Mochi ice cream is a hybrid dessert that combines the textural delight of traditional Japanese glutinous rice flour dough—mochi—with chilly, sweet ice cream. Mochi has a mouthfeel somewhere between chewy and gooey—perfect for cheese lovers. The ice cream on the inside may be any flavor.
The treats have a relatively young history. Joel Friedman and Frances Hashimoto’s Los Angeles-based confectionary Mikawaya is generally credited with developing and popularizing mochi ice cream more than 30 years ago. Today, you can buy pre-made versions at places like Trader Joe’s, but if you want to create flavor combos all your own, assemble these desserts at home.
Makes 6 mochi ice cream balls, with ice cream to spare
- Small nonstick skillet
- Wooden spoon
- Blender or food processor
- Medium bowl
- Ice cream maker
- Rimmed tray or baking sheet, lined with parchment paper
- Microwave-safe glass or ceramic bowl
- Plastic wrap
- Rubber spatula
- Ceramic knife or dough cutter
- 6 paper cupcake liners
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
- 3 egg yolks
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Pinch salt
- 3 ½ teaspoons green tea powder (matcha), divided
- 1 ½ cups (half of a 16 ounce box) sweet rice flour (mochiko)
- 1 ½ cups water
- Cornstarch or potato starch, for handling the dough
1. Combine the half-and-half and 1/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the half-and-half begins to steam. Remove from heat. Beat 2 tablespoons sugar with the egg yolks until pale and thick. Beat ¼ cup of the hot half-and-half mixture into the egg yolk mixture, then gradually add the now tempered egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with the remaining half-and-half. Cook over medium-low heat while stirring constantly, until the mixture hits 180°F. Do not allow the mixture to boil.
2. Move the half-and-half mixture to a heat-proof glass bowl and beat in the heavy cream. Beat in 2 teaspoons green tea powder, taste, and add more sugar or macha as needed (remember, frozen foods taste less sweet than warm ones). Set the covered bowl in the refrigerator and chill to 40°F (this will take several hours), then churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once frozen, create 8 golf ball-sized ice cream balls*. Put the shaped balls on a rimmed tray lined with parchment paper and place them in the freezer for an hour or more, until they are very firm.
3. Mix sweet rice flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons green tea powder thoroughly in a microwave-safe glass or ceramic bowl. Stir in the water, then 3/4 cup sugar. Mix until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Cook the rice flour mixture in the microwave for 5 minutes. Stir well after 2 minutes and again after 4 minutes. Remove the bowl from the microwave and let the mixture stand about 5 minutes.
4. Dust a work surface with cornstarch or potato starch. Heat the mixture again for 20 seconds and turn it out on the prepared work surface. When the mixture is cool enough to touch, divide it into 8 parts. Use a ceramic knife or a dough cutter for this, as the mochi likes to stick to both itself and your tools. Quickly pull the cut portions away from the dividing line as you cut.
5. Dust your fingers with cornstarch and shape each portion of the mochi into a ball. At this point the mochi will be too hot to hold a true ball shape and will sag into a flattened disk. When the mochi has cooled a bit, assemble the treats. Turn over one of the mochi disks. Stretch out the mochi and create a depression in the center with your cornstarch-dusted finger. Place a frozen ice cream ball in the center of the disk.
6. Gently pull opposite edges of the mochi disk out and up over the ice cream ball, pinching it together where it meets at the top. Try to keep the thickness of the mochi covering uniform. You may find it easier to roll out the mochi portion into a larger circle before covering the ice cream. If the covering is too thick, discard some of the mochi and make a thinner covering. Make sure the mochi flaps stick well to each other. Once each ice cream ball is completely enclosed, place the treat, seam side down, in a paper cupcake liner and put it in the freezer until ready to serve. Freeze at least an hour, and remove 5 to 10 minutes prior to serving.
*When frozen, the mochi wrappers can be difficult to bite through and also seem less sweet than room-temperature mochi. For this reason, we recommend not reducing the size of the ice cream ball, otherwise the mochi wrapper won’t be stretched thin enough.