Mooncakes (Mid-Autumn Festival)

The Mid-Autumn Festival this year is not until 9/25. But I have been itching to make mooncakes since I bought several mooncake molds in an antique market in Shanghai back in 2005. In my mind there are mainly two kinds of mooncakes -- the Cantonese kind and the SuZhou-style kind. A Cantonese mooncake has a very thin, tender, and buttery crust, and a very high filling-to-crust ratio. The other kind has the Chinese puff pastry style crust and is usually much smaller than the Cantonese kind. Well, according to Wikipedia, there is apparently a third kind popular in Taiwan, which uses shortbread-style dough for the crust. After much research into various recipes, I saw most of the Cantonese crusts require the use of lye water to treat the dough. I don't know...I have been brainwashed into thinking that using lye water is bad. The Chinese style puff pastry is something I have always wanted to try. But alas, I am not about to use shortening, and I was not able to find rendered leaf lard at the Grand Army Plaza Green Market this weekend. This leaves me with the shortbread-style crust. The filling was easy -- I just bought a can of Xiang Lian Rong (湘蓮蓉) -- Lotus seed paste, which came already mixed with sugar and peanut oil. Other than that, the only things I needed that are out of an ordinary American kitchen are the molds and some dried milk powder. The result is a mooncake with much crumblier crust. It is almost like a butter cookie, except even more enriched with the milk powder. As my pastry skills still leave much to be desired, I think the filling-to-crust ratio was a bit high. But Mike agrees that these cakes are perfect with a cup of a English tea! Now all we need is the beautiful full moon and a pleasant company!

Recipe: Simplified Mooncakes
(Adapted from "Chinese Snacks - Wei-Chuan Cooking Book" by Huang Su-Huei, 1976)

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 cup milk powder (I used Nestle Klim whole milk powder)

3 eggs
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

3/4 cup butter, melted

pinch of salt

1 lb lotus seed paste

1 egg yolk

1. In a kitchen aid mixer with the whisk attachment, mix eggs with powdered sugar on medium speed for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, sift first 3 ingredients together. Mix well.

3. Add melted butter to the egg-sugar mixture and incorporate well.
4. Switch the mixing tool to the paddle, and mix in the dry ingredients to the butter-egg-sugar mixture. Mix until even incorporated. Do not overmix!
5. Dump the dough onto a working surface and divide into 20 portions.
6. Divide lotus seed paste into 20 portions as well.

7. Press each dough portion into a flat disc and wrap it around one portion of the lotus seed paste. Slowly close it all the way around and form it into a ball.
8. Press it into a mold, and then bang the mold upside down on the working surface to unmold the pastry.

9. Put all pastries on a silpat (or parchment paper), and brush with egg wash (egg yolk mixed with a little water)
10. Bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes until the surfaces are golden brown. Let cool and serve.


Charles said…
okay, i didn't know that:

1) there are mooncake molds

2) lay people actually buy them

3) lay people who buy them actually use them to make mooncakes when they can just buy mooncakes from a store

that said, i can't believe you actually made mooncakes from scratch! too bad i'm not in nyc to taste them. yes, the skin looks too thick, but i might actually like that better because the thick skin probably helps diluting the sweetness of the filling. i've never been a big fan of mooncakes because the filling is usually too sweet.
Albertitto said…
OK Charles, you had to know #1! How did you think these are usually made? These days most are made with plastic (silicone) or metal. The wooden ones are hard to make and hard to maintain. You can actually see cracks in the molds I used. As for #2 and #3, well, this is not unlike making 粽子 and giving them to friends. Want me to FedEx you one? ;-)
Charles said…
oh when are you going to the u.s. open? make sure to take pictures and blog about it!
Albertitto said…
Oh I went last Thursday! I saw Maria Sharapova won an easy match (very boring) and also James Blake vs. Fabrice Santoro. That match was very entertaining and it went 5 sets way past midnight. I also saw Colin Farrel sitting several rows behind us. It was nice. But Wimbledon is wayyyy classier.

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