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How to Make Crispy, Chewy Mochi Doughnuts at Home

When I think of mochi doughnuts, I think of anything made from glutinous rice flour that has been fried, which is a pretty vast family of foods. My first experience with anything close to what people now commonly refer to as a mochi doughnut was at a Japanese bakery in New York's East Village. The doughnut was shaped like a cruller and coated with sugar. It came wrapped in a cellophane baggie that was taped shut. It didn't seem all that appetizing: Condensation from the humidity and sugar had fogged up the cellophane and it just looked meh, but a pastry chef friend insisted I try it. Holy doughnut holes, it was good! Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, it was lighter and less sweet than your average doughnut.

Fast-forward several years and another version of the mochi doughnut began trending worldwide. Glazed in all different striking colors, these doughnuts were shaped like a baby's teething ring, made up of eight dough balls stuck together in a circle. In Japan, these doughnuts are called pon de ring thanks to their similarity to the chewy Brazilian cheese bread pão de queijo. (Pon de ring was first released by the doughnut chain Mister Donut in Japan in 2003.) Oddly enough, neither pon de ring or pão de queijo are made with glutinous rice flour. Both typically use tapioca flour, and while pão de queijo is gluten-free, most recipes for pon de ring also include wheat flour. So WHy aRe ThEY cALleED MoCHI doughnutS ThEN?!

Some folks suggest the name has less to do with the glutinous rice flour that we often associate with foods called mochi and more to do with the phrase mochi-mochi, which describes a uniquely soft but elastic or even bouncy texture. On her site, Just One Cookbook, Namiko Hirasawa Chen writes: "In Japanese, we describe Pon de Ring's mochi-like texture as mochi-mochi (モチモチしてる) or mocchiri (モッチリしている) texture, but it does not always mean that the food being described is made of mochi. For example, bagels with a chewy texture can be described as having a mochi-like texture."

Name aside, I wanted my mochi doughnuts to be gluten-free. So when I created this recipe, I decided to leave out the wheat flour and swap in a combination of glutinous rice flour and tapioca flour (also known as tapioca starch). This combo produces a doughnut with a supremely chewy interior, plus a thin and crispy exterior that creates an amazing ASMR soundtrack when you break one open.

To make the doughnuts, you'll bring a mixture of milk, sugar, butter, and salt to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the combo of mochiko and tapioca flours. That lumpy paste gets mixed in a stand mixer until smooth, then you add an egg and baking powder to make a sticky dough. After a little rest, you're ready to shape your doughnuts and fry them until golden brown all over.

I've included recipes for some of my favorite glaze flavors-including matcha, raspberry, chocolate, black sesame, and ube. Once your mochi doughnuts are cooled and glazed, feel free to garnish them with colorful sprinkles, nuts, whole sesame seeds, candy, toasted coconut, or whatever you like.

You can form these mochi doughnuts into the traditional pon de ring shape, but I actually prefer to make them into doughnut holes-either simply glazed or just coated in cinnamon sugar. Can you think of anything better than a bowl of mochi doughnut holes to eat like bonbons? I sure can't.


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