Imagine this: donuts, but they’re a little more chewy, a little faster to make, and with a light, sweet flavor that has a hint of mystery to it. Oh, and can we make them gluten-free for our friends with celiac disease? Easily done! Just make some mochi donuts.
Mochi donuts get their foothold in the late 90s or early 00’s, with variations from Japan and Hawaii. In this version, we’ll present a great donut based on the one from Epicurious by Clarice Lam. We’ll go over the temps you need for deep frying these treats, and walk you through their preparation. Time for dessert!
What are mochi donuts?
First, we may ask “What is mochi?” Mochi are a type of rice confection/cake from Japan made by pounding together sweet glutinous rice (so-called for being sticky; it has no gluten) with sugar, water and sometimes other starches. The result is a soft, chewy dessert with a unique texture.
Mochi donuts have a bit of a convoluted preparation history, but they got their big start at the Japanese donut chain Mister Donut. Originally called Pon de Ring, the treat has roots in Brazilian pão de queijo—the cheese bread made of cassava root or cassava flour. The Japanese version was made with a combination of tapioca starch (derived from cassava) and all-purpose flour. So where’s the mochi in that?
Well, it isn’t there. The mochi name came more from the soft, chewy texture and the conjoined-bubble shape of the donut than from its ingredients. Other versions have proliferated, though, and the one we present here uses mochiko to add a little more chew, give it that delicious mochi flavor, and, bonus, decrease the caloric density while eliminating gluten.
Making mochi donuts: the process
The process of making mochi donuts is almost identical to that of making churros, except that in churro making the dough is cooked over heat until it forms a ball. Here the dry ingredients are stirred in, but not cooked.
To begin, milk, butter, and sugar are brought to a boil in a saucepan. Be sure to use one that is big enough to stir the dry ingredients into later! Once it’s boiling, you kill the heat and add the rice flour and tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour), then stir it. It’s then put in a stand mixer’s bowl and beaten to release heat. Once the dough is cooler, below 110°F (43°C), the eggs and the baking powder are added and beaten in until everything is smooth. The batter is then placed in a piping bag, or a large sturdy zipper-closure bag for portioning.
For a template, trace a circle, about 3″ across, on a piece of parchment paper. Then you can go one of a couple ways. You can mark spots on your template for making dots of dough that will connect, giving you the classic Mister Donut look. For those, pipe splotches of batter that are about 1–1.5 tsp over the marked dots. You want the edges to just touch and connect. The results of this method are gorgeous, but it is difficult to pipe the sticky batter onto a small piece of parchment.
For an easier mochi donut that is slightly less visually appealing (though still lovely), just pipe the dough around the ring in a simple circle. Use a piping tip or bag opening that will make donuts the thickness you like—in our case, about 5/8″ thick.
Pipe each donut onto its own small square of parchment paper. When it’s time to fry, you just pick up the parchment, slide the whole thing into the hot oil, then after about 10 seconds, pull the parchment free using a pair of tongs. The donut will easily separate from the paper, leaving the pastry floating in the oil to brown.
Mochi donut frying temperature
As with all donuts, we want our mochi donuts to be golden brown and even slightly crisp on the outside, but we don’t want them to be either dried out or still doughy in the middle. Cake donuts run a real risk of being undercooked in the middle, but these don’t as much. You see, the dough is partially cooked before it goes in the oil. The dry ingredients are mixed with boiling milk, then beaten together with eggs to make the batter. Mixing them with the hot milk cooks them, causing the starches to gel—rice starch gels at about 172°F (78°C) and tapioca starch at 158°F (70°C). With wheat flour, since it contains gluten, we want both starch gelation and protein denaturing, but with mochiko and tapioca starch we are looking primarily for starch gelation, so most of the cooking is done for us before we hit the fryer.
Really, what we’re looking for from the frying step is the cooking of the eggs that we add to the batter. Getting the internal temperature of the donut up past 160°F (71°C) is easy, especially if we don’t make our donuts as thick as a standard cake donut.
