Before photographing my homemade mochi, I had planned to artfully arrange the pieces on a pretty platter and set it somewhere with great lighting before taking a shot. Then I left the room and, when I returned, the mochi fairies had taken off with nearly half the batch, so I was left a few lonely pieces in a Tupperware container. And the constant battle between aesthetics vs. real life continues.
For the unfortunate few who don't know mochi, it's made of rice flour mixed with some type of liquid and has a slightly chewy, sticky texture. In Japanese culture people will get together for mochi-pounding rituals, which can take hours and is quite physical. A lot of places that sell mochi commercially roll it into balls with sweet bean filling in the middle, while other bake it. My niece and her fellow Seattle Pacific University co-conspirators have even found a way to microwave the stuff and roll it into their own creations.
I can't get enough of the stuff, having grown up eating it in Hawaii, where the mochi supply is plentiful and you can even buy packages of it at some drugstores (next to the sushi and Spam).
With all respect to all those crafty college mochi-nukers, I believe I have the easiest mochi recipe EVER, which I got off the Aloha World Web site. Simply titled "Coconut Mochi," submitted by Keoki (mahalo, Keoki!) it involves very basic ingredients mixed together and a quick bake in the oven. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool off so you can cut it into pieces.
You can find the recipe here. For my batch, I also added a few drops of green food coloring for the pretty-factor. Also, if you've never used mochiko (rice flour), check the Asian-foods aisle of your supermarket (or your closest Asian supermarket, if you're lucky enough to have one) and look for it in a small box.