Sweet Treats: Cocoa Mochi with Nutella inside!

A very special momma friend of mine is about to have another baby, and this very special momma happens to love mochi. So when the opportunity came up to make favors for her baby shower, I just knew that I had to make it.

I’ll tell you right now: Making mochi is NOT EASY. I don’t care how many blog posts on the world wide web tell you how simple it is, I spent the better part of the week trying to make these work. My inspiration came from here, and after I saw those gorgeous balls of pink + green, I immediately pictured them as a tasty treat in honor of a darling new baby. But wow – that recipe did not work for me. Despite following all the instructions, my mochi came out of the microwave looking like the inside of a cement truck.

Thank goodness I found this Cocoa Mochi recipe on the side of the Sweet Rice Flour box! After my failed attempt, I decided to give the Mochiko box recipe a shot. Boy, am I glad I did! It turned out exactly the way it was supposed to, and it tasted so good! But the cocoa mochi wasn’t exactly the best wrapper for the traditional red bean paste I had planned on filling my original mochi with … so I started thinking about alternate fillings. I had some peanut butter in the fridge, and that worked GREAT (Imagine an Asian twist on a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Amazing, right?) and then I sliced a banana, and that was delicious as well! But I needed to make these the night before, and I knew the bananas wouldn’t hold up so well, and I was hesitant of peanut butter since there’s been a recent recall and didn’t want to cause any distress. As soon as the Nutella came to mind, I knew that was the answer!

I wish I could claim the brilliant of idea of this pairing as my very own, but upon googling it, I found tons of Nutella + Cocoa Mochi combinations. (Whatevs. I’m still a total genius in my own mind.) I did find a brilliant suggestion online to stick the Nutella in the freezer first, and if you decide to try making this mochi – definitely freeze the Nutella. I used a melon baller to make small scoops, and then I put them in the freezer for about an hour. This made wrapping the filling SO MUCH EASIER (Don’t worry, the Nutella doesn’t stay frozen and hard forever. It’s still creamy, gooey and delicious inside upon first bite).

Prepare your Nutella filling first. Then get started on making your mochi.
(Click here for Koda Farms’ Easy Cocoa Mochi recipe)

Okay — here is where I had to stray from the instructions a little bit:

  1. Use a Silpat mat instead of a baking pan. Seriously. The mat makes this much easier. Borrow one from a friend. Put it on your wedding registry. Or, just buy one (you’ll love it). I’m totally not joking. The Silpat mat was what finally helped me pull these off.
  2. Generously douse 1/3 of the mat with extra sweet rice flour or cornstarch (Have a ton more to the side to keep replenishing the mat with flour/cornstarch, too). Reserve the remaining area of the mat to pour the steaming hot mochi onto once this stuff comes out of the microwave. Pour it out directly onto the mat, and try and smooth it out as best you can with a spatula sprayed with non-stick spray. Be careful — it is so hot! Let it cool just enough so you can touch it, and then sprinkle the top of the mixture lightly with cocoa powder.
  3. Let the mochi sit for a bit. Then, after testing to make sure it won’t scald the palm of your hand, start peeling and tearing small pieces from the glob of mochi on the mat to work with.

Here’s the next tip: Use a ton of flour or cornstarch to always keep your hands powdered with. Yep, still not joking. You need to have your hands powdered at all times, cause this stuff is sticky … and messy … and will get into every crevice possible if you don’t have your hands powdered. I would rub my hands on the powdered part of the mat before I touched a new piece of mochi every time. Trust me. It’s all about the powder.

To roll the mochi:

  1. Tear a small piece from the glob on your mat, and manipulate in your hand until you’ve got a small pancake looking piece in your palm.
  2. Put a scoop of the chilled Nutella in the center of the mochi.
  3. Wrap the edges around the Nutella until it’s covered. Then, roll and pinch until the Nutella scoop is concealed and you’ve got a nice ball. Place the ball in a mini cupcake wrapper to make it extra special.

Tip: It doesn’t hurt to dust with more flour/cornstarch after you’ve got the filling covered up and you’re working it into a ball. I think the flour makes it look more delicate, and to be honest – the cocoa mochi is brown, and sorta thick … you want these treats to look appetizing and you don’t want them being mistaken for something else that is thick and brown (just saying). Also, I made mine on the smaller side since the flavor combination is pretty rich … just a bite sized ball of heaven that tastes like chocolate with Nutella inside is all you need. Think of these as a take on delicious chocolatey hazelnut Japanese truffles and size accordingly.

After they were finished, I wrapped two pieces inside a treat bag, and attached a little tag I made that said, “Yay for Babies and Mochi!” I kept the bags in an airtight container in the fridge overnight, and they were ready for the party the next day.

I got rave reviews, and most importantly — this very special momma was very happy!


Sweet Treats: Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups + My 1st Cheesecake

One of my favorite mommy friends is expecting baby #2, and I decided that this baby deserved a party, no matter how prepared his/her parents were! I say “his/her” because this baby has a very patient momma who has the ability to actually wait to find out the sex of the baby until it’s born — can you believe that?!? So, baby’s name is “Smüdgie” for now (yes, the umlaut is very necessary) until his/her birth day.

No party is a party without favors, so I got to work deciding on what sweet treats I’d be making for the guests. I came across this genius recipe for Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. The tiny little no-bake candies worked perfectly for my concept of “a smidge of something sweet for Smüdgie”. (Big thanks to Iowa Girl Eats for the idea and tutorial)

For packaging, I used different shades of scrapbook paper to fit the width of a treat bag, made little flags for the cups with toothpicks, and attached one of my custom made tags. Everyone got two sweet little cups in their bag to take home!

