If you walk into any Chinese supermarket or grocery store within the past week or two, you are bound to see tins and/or fancy decorated boxes of mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival that’s coming up this Wednesday, September 22nd. (A mooncake is a dense, Chinese pastry that’s usually filled with lotus seed or adzuki red bean paste and barely covered in a shiny, deep golden brown, cake-like crust. It can range in shapes but they are usually circular or square in shape and may or may not contain salted egg yolks.)
Being my daring baking self, I wanted to make mooncakes at home. I told my mom about this and she thought it was brilliant. (Of course, she gets a good share out of my baking bonanzas so she wouldn’t mind being the guinea pig.) Eventually, my mom said she’ll ask her sister (or my aunt) in Hong Kong to send over some mooncake molds and the best lotus seeds she can find since they’re both inexpensive; just shipping the stuff over was expensive. Also, my mom said she wanted me to make this new fad of mooncakes called “snow skin mooncakes” (or literally translated from Chinese “ice skin” mooncake).
Lo and behold a week later, my aunt sent me a box containing ten pounds of pristine, dried lotus seeds and two large wooden mooncake molds. Yes, she is awesome like that. Since I’m kind of clueless as to how mooncakes are made, I asked for advice from a friend of mine attempted (but failed in a way) making them a few years ago. He said make the fillings almost solid and sent me this YouTube video. If you did watch it, the fillings were as malleable as clay even though there isn’t a real recipe.
Thinking about this for a while and Google around recipes to get an idea how to make the darn thing, I made very loose adaptations to this recipe. Some things in his/her recipes don’t jive with my cooking/baking experience that I made this by improvising and I actually made a lot more that I don’t really measure out everything I put into these cakes. So, what you’ll really get is a general guesstimate for the recipes. I know it’s not the most helpful but I hope it gives you some guidance as to what you can do.
As for the snowskin mooncake, I followed their crust/skin recipe but reduced the water by half because I was working in rainy weather conditions over the weekend.
If you have any questions about the mooncakes, just comment below.
All recipes, except for the red adzuki bean paste, are adapted from Cafe Nilson
Lotus Paste Filling
- 2 packages of dried lotus seeds (each package 170 g)
- 2 cups water (or more if needed)
- 200 g sugar (more or less, according to taste)
- 100 – 150 ml peanut oil (I mixed it with melted lard since lard is a traditional ingredient in mooncakes)
- 2 tbs honey or maltose syrup
- 1 tsp lye water
- 1/2 tsp salt
1. Place water and lotus seeds in a pan and boil on medium heat until all water is absorbed and seeds are soft.
2. Place cooked seeds in food processor or blender and process until very fine. Set aside.
3. Heat the wok and melt 5 tbs sugar with a little bit of water (until the water barely covers the sugar) until it turns into caramel color.
4. Add pureed lotus seeds, the rest of the sugar, oil and salt. Stir well. Add in honey/maltose, lye water and mix well. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until dry and paste comes off the sides of the pan. Cool.
Red Adzuki Bean Paste Filling
- 2 pounds of Red adzuki beans
- Water, enough to cover the beans
- About 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar, use to your discretion
- Lard, melted and/or vegetable oil, total of 1/2 cup
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
1. Soak the beans overnight in a large bowl or container.
2. Drain the beans and place it into a large pot and fill it up until the beans are barely covered in water. Boil for 45 minutes to an hour, until it is softened.
3. Drain the beans and place it into a food processor or blender and puree until it’s smooth and creamy. Should be a dark shade of purple when it’s done.
4. Place the puree into a large pan (or wok, I used) and add the sugar and fat/oil. Cook it over medium-high heat until it is thick like Play-Doh and it should turn to a dark red, almost black color. Taste the paste to check if it’s sweet enough for you.
5. Remove the paste out of the pan and into a large bowl. Set aside to cool for at least an hour or until it is at room temperature.
Mooncake pastry or skin
To assemble Mooncake
- 6 raw salted egg yolks
- lotus paste filling, divided and weighed*
- mooncake skin dough, divided and weighed*
- egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbs water)
1. Take a pre-weighed lotus paste ball and wrap over salted egg yolk.
2. Wrap moon cake skin or pastry over the lotus paste filling and press into mooncake mold.
3. Knock out from the mold and bake the mooncakes for 10 minutes at 350F. Remove from oven and cool slightly (about 5 minutes). Brush with egg glaze, then return to over and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
4. Cool at room temperature.**
*Before you start molding your mooncakes, line your mold with plastic wrap and fill it with your paste/mooncake filling since every mold has different volume capacities (my molds were substantially larger than the other bloggers that posted their recipe, hence why I left the fillings and mooncake skin dough without a weight). After you fill up your mold with filling, weigh that block and note how much it is, then subtract about 10 to 25 grams off for your mooncake skin. Try it out and see if they do shape well. If not, adjust accordingly and note it so you can repeat the process for the remainder of your filling and pastry dough.
**The mooncakes are best when left at room temperature for 2 days. This will give the skin time to “mature”. Do not refrigerate or it will get hard. However, they do freeze very well. Thaw at room temperature before serving.