Orange-Lime Mochi Donut Holes (Baked)

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Around the end of the year in Japan, it's time to break out the mochi and red bean for celebratory meals and hot pick-me-ups. All week long, I've been wanting to make hot bean soup with mochi, a classic winter treat in Japan. Yet, when it came down to actually making something, I decided that I wanted to do something a little different. After all, the red bean soup, although traditional, are dishes you can find and make anywhere.

So, I paused. And thought. And remembered one of my favorite things in Japan were the Pon de Ring donuts by Mr. Donut. These donuts, made out of rice flour (mochi-ko) were simple and chewy. Not overly decadent and lightly sweetened, they seemed like a nice and easy alternative to the holiday chocolates. 

My recipe was heavily based off of this one, with the inclusion of new ingredients and - the major difference - baking rather than frying. I really do hate deep frying. It is not my forte, and lacking a thermometer (I know, I know, I really must buy) I'd rather try out a different method. Baking seems more Yule-tide-y, less dangerous, and more healthy. 

I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious these adorable baked donuts came out. Sweet but not too sweet, light yet chewy, flavorful yet not overwhelming it's easy to pop one or two or three in your mouth in rapid succession. Their bright notes are a cheerful pick-me-up on a cold, dark, December day. 

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Orange-Lime Mochi Donut Holes (Baked)

For the starter dough:

1/4 cup glutinous rice flour
3 1/2 tablespoons whole milk

For the donut: 

1 3/4 cup glutinous rice flour
1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon orange, lime, or other citrus zest
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

For the glaze:

2 heaping teaspoons powdered sugar
1/4 citrus zest of choice
1-2 tablespoon warm water

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. 

2. Whisk 1/4 cup of the glutinous rice flour and 3 1/2 tablespoons of whole milk together in a microwave-proof bowl.  If the mixture is too thick, add a dash more milk. It should be the consistency of thick oatmeal (sans lumps). Microwave on high for 30 seconds and check to see if the dough is cooked through, which will look opaque and feel like one of those bouncy balls you use to buy from one those coin machines.

3. In a separate bowl, add the remaining  1 3/4 cup of glutinous rice flour, 1/2 cup of milk, melted butter, granulated sugar, salt, vanilla, citrus, egg, and baking powder in a bowl. Gently mix until somewhat combined, then switch to kneading the dough by hand.  Once the mixture has combined, add the starter dough and knead until everything comes together in a smooth, thick, paste. 

4. Grease a baking sheet, and roll the dough into large marble-sized balls. If the ball is too small, you won't get the nice chewy inside. If the dough is too large, the balance between crusty outside and chewy inside is lost. (Note: These donut holes won't expand too much, so you can place them together relatively close on your baking sheet.)

5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the bottoms have turned golden brown. 

6. As they bake, make the icing: in a small bowl whisk together the sugar, citrus, and warm water (be very careful about the warm water. Only add a little bit at a time.) The icing should be viscous enough to drip yet thick enough to coat the top of the donut holes). 

7. When the donut holes are ready, quickly transfer them to a cooling rack. Allow them to cool for about 30 seconds to a minute. Then, working quickly (and careful not to burn your fingers) place the tops of each ball into the icing and flick off the excess. Return to each to the cooling rack to allow the icing to harden.

8. Allow to cool completely before transferring them to a separate container or serving.