You also can’t have a party without cake, and at the mom-to-be’s request, she wanted a cheesecake with a fresh berry topping. I’d never made a cheesecake before, so I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to try! Guess what? It’s totally easy. The fanciest part about it is using a springform pan.

After researching 1,000,000 recipes, from Martha’s to Ina Garten’s, I decided to use an old classic — this one. Scoff if you must, but it was the real deal.

I used a 10.5″ pan, rather than a 9″ one, so I increased the graham cracker crust recipe by an additional cup of crumbs, 1/4 c. butter, and 1 tsp. sugar to ensure optimal buttery graham cracker crust goodness. I also put the crust in the oven for about 10 mins. first, then let it cool before I added the filling and baked it. The next morning, I trimmed the edge with blueberries, sliced strawberries and layered them, and saved room in the middle for more blueberries. I was proud of how it turned out!

Now, I just have to wait for Smüdgie to get here!

Sweet Treats: Easter Candy Bark

After seeing this recipe for Easter Candy Bark, I just knew I’d have to make it this Easter. I can’t help it, Easter candy is just so pretty, and this stuff looked divine. The best part? It was SUPER EASY to make. (I’m not kidding, either!)

I loved how simple it was to make the marble effect with the white chocolate. After the dark chocolate is melted and spread on wax paper, all you have to do is put dollops of white chocolate on top and use a knife to swirl it around to get the effect. I think that’s what makes it look so fancy!

After you marble it up, just sprinkle your Easter candy on top (I used chopped mini Cadbury eggs and M&M’s) and let it dry for atleast 2 hours. The final step is to break it up when its all set.

I kept the packaging simple and made my own little tags, and then folded the top of a ziploc baggie down, and hid it under a folded piece of scrapbook paper. I punched holes and secured it with white wraphia. If I really wanted to make it perfect, I would’ve bought some clear plastic square treat boxes and wrapped it up like a present. Guess I’ll just have to be sure to do that next year!

Sweet Treats: Grown Up Goodies for Valentine’s Day

I’m feeling a little defeated tonight. I’ve had my heart set on making these red wine lollipops as soon as I stumbled across the recipe. I thought they’d be a perfect treat to surprise all my grown-up friends with for Valentine’s Day (treats for the little people are coming soon!). Well, my mom told me that her grandmother used to curse candy making, and now I know why …

Gathering all the ingredients was simple enough. Making the red wine reduction was a piece of cake. But when it gets to getting the candy mixture up to 300 degrees without burning it, that’s hard. I tried over and over, making 4 batches total, and I could only salvage 8 lollipops.

The good news is, the 8 I did successfully make look really cute. I kept the packaging simple and went with plastic lollipop bags, red + white baker’s twine, and a little gold tag. I’m pretty happy with how they look, I just wish I had more!

I am determined to master it … I’ve got one last pot of red wine on the stove top, and I’m hoping for the best!

Christmas Goodies: Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Rods

Everybody knows how much I love Christmas – and of course, making treats for friends is one of my favorite things about this season! Since we had a ton of red chocolate left over from my daughter’s birthday party, my mom came up with the great idea of using it with pretzels. I especially loved the idea, because a pretzel dipped in less than .5oz of chocolate is almost guiltless! I decided to do 4 different types of decorations for them and package them in clear plastic bags. The packaging was a lot simpler than my usual stuff, but the pretzels ended up being so pretty that they just had to be the main focal point!

Here’s how they turned out:

Close-up on sprinkles:

In sets of three, before packaging:

All pretty and ready to go!

Now I’m getting excited about what I’ll make for our 1st annual Christmas Eve Open House!

Christmas Goodies: Peanut Brittle + Peppermint Bark

As we’ve done for the past few years now, Mom & I got together to make our annual Christmas goodies. We decided to be a little different this year and try to make some candy! My favorite holiday treat is Peppermint Bark, so I definitely wanted to try making my own, and then I decided to make Peanut Brittle – because its old school and a holiday classic!

Its a good thing my mom had a candy thermometer. Talk about old school, this belonged to my Dad’s grandmother. The display shows “Soft Ball” & “Hard Ball” stages, as well as “Crack” stage and “Hard Crack” stage. Looking at it, I thought to myself what a lost art candy making is becoming. After all, “soft ball stage”?!? What? (click the photo to enlarge)

The Peppermint Bark was easy enough … just melt semi-sweet chocolate, add peppermint extract, pour in a pan and top with a layer of crushed peppermint candies. Set it in the fridge and let it cool for about an hour. After its hard, just repeat the same step with white chocolate and make a second layer. I love how festive it looks with the crushed peppermint candies on top! (It’s also no secret that my signature holiday aesthetic is red & white stripes).

The Peanut Brittle wasn’t as easy – but it’s something my mom & I won’t soon forget! It’s quite a process, but the end result was some seriously authentic Peanut Brittle! Here are a few shots throughout the process:

First, we had to boil the sugar and corn syrup until it reached 250 degrees (thanks, Candy Thermometer!) …

Then, we could add the peanuts and butter, and had to keep stirring until we hit Hard Crack Stage (290 degrees!) …

Once we added the baking soda, we got a quick, frothy surprise! This is when it really starts to look like the real deal. You have to get it out and pour into the pans quickly though, or else you’ll burn it all up …

It sets until cooled, then you break it all up. We got about 2.5 lbs. of brittle from this batch.

The finished product, in all it’s glory!

Of course, I always enjoy making the goods look good, so I worked on my custom tags for each candy:

I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did making it! And of course – thanks, Mom!