very buttery. The batter is made with a cube of butter that’s melted, plus 3 cups of milk (I used 2 percent) and five whole eggs.
I like it best the day it’s baked because it comes out of the oven with a crispy top and edges, which makes for a nice contrast from the smooth, soft, sticky interior. The butter mochi will keep for days in a covered container or you can even freeze some to enjoy another time.
There are many recipes for butter mochi online. Some call for coconut milk or evaporated milk, which would make for an even richer rendition. Others are sprinkled with coconut for more sweetness and texture. Some even call for a dash of rum or whiskey. There are even recipes for chocolate butter mochi and pumpkin butter mochi.
Esperas and Stout, who is half Japanese and remembers pounding mochi by hand in Japan with his relatives, swear by this basic version.
It’s definitely a winner in my book.
And damned, if I don’t succumb to another piece.
(Makes 1 large pan or at least 24 pieces)
1 pound mochiko flour (1 box)
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
3 cups milk
5 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a large bowl, combine mochiko, sugar and baking powder.
In a medium bowl, combine butter, milk, eggs and vanilla.
Mix wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients, stirring until well combined.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour until golden brown.
Cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into small squares with a sharp knife. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.
From Taryn Esperas