The first (and only) time I had warabi mochi, it was still warm. Small scoops on a plate, still jelly-like and delicate, covered with a generous pile of kinako. The kinako was powdery, lightly sweet and wonderfully toasty.
Two things to take away: first, there is a world beyond what I know of mochi, and second, it can be important and eyeopening to eat mochi freshly made, and let’s add a last one: kinako.
Lovely, lovely kinako. Roasted soybean flour, a bit peanut buttery but better (but I am biased because I don’t really like peanut butter that much). And just how often are interesting ingredients in powdered form? It’s so liberating! There are so many possibilities which don’t require messy steps like infusing your milk or butter or making doubtful substitutions and loose purees which make your batters go strange and bake up oddly. It’s not overly acidic or overly sweet either.
Gosh, the last time something this great happened was cocoa powder. Here is one application of kinako, which is nearly perfect except it is also very dry. Either I have been chronically overbaking these cookies (both batches!) or there is just something about ground sesame versus other ground nuts. I’ve loved the flavours–they are warm and heavily toasted and rich–but the cookies themselves have been so very very dry, which is only exacerbated by all the powdery coating.
These cookies are based off of whatever you like to call them: Mexican wedding cookies, Russian tea cakes, I used to call them snowball cookies (though now they’re more like dirtball cookies). They are usually tender and coated in powdered sugar which somehow condenses into this sweet and slightly moist coating around the cookie.
In this variation, the nuts have become black sesame and I’ve used kinako for the coating.
The kinako helps keep the sweetness down of a cookie rolled in sugar, though the 1:1 is still quite sweet, enough to complement a bitter tea. I would consider, for those of you with less of a sweet tooth, rolling only in kinako.
These cookies go very nicely with some green tea. In fact, I would highly recommend the tea, if only to mitigate choking hazard.Edited: Nov 2017 – Having repeated these cookies again, this time with part sesame and part ground almond, I think the key is indeed not overbaking. Unfortunately, I seem to almost always err on overbaking, so it’s been a bit challenging for me to suppress the urge to bake just a couple more minutes. The smaller the cookies are the more likely it is! This time I made 16 cookies, each around 1 tbsp in volume and baked them for around 14 minutes. You can tell by the firmness–check once you noticed the cookies have become dull (i.e. no longer the sheen of melting butter), give them a little prod. At first they’ll be soft and give away, but then eventually they’ll get just firm, but you can tell they’re still a bit soft underneath.
Edited: Dec 2017 – Having repeated these cookies yet again, this time with part chopped walnuts and part ground black sesame, I do really like the addition of the walnuts. They’re a soft and oily nut which helps keep the cookies from being too dry, and they’re quite subtle but nice with the sesame. And yes, don’t overbake!
Edited: April 2018 – I officially love these cookies more and more every time I make them. Same advice as before–be careful not to overbake, and go with the walnut/black sesame option. They will always have a bit of a dry feel due to the kinako, but the cookie will be buttery and the excess of savoury-roasted flavours will justify all of it.
black sesame and kinako cookies
I think they taste very good, but they are also very dry (though now, with edits, less dry). Adapted from Epicurious. Makes around 20-24 cookies.
110g butter at room temperature
24g powdered sugar
72g all-purpose flour
65g whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
13g ground and toasted black sesame
30 g finely chopped walnuts (OR: one could use a total of 25 g ground black sesame in place of the walnuts, but I think it makes the cookies a bit drier)
additional powdered sugar
kinako (roasted soybean powder)
Cream the butter with the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk together the flours, salt and 24 g powdered sugar and add, in three additions, to the butter. Lastly, mix in the black sesame and chopped walnuts. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill completely, a couple hours or so.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F. Take a walnut- to hazelnut-sized pieces of dough and roll into small spheres–you can make around 24 smaller cookies, or 15 tbsp-sized ones (20g each). Place on a sheetpan lined with parchment paper. Bake 8-15 minutes or until just about firm to the touch.
Sift together an equal quantity of kinako and powdered sugar into a shallow dish to coat the cookies; 30g of each was sufficient for me.
Let cookies cool couple minutes before rolling until coated in the kinako-powdered sugar mixture. Place on a wire rack, let cool completely and roll in the coating once more.