To ensure perfect browning in the time it takes to cook the egg in the batter, we cook these donuts at 350°F (177°C). Using our ChefAlarm® with its accompanying pot clip makes deep frying super easy—just set a high-temp alarm for your target frying temperature, and a low-temperature alarm about 25°F (14°C) below that temp. Now you have a deep-fry temperature window that will keep things right on track. (For more on why ChefAlarm is the perfect tool for this, read about the best deep-fry thermometer.)
With the thin donuts we piped, the internal temp is perfect without drying by the time the exterior of the donuts is beautifully golden brown. If you pipe yours thicker, you’ll want to verify their internal temperature with your Thermapen® ONE before you take them out of their hot bath.
Glazing mochi donuts
These donuts are beautiful, especially if you go through the trouble of piping them into the bubble-ring shape. But they get even prettier when you glaze them. You can use any glaze recipe you like, or any topping for that matter. We made a simple glaze of powdered sugar, a little lemon zest, and some milk; but we also made one with pulverized freeze-dried strawberries. When the strawberry powder hits the milk, it rehydrates, giving you a jammy texture for your glaze that is super fun. We also made a simple ganache with equal parts chocolate and cream with a little corn syrup for shine. But you can follow your dreams with the toppings! People love to make a glaze with matcha, and some add sesame seeds. Be creative, and have fun. Or just top them in cinnamon sugar while they’re still hot. It’s hard to go wrong!
These donuts are delightful. The light chew from the rice flour is unique and very fun, and the donuts come together so easily. Getting the temperature of the oil right is important for the finished product, so don’t forget to use your ChefAlarm to monitor the oil temp. Make these for your family and friends with a buffet of toppings so people can dress their own, and watch everyone smile.Print
Adapted from a recipe at Epicurious.com
- 2 C +2 tbsp (340 g) mochiko (glutinous rice flour)
- 2 C (240 g) tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour)
- 1–1/3 C whole milk
- 4 Tbsp salted butter
- 2/3 C sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt (Morton, adjust for other brands)
- 4 tsp baking powder
- Neutral oil for deep frying
Also: Ingredients for your favorite donut toppings/glazes as desired
- Whisk together the rice flour and tapioca starch. Set aside.
- Bring the milk, butter, and sugar to a boil in a medium-large saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- When the milk is boiling and the butter is fully melted, remove the pot from heat and add the flour/starch mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine into a lumpy dough. There may be dry spots, but that’s ok.
- Scrape the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the paddle attachment, beat it on medium speed to cool the dough somewhat.
- When the dough is cool enough to touch easily, beat the eggs, salt, and baking powder into it.
- Beat, still on medium speed, until the batter is smooth and even.
- Set the dough aside to rest, covered, for 10–15 minutes.
- Heat the oil (at least 2″ deep) in a large, heavy pot. Attach the pot clip and use the probe from your ChefAlarm to track the oil temp. Set a high-temp alarm for 350°F (177°C) and a low-temp alarm for 325°F (163°C).
- Draw a piping template on a small piece of parchment paper and cut out 16 or so squares of parchment.
- Load the dough/batter into a piping bag or a large kitchen bag with one corner cut off. Pipe the dough onto individual pieces of parchment paper laying each piece over your template and tracing it with the dough.
- When the oil reaches 350°F (177°C), start frying! Place 3 or 4 donuts in the oil, on their pieces of paper, and cook for about 10 seconds, until the donuts float. Then use tongs to pull the parchment free of the pastries and set it aside.
- Continue to cook the donuts until they are golden brown, about 1 minute total. Adjust the stove to maintain a temperature inside your fry-temp window, as noted on your ChefAlarm.
- If they are very thick, temp them with your Thermapen ONE to be sure they have reached 160°F (71°C) internal temperature.
- As the donuts finish cooking, remove them to a wire rack to cool and drain.
- Top the donuts according to your heart’s desires, and eat them while they are still warm!
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