Remove the seeds from the kabocha squash, cut into 2 cm pieces, and peel.
Wrap the kabocha squash in moistened paper towels and put in a heat-proof dish. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 2-2.5 minutes at 500 W.
The kabocha is cooked enough when you can easily pierce it with a bamboo skewer. With a fresh paper towel, remove excess moisture from the kabocha squash and from the bowl. Mash the kabocha squash while it's still hot.
Add the ◆sugar and mix. If the kabocha squash seems dry, add the ◆ milk and mix well. Divide into 4 equal portions and shape into balls.
Place the mochi rice cakes into a heat-proof bowl and add the ☆ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and heat for 3 minutes in the microwave (for a 500 W microwave).
Remove from the microwave and mix well with a spatula. At first, there may be a lot of liquid, but as you continue mixing, the mochi will gradually become smooth.
When the mochi is smooth and starts to come together, roll into a ball and place it on a tray sprinkled with katakuriko. Dust your hands with katakuriko and divide the mochi into 4 equal portions.
Stretch out one portion of mochi on the palm of your hand. Place the kabocha squash paste on top and wrap with the mochi. With the seam side down, place the daifuku on a plate. Make the remaining 3 daifuku the same way.
Serve with tea and enjoy. There's lots of golden kabocha squash paste inside the daifuku... it looks just like a soft-boiled egg!
Story Behind this Recipe
I felt like eating traditional Japanese sweets, so I tried making daifuku from ingredients I had on hand. I didn't have any adzuki beans or anko (sweet bean paste), so I made kabocha squash paste and used pre-cut mochi rice cakes leftover from New Year's. It was easy to make in the microwave and the mild sweetness is really satisfying.
Depending on the variety of kabocha squash you use, the water content and sweetness can vary, so use milk to adjust the amount of liquid. Make sure to taste to check the sweetness and adjust to your liking. Use the cooking time only as a reference. If you use too much potato starch when wrapping the kabocha in the mochi, it won't stick together, so just sprinkle on a little at a time and wrap quickly.