September 27, 2012

Red Bean Mooncakes


This Sunday is the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is celebrated in many countries including China and Vietnam.  Mooncakes are a tasty pastry traditionally enjoyed during the Mid-Autumn Festival.  They consist of a thin pastry crust, and are usually filled with red bean paste (yum), lotus seed paste (yum yum), or some other dense, tasty filling.




During last year's Mid-Autumn Festival, my husband and I were honeymooning in Hong Kong, and got to experience all sorts of cool festival things.  A giant orange fish, made entirely of lanterns, was erected right in the middle of the Central district.  Thousands lined the sidewalks to see the fire dragon parade (which was a bit of a disappointment - it was smoking, but there was a tragic lack of flames).  And I got to experience mooncake for the fist time ever, thanks to the free mooncakes offered by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.  I absolutely loved the soft crust and lightly sweet lotus paste filling - I resolved right then that I would learn to make them for the next Mid-Autumn Festival.

 As September approached, I began to hunt for the necessary ingredients and equipment to make mooncakes.  This was not as easy as I'd hoped.  Although pre-made mooncakes are currently crowding store shelves in Seattle's International District, the composite parts are pretty hard to find.  I found a cookbook and round mooncake mold at BrownCookie.com, and set about trying to find lotus seed paste to use as the magical filling...

I hunted everywhere for pre-made lotus seed paste, and was totally, completely, unconditionally unsuccessful at finding it.  Instead, I tried to make it.  My new cookbook had a recipe, which I followed, but I was not satisfied with the result.  My paste was grainy, dense, and weird-tasting - not like the lotus paste I had in Hong Kong.  Disappointed, I bought some red bean paste instead.  I decided to refine my lotus paste technique, and try again next year.


Yum, these were tasty.  It's best to let mooncake sit for a couple days after baking, to allow the crust to soften.  Even though I would have preferred to enjoy lotus paste mooncakes this year, red bean paste is always delicious, and made for a tasty consolation prize.

(Sorry, most of these ingredients are in units of weight.  You'll probably want to purchase a kitchen scale - I bought a pretty inexpensive one a while ago and I use it all the time.)

Golden Syrup
Adapted from Choong Su Yin's Cooking Syrup recipe (from Moonlit Mid-Autumn Festival).

Ingredients
400 grams sugar
200 mL water
juice from 2 lemons

Method
  1. Heat sugar and water in a medium pot over medium heat until boiling.
  2. Reduce heat to low.  Strain the lemon juice and add it to the pot.
  3. Cook on low heat until a candy thermometer reads about 230° F (this will take 45 minutes to an hour).
  4. To check if it's done, drop some syrup into a bowl of water.  It should not disperse.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Choong Su Yin says that you should not use the syrup for at least 3 months, as this will make the color of the crust better.  I only waited a day (I'm bad).
Mooncake Pastry
Adapted from Choong Su Yin's Mooncake Pastry recipe (from Moonlit Mid-Autumn Festival).

Ingredients
300 grams golden syrup (the recipe about makes enough)
90 grams vegetable oil
3 teaspoons alkaline water (which I couldn't find, so I substituted 3 teaspoons water + ¼ teaspoon baking soda)
400 grams low-protein or cake flour

Method
  1. In a food processor or blender, blend the syrup, oil, and water (or water + baking soda) until smooth.
  2. Transfer the liquid mix to a large bowl, and add the flour.  Mix with your hands until the dough sticks together.
  3. Knead the dough a couple times until it is completely smooth.  Cover with a cloth and set aside for at least two hours (or overnight).
Assembly
  1. Preheat your oven to 375° F.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Determine how much mooncake can fit in your mooncake press (mine took 125 grams - it was labeled).  Use roughly ⅓ for the crust and ⅔ for the filling.  For my mooncakes, I used 45 grams of crust and 80 grams of filling (store-bought sweet red bean paste for these).
  4. Weigh out your crust and fillings using a kitchen scale.
  5. Roll your crust into a ball, and then flatten into a disc.  Roll you filling into a ball and place in the disc.
  6. Carefully, push the crust around the filling and cinch it together in the middle.  Once the filling is sealed in, roll the entire thing around in the palm of your hands.  The warmth from your hands will seal some of the cracks a bit.
  7. Place on your cookie sheet.  Repeat with about five more mooncakes (however many will fit on your pan).
  8. Center your mooncake press over each ball and press down hard.  
  9. Lightly brush each mooncake with egg yolk (don't do too much or the patter will be harder to see).
  10. Bake for 5-10 minutes, or until the mooncake is yellow.  Remove from the oven, and brush again with egg yolk.  Let the mooncakes sit for 10 minutes.
  11. Return the mooncakes to the oven and bake again until golden brown (12-18 minutes).
  12. Remove and allow to cool.  Mooncakes are best enjoyed a day or two after being baked.

7 comments:

  1. These are gorgeous and I love mooncakes! I've always been way too scared to attempt making them though...you are brave!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! Filling the mooncakes and trying to make sure there were not cracks was difficult, but otherwise they weren't too hard to make (as long as you have pre-made filling). You should give them a try!

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  2. My husband brought me a mooncake this year that was filled with the lotus seed paste, as well as chunks of candies wintermelon, pumpkin seeds and other nuts and seeds. the best mooncake of my life. I also love the ones with the duck egg in the middle - to symbolize the moon. Have you had this type of moon cake?

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    Replies
    1. Mmmm...that wintermelon + seeds mooncake sounds wonderful. I have had the mooncakes with the duck egg in the middle. Both my husband and I don't really care for them (I'm not a huge fan of the texture), although my mother-in-law does. When I get lotus seed paste down, I'll probably make a couple like this for her.

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  3. Replies
    1. Thanks! I really like the molds I bought - I love the flower patterns.

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  4. Wow!! That is so cool Laura! I am always jealous of Kai when I read these posts...so many tasty things to eat!

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