Wednesday, February 2, 2011

usagi mochi (gyuuhi series)

I've been busy in the kitchen making all kinds of rabbit-shaped confections in celebration of the year of the rabbit, and had meant to post some of them before the end of January. Unfortunately, I used up all the ingredients for the popular Usagi Manju before I could refine the recipe enough to share with you.

So while I wait for my pantry to be restocked, I've been playing around with gyuuhi. Gyuuhi is made from shiratama-ko (glutinous rice flour, sometimes sold as "mochi-ko"), sugar, and water. Confections made with gyuuhi usually have the word mochi in the name. You may remember that I first introduced gyuuhi a year ago, in the post on plum blossom confections.

Gyuuhi is easy to make, tender,and smooth, so using it to cover a ball of filling and shaping it as you please is relatively easy. In today's post, I wrapped the gyuuhi around a ball of koshi-an, and gently patted it into the rabbit shape that is traditional in the world of wagashi (thick in the rear and slimming to a rounded point in the front). Gyuuhi is too tender, however, to use for shaping the bunny ears, facial features, or bunny tail. So I marked the ears and face with a toothpick dipped in red food coloring. This is common in the world of wagashi, but I find it less than aesthetically satisfying.

Koshi-an (smooth an)......200 grams
Shiratama-ko.............50 grams
Sugar.........................50 grams
water.........................80 cc
katakuri-ko (potato starch)... enough for dusting work surface
tiny bit of red food coloring dissolved in water

(Note: measurement conversions can be found in the plum blossom post)

1. Divide the koshi-an into 8 pieces and roll into balls. Set aside.
2. Place shiratama-ko, sugar, and water in a microwaveable bowl and whisk ingredients briskly till there are no clumps at all.
3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and heat in microwave oven at 500 for 3 minutes.
4. Mix the goo-ified ingredients rigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula, and remove the resulting clump of dough to a katakuri-ko (or cornstarch)-dusted surface.
5. Divide gyuuhi dough into 8 pieces and flatten each into a circle. Place one an ball in the middle of each circle and wrap gyuuhi around the ball.
6. Pat the filled dough into the rabbit shape described above. Dip a toothpick into the dissolved food coloring and press into the "rabbit" at the right places to mark its ears and face.

Give me a couple more weeks, and I should be able to post a recipe for Usagi Manju.


  1. That usagi looks adorable! I know what you mean about using food coloring like paint but this looks great. By the way, I was wondering if you know of a way to make these without a microwave.

    Happy Year of the Rabbit. I hope it's a good one for you!

  2. Mari, I've been looking for a book or blog that explains the traditional (pre-microwave) way of making wagashi so that I can tell you how it's done.

    It involves all kinds of equipment like steamers and is very time consuming if you do it the traditional way. Which is why I didn't really get serious about wagashi until I learned to do it with the microwave.

    Give me a little more time, and I'll try to post a proper non-microwave recipe for you.

  3. nice usagi! thanks for the recipe and your insights. do you ever use joshinko/mizuame to adjust the mouth feel of microwave gyuuhi (or have thoughts on that as an approach)? is regular sugar okay instead of johakuto?

    thanks! john

  4. @John, I'm all in favor of experimentation and substitutions. I have to, because so often I can't get the exact ingredient I want. I've tried substituting Joshinko for Shiratamako in some recipes (not this one) and have had mixed results.

    Johakuto *is* regular white sugar. I use mizuame for many things, but if you use it instead of sugar, you have to adjust for the extra moisture and it could get complicated. If you try it, and it works, let me know!