For Halloween, I absolutely had to make something ghost-themed. I wanted to use tonic water in this recipe as well, just because it contains quinine, a fancy way of saying that it will glow under black light. It has admittedly been a minute since I last made a dessert using tonic water(mostly because tonic water tastes gross), but I figured that if I used it in a dessert with enough sugar in it, the sugar would offset the gross taste of the tonic water. Luckily enough, by using the tonic water in mochi, I was able to accomplish just that! Hilariously enough, tonic water mochi tastes just like mochi. No discernable differences at all! Which is why mochi is the perfect medium for making little tonic water ghosts out of. The idea was to make these super soft sheets of mochi, and wrap that around red bean paste to resemble a cute little ghost. With my mochi itself, I went with a microwave recipe, since steaming mochi, while it creates a softer texture, microwaving mochi requires a lot less work. Namely in the setting up a steamer department. I love steaming things, but if I had a choice between filling my steamer with water, cutting out parchment to fit in the steamer basket, get that all ready, and steam my mochi for 20 minutes versus simply covering a container with the mochi in cling wrap, poking holes in it, and nuking it in the microwave for 2 minutes, it seems like a very straightforward decision. So, microwave mochi it is!
For the mochi batter, we are using the tonic water to make it glow in the dark. I found that substituting half of the glutinous rice flour(mochiko) out with shiratamako(another kind of glutinous rice flour, but more crystal-like in texture), resulted in a super soft, pillowy mochi. I had apprehensions at first to use tonic water in the mochi, since mochi has very little flavor on its own, meaning that the tonic water flavor should theoretically come through. Luckily, all of that rice and sugar somehow negated the gross chemical-y tonic water, so the end result was literally a traditional-tasting mochi. I would recommend rolling out the mochi using a rolling pin versus a pasta roller, because mochi can get sticky, and that can ruin your pasta roller. Don’t be afraid about adding too much cornstarch or potato starch, because you can always pat off any excess at the end. It’s better that your mochi ends up in one piece, rather than smeared over your cooking surfaces. I did use a square cutter when making these ghosts, because I was thinking about the shape of a blanket, but in retrospect, a circular cutter would have worked infinitely better for the final aesthetic. Beyond just the cut-out sheets of mochi, we are taking the leftover scraps of mochi, cutting those into rudimentary disks, and placing our red bean paste on that, just so that the red bean paste isn’t getting smeared everywhere as you transfer the ghosts from a cooking surface to a serving dish. For the eyes, I am dabbing those on the mochis with my vanilla-activated charcoal edible paint. Randomly enough, even though these mochi are inspired by ghosts, they are 100% vegan. So yes, ghosts do count as a vegan-friendly option.
For the red bean paste, I included a recipe on how to make that as well. Red bean paste tastes a lot of time to make. Usually, I would circumvent some of those processes by pressure cooking the red beans for an hour, pureeing them in a blender, then pressure cooking the puree for another 30 minutes. But not everyone has a pressure cooker, so I included a more traditional recipe that involves soaking your red beans overnight. Which is honestly a major pain in the ass to do. I would go on a how spiel about how doing it the traditional way is super gratifying, but honestly, for the amount of time that went into making the red bean paste the soaking overnight method, I would say either invest in a pressure cooker or just buy the damn paste from an Asian grocery store. If you are worried about the sweetness levels of the red bean paste, you can always adjust the amount of sugar you add to your mochi as well. My recipe is flexible enough in that you can scale down the sugar by half worst-case scenario. I am not saying that the using premade paste or the pressure cooker method is more authentic than the traditional way of making red bean paste, but I AM saying if you value your time/the idea of turning beans into a sweet paste is not your calling in life, those options are available to you too, and they are solid enough alternatives worth taking.
For the red bean paste:
1/3 cup dried red beans
1/3 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
Soak the red beans for at least 1 day prior to making this recipe. After soaking the red beans, place into a pot with 2 cups water, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and salt. Bring to a simmer, cooking down all of the liquid, and stirring the red beans occasionally to make sure that the bottom doesn’t burn. You want the red beans to cook down into a thick paste. Pour into an airtight, heatproof container, then refrigerate until cool to the touch.
For the mochi:
3/4 cups mochiko(can substitute up to 6 tbsp with shiratamako!)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cups tonic water
a pinch of salt
Potato or cornstarch
In a heatproof and microwave-safe bowl, mix together the mochiko, sugar, tonic water, and salt. Cover with cling wrap, and poke holes in the wrap. Microwave for 1 minute, then stir the mochi. Return to the microwave for another minute, then stir again. Then microwave for another 30 seconds. Pour onto a nonstick surface lined with potato or cornstarch and gently roll it out into a thin sheet, roughly 6 inches by 6 inches. Cut the sheet into 9 portions.
1 tsp activated charcoal
1 tsp vanilla extract or clear alcohol
Mix the two ingredients together to form an edible paint. To assemble, start by taking 3-4 tbsp of the red bean paste and forming them into a small, hill-shaped mound. Drape the mochi over the red bean paste, and press on the eyes and mouth of the ghost using the large and thin ends of a chopstick and the edible paint you just created. For a fun effect, using a black light to make these little mochi ghosts glow!