Homemade Snow Skin Mooncakes (冰皮月饼)
I’m continuing my tradition of making my own mooncakes for myself and my family. (Here is last year’s mooncakes post.) The two main reasons why I’m making my own mooncakes is I know what the heck is in them (especially, I’m hearing/reading a lot of preservatives and odd things are getting into manufactured mooncakes recently) and I can make any flavor I want. I know I’m a week or so early for the Mid-Autumn Festival, as it’s on September 12th, but I know I’ll be busy that weekend.
As I have received a lot of emails about this: my large wooden mooncake molds (seen here from last year’s post on my Flickr) was purchased from Hong Kong. I’ve asked one of my aunts to buy them for me and ship it over to New York City since I had a difficult time finding them within the United States. If you do know where to acquire them locally, you may comment below and share your knowledge with others.
Anyway, since my family is open minded with food, my mother requested me to make snow skin mooncakes (pronounced bing pei; 冰皮月饼) that are, for the most part, seasonal along with the typical fillings of lotus seed paste and adzuki red bean paste. Everything made from scratch.
I know when you think egg custard (pronounced lai wong; 奶黃) filling, you’d think of those fluffy, somewhat cake-y, white steamed buns filled with this creamy, sweet egg yolk custard when you go out for dim sum. Well, my mother proposed to make something quirky with that filling and put it into snow skin mooncakes. The results were very good since the filling was the star of this confection. The thin, somewhat sweet skin meets dense, creamy, eggy filling.
Ambitious on my part, I thought, “