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)
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.