September 17, 2013

Lotus Paste & Peach Candy Mooncakes



Thursday is the Mid-Autumn Festival...that means it's time to make mooncakes! Last year, I made mooncakes for the first time and filled them with an easy, pre-made red bean paste filling. This year, I was determined to make lotus seed paste for the filling. Then, because my new mooncake mold was peach-shaped, I decided to add a non-traditional twist and place a homemade peach gelée candy at the very center of my mooncake.

Peach gelée candy.

Last year, I embarked on an epic quest to find pre-made lotus seed paste. When that failed, I decided to make it from scratch. That ended...poorly. My lotus seed paste was grainy, pale, and weird-tasting. Discouraged, I decided to give up and try again in a year.

Looking back, I think my problem was that I was relying on a tiny food processor to grind my cooked lotus seeds into paste. This year, I was gifted a Blendtec blender (thanks, Mom and Dad!), which had absolutely no problem making a smooth paste out of the lotus seeds. I'm sure a less expensive blender would also do the trick - just don't try making this with a wimpy 3-cup food processor.


I stumbled upon a bit of interesting chemistry while reading How Baking Works that helps explain what makes mooncakes, and particularly the mooncake pastry, so special. I was learning about invert syrups, which can be made in small amounts by boiling sugar in the presence of an acid. Invert syrup has special properties - it is good at keeping pastries moist, smooth, and shiny. The "inversion" of the syrup continues slowly even after the syrup cools. As I read this, I realized this all sounded very familiar...the golden syrup used for making the mooncake pastry has some of its sugar "inverted" in this way, which makes the mooncake skin soft and smooth. Also, because the chemical process continues after the syrup cools, it's important to make this syrup in advance (the author of my mooncake cookbook recommends one month). Science: making my pastries more tasty one awesome fact at a time.

Mooncake filled with lotus seed paste and a center layer of peach candy.

These were very, very tasty, although I still think I can improve my mooncake technique quite a bit (the crust should be thinner, darker, and more evenly baked). The peach filling gives these mooncakes a jolt of sweetness that is very different from other mooncakes I've tried. I actually made a couple of them without the peach filling and found that I preferred the sans-peach-version. Others who tried these enjoyed the sweet peach, so if you try this recipe you may want to make both.

I don't know if the lotus paste turned out 100% "correct". It seems to have a stronger flavor than store-bought mooncake - I'm not sure if that's good or bad. I do know that I think it's absolutely delicious, so I'm calling it a success.

Lotus Paste & Peach Candy Mooncakes
(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
1000 grams sugar
500 grams water
3 lemon slices

Method
  1. Heat sugar, water, and lemon slices in a medium pot over medium heat until boiling.
  2. Reduce heat to low.  Cook on low heat without stirring until a candy thermometer reads about 230° F (this will take 45 minutes to an hour).
  3. To check if it's done, drop some syrup into a bowl of water.  It should not disperse.
  4. Remove from heat, pull out lemon slices, and allow to cool.  Store at room temperature. For best results, make this at least a month ahead of time.
Peach Gelée
Adapted from the Peach Gelee Candy recipe at allrecipes.com.

Ingredients
1 pound peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into slices
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons pectin powder
2 cups sugar, divided

Method
  1. Line an 8" x 8" baking dish or cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. Blend the peaches and lime juice in a blender until smooth.
  3. Transfer to a medium saucepan. Add ½ cup sugar and the pectin powder. Mix to combine.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Cook for another 15 minutes, or until the mixture starts to thicken.
  5. Add the remaining 1½ cups sugar and mix. Heat mixture to 205° F, stirring constantly.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish/pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Mooncake Pastry
Adapted from Choong Su Yin's Mooncake Pastry recipe (from Moonlit Mid-Autumn Festival). 

Ingredients
300 grams golden syrup
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).
White Lotus Seed Paste
Adapted from Choong Su Yin's White Lotus Seed Paste recipe (from Moonlit Mid-Autumn Festival).  I've been able to find dried lotus seeds at most Chinese grocery stores. 15 ounces of dried lotus seeds should be plenty for this recipe - just make sure to rehydrate them fully before weighing out the required 600 grams.

Ingredients
1 piece of ginger, about ¼" thick
420 grams vegetable oil
600 grams lotus seeds, rehydrated for at least 6 hours if using dried lotus seeds
600 grams sugar
100 grams milk powder

Method
  1. Go through your rehydrated lotus seeds and remove the small green sprout in the center if it exists.
  2. Smash the small ginger piece a bit (to enhance the flavor) and place it and the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan.
  3. Cook over  medium heat until the ginger floats up off the bottom of the saucepan. Remove the ginger piece and allow the oil to cool.
  4. Cook the lotus seeds in about 8 cups of water until very soft (they should almost be breaking down - about 45 minutes). Add more water if the seeds start to become dry.
  5. Pour the cooked lotus seeds along with the remaining water into a blender. Add the sugar and blend until you have a very smooth, creamy substance.
  6. Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with a small amount of oil. Add your lotus paste and begin to cook over medium heat.
  7. Add the cooled ginger-oil in three additions, working the mixture each time until the oil is fully absorbed.
  8. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the lotus seed paste can hold a shape by itself. To test this, remove some of the paste from the pan and allow to cool for a while. Once it's cool enough to handle, see if you can work it into a ball with your hands. When you can do so without it sticking to your hands, it's done. This took about 45 minutes for me, but the time will depend on how much water is present when you blend your paste. Place the lotus seed paste in a large container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Assembly

  1. Preheat your oven to 375° F.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Using a round cutter or just a shot glass, cut a small circle out of your peach gelée.
  4. 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 (the gelée circle plus lotus paste).
  5. Weigh out your crust and fillings using a kitchen scale.
  6. Flatten out the lotus seed paste and place the peach candy in the center. Work the lotus seed paste into a ball around the peach candy.
  7. Roll your crust into a ball, and then flatten into a disc.  Carefully, push the crust around the peach & lotus 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.
  8. Place on your cookie sheet.  Repeat with about five more mooncakes (however many will fit on your pan).
  9. Center your mooncake press over each ball and press down hard.  
  10. Lightly brush each mooncake with egg yolk (don't do too much or the pattern will be harder to see).
  11. 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.
  12. Return the mooncakes to the oven and bake again until golden brown (12-18 minutes).
  13. Remove and allow to cool.  Due to the nature of the golden syrup, mooncakes are best enjoyed a day or two after being baked.

3 comments:

  1. Yay for moon cakes. Yeah though, I think I will just fork over the cash. I don't think I could bake something with so many steps. Super excited that you did though. These look beautiful and sound really fun to taste.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Gonna try this out!! One question, how big were your lemon slices?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I cut the lemon in quarters and then cut slices about 1/4 inch thick. Let me know how it goes!

      Delete

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