Mochi—smooth and pillowy and cotton ball-light—needn't be messed with. But if you had to—let's say it's summer and a billion degrees outside and you wish your big toe could be submerged in an ice bath at all times—you could combine it with ice cream. And not just combine it with ice cream, but wrap it around the scoops to make a handheld and highly adorable dessert.
You can buy mochi ice cream at Trader Joe's or order it at sushi restaurants or from fancy websites. But you can also make it yourself. And today, that's just what we're doing. Together!
With only two component parts (mochi, ice cream), this dessert is simple enough to conquer at home. (And personally, I do everything in my power to avoid the Trader Joe's lines in New York City.)
Because the mochi needs to engulf the ice cream scoops, you'll have to contort it—manipulating (and warming, and melting) the ingredients much more than for a typical ice cream sandwich. In summer's heat, it's a bit of a wild pursuit, but not an impossible one. It's fun! And you can choose whatever combination of mochi (matcha, black sesame, vanilla, mint) and ice cream (cookies and cream, strawberry, chocolate) you want.
You'll need to track down sweet glutinous rice flour and your favorite ice cream (store-bought is easier to work with than homemade if you're a first-timer), but once you've got those, you're good to go.
Mochi recipe from Just One Cookbook.
Want to hear more about Japanese cuisine and culture? On our new podcast Counterjam—a show that explores culture through food and music—host Peter J. Kim talks sushi stereotypes and the intergenerational immigrant hustle with comedian Yumi Nagashima, rapper G Yamazawa, and producer Dan the Automator—check out the episode here. —Sarah Jampel
Test Kitchen Notes
Follow These Tips For Mochi Ice Cream Success:
You'll need to scoop and refreeze the ice cream well in advance of assembly. Portion the ice cream scoops into a mini muffin tin or an egg carton lined with plastic wrap.
You want your mochi to be cool but also super fresh. As mochi sits, it becomes drier and less elastic, which means it'll be more prone to tearing as you try to stretch it around the ice cream scoop. Since mochi-making takes only about 30 minutes from start to finish, I recommend starting that process when the individual ice cream balls are already frozen solid.
As you're making the mochi, be generous with the cornstarch to avoid stickiness. You can always dust it off later! I also recommend sifting the cornstarch to avoid big clumps.
Plastic wrap is here to help. Place each mochi round on a generous piece of plastic wrap, then use the excess to help gather and smush the mochi around the ice cream: You'll be able to belt it all together and then shove it in the freezer—all ice cream leaks will be contained until they refreeze.
And plastic gloves will help, too: They'll protect the ice cream from the warmth of your hands.
If possible, work with one ball of ice cream at a time (and in close proximity to the freezer).
Let your mochi soften a bit at room temp before attempting to slice or bite or serve to friends. The mochi layer needs some time to relax back into its naturally soft state.
Want To Make Your Own Ice Cream, Too?
Plan ahead: If you're making the ice cream for your mochi ice cream (look at you!), make sure you churn and freeze it at least a day or two in advance, so it doesn't melt during assembly. —The Editors
- Prep time 3 hours
- Cook time 3 minutes
- Makes about 8 balls of ice cream
sweet glutinous rice flour
Potato starch, cornstarch, or additional rice flour, for dusting
- Pre-scoop the ice cream and freeze the individual balls. I found it was easy to freeze them in a plastic wrap-lined egg carton, which cradles the mini scoops and gives you an idea of how big each should be. Take the ice cream out of the freezer to soften for a few minutes; meanwhile, line an egg carton with plastic wrap. Using a small scooper (I used a cookie scooper), divide the ice cream among the divots. Freeze for a couple of hours, until rock-solid. (If you'll be freezing the ice cream scoops any longer, you'll want to go back in and wrap the whole carton in more plastic to ward off freezer burn.)
- When the ice cream balls are good and frozen, it's time to make mochi! In your microwave. In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk the flour and sugar. Add the water and whisk to combine.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave for 1 minute. Using a wet rubber spatula, stir the mixture, then re-cover and microwave for 1 more minute. Stir again, cover, and microwave for 30 more seconds. The color should now be translucent.
- Lay down a piece of parchment on your work surface, then use a fine-mesh sieve or sifter to cover it with the potato starch. Transfer the mochi to the parchment, sift over more starch, and wait for it to cool down enough to handle.
- Using a rolling pin, roll the mochi out so that it's about ¼ inch thick, applying more starch as you need to. Transfer the parchment to a baking sheet and refrigerate for about 15 minutes, until firm and cool to the touch.
- Use a 3- or 3½-inch cookie cutter to cut rings out of the mochi. (Err on the big side—it's better to have too-big circles than too-small ones.) You can mush the scraps back together and reroll to form additional circles, though they may be a bit tougher and therefore harder to work with later on. Dust the excess starch off the circles with a pastry brush, then stack them on a plate so that there is a layer of plastic wrap below each one.
- Now put on a pair of plastic gloves if you have them. Working preferably with one ice cream scoop at a time (and in close proximity to the freezer!), take a mochi circle, with the plastic wrap beneath it, place the ice cream on top, and move quickly to wrap and smoosh the mochi around it. Using the plastic wrap as a guide, tie everything together (I twist it very tightly at the seam to hold all the parts inside—almost like a harness!). Transfer the mochi ball to the freezer, then proceed until you've gone through all the ice cream. Freeze the balls for at least a couple of hours, until frozen solid. Before serving, let the mochi sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes, until the outer layer has returned to its soft, smooshy state.