One surprising side effect of baking like a mad woman this past year is that I’ve regained the ability to do simple math calculations in my head. Remember how as kids you would spend exam after exam practicing additions, subtractions, multiplication tables? And then how jipped you felt when you learned that there was a magical little gadget called the calculator that all adults used to do math without actually doing any work? And forever after, you reach for the calculator on your phone to figure out the tip on a check instead of wasting energy multiplying percentages in your head.
But when baking and tinkering with recipes, practicing math helps with adaptability. Scaling down for a little batch between best friends or scaling up for a big fiesta keeps my left brain from getting too rusty. I also like to scale down when I anticipate needing to try a recipe a couple times to work out the kinks – way more economical than wasting a bunch of ingredients on multiple failed full batches.
Things that need to be made in a pan (bars, brownies, cakes) are a tad trickier to scale down than things dropped on a sheet (cookies), but with a little trusty division it becomes a cinch. Don’t want a whole 9×13 pan? Divide the whole recipe by three and throw into a loaf pan! The perfect solution for those recipes where you don’t want to be tempted to eat half the batch – like these soft, chewy, perfectly sweet-but-not-too-sweet red bean mochi bars.
Have you seen yet this viral video of frenzied mochi pounding that’s been going around? No worries, this recipe is nowhere near as strenuous of a workout – just whisk, pour, bake, and done! People will be insanely impressed that you made mochi from scratch, not realizing it can in fact be incredibly easy. And trust me, these treats are well worth ten times the minimal effort that you put into them – as always, it’s the greatest compliment to watch your taste testers keep reaching for one more, then another, then another. Melt-in-your-mouth “QQ” mochi against rich little pockets of red bean paste is as addicting as it sounds! Though if you’re not a fan of red bean, you can also bake up bars of plain mochi or substitute with something else. Some ideas – peanut butter (mmm chunky of course), pumpkin puree, good old classic chocolate chips?
Make a whole pan in anticipation of their disappearing act, or make a nice little loaf pan batch to keep yourself from eating it all yourself! Orrr just eat it all yourself 😉 no judgement, only complete understanding.
Red Bean Mochi Bars – small batch
adapted from Chew Out Loud – see link for recipe for full 9×13 batch
makes approximately 12-15 bars, depending how large you cut them
dairy free/vegan options available
- 1/3 lb sweet rice flour (also called glutinous rice flour or mochiko flour)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2/3 cups milk of choice – I used cashew milk, my new favorite non-dairy milk
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 scant tsp vanilla
- 1/3 bag or can smooth red bean paste (approximately 6 oz)
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a loaf pan (can be 9×5 or 8×4 – doesn’t make much of a difference) and line with parchment paper (optional, but highly recommended for ease of removal later).
- Mix all ingredients except for the red bean paste in a large bowl. Whisk vigorously until batter is smooth – can be done by hand or with an electric mixer.
- Pour about half the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Break off little pieces of red bean paste with your hands or a spoon, distributing about half of the red bean paste throughout the loaf pan.
- Pour the rest of the batter on top. Distribute the rest of the red bean paste drops throughout this layer of batter in the loaf pan.
- Bake for approximately 1 hour, until the top is puffy and golden. If unsure, you can use a toothpick or skewer to check if the mochi has set all the way through.
- Let cool to room temperature. Trim edges with a serrated knife (optional – it looks prettier, but the crunchy edges add another textural element that is quite yummy). Cut either 3 x 4 for 12 pieces of 3 x 5 for 15 pieces. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for several days – do NOT put in the fridge as the chilling will alter the texture for the worse.
Nutritional description: mochi is essentially made from a type of rice that is extremely starchy, contributing to its chewy sticky texture. It doesn’t contain any nutrients in line of vitamins or minerals, but is naturally gluten free for those who have those concerns, as well as low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Store-bought red bean paste does contain a lot of sugar, but provides some nutrients in the form of fiber and protein. In short, enjoy these as a delicious but occasional treat. Interestingly, I and other taste testers noticed that these made me feel pretty full even after just one bar – though tasty, it didn’t feel like it spiked my blood sugar like a cookie or something.
Nutritional information (assuming 15 bars): Calories 131, Total Fat 5.5g, Saturated Fat 0.5g, Cholesterol 12.3mg, Carbs 18g, Fiber 0.6g, Sugars 8.2g, Protein 1.6g, Sodium 13.7mg