Daifuku is a type of sweet Japanese pastry. In this type of pastry, a small cake made of glutinous rice paste, called a mochi, is filled with a sweet filling. The most common filling is red bean paste, but other sweet fillings are possible. Daifuku may be dusted with flour, cocoa or sugar. This adds flavor and prevents the sticky rice pastry from sticking to the fingers.
The name "daifuku" is short for "daifukumochi," which means "great luck rice cake." The name suggests that these pastries bring good luck, making them a popular traditional gift. The name may have developed from the fact that the words for "luck" and "belly" sound very similar, with the original name meaning "big belly rice cake."
Most modern daifuku recipes involve making mochi by combining rice flour and water, then heating the mixture in a microwave or a steamer. The result is a thick, flexible dough which the cook can work with his or her hands and a rolling pin while it is still hot, shaping it into a sheet and cutting it into rectangular blocks. Each individual block forms the outer shell of a single daifuku; the cook stretches and flattens it before wrapping it around the filling and dusting it with flour or sugar. As the dough cools, it hardens into shape.
Making mochi using a microwave or steamer is a relatively quick process. Traditional mochi preparation, known as mochitsuki, is a time-consuming process with an element of ritual. To prepare mochi, cooks soak glutinous rice in water for hours, often overnight, then steam it before pounding it into a paste with wooden mallets in a mortar. They then shape the resulting mochi into pastries or blocks. Mochi, and by extension mochitsuki, is an important part of many Japanese New Year celebrations.
The traditional filling for daifuku is anko, a sweet paste made from red azuki beans and sugar or honey. A number of variations exist, including cakes filled with whole strawberries, slices of fruit, or melon paste. Adding colorants to the mochi paste produces pastries in a wide range of colors, including pink and green. In some cases, additives such as mugwort give the mochi a distinctive taste of its own.
One variant, yukimi daifuku, uses ice cream as a filling. Japanese confectionery company Lotte™ markets this product. The sweet consists of a ball of ice cream surrounded by a layer of mochi, which remains soft at freezing temperature. The name means "snow-watching daifuku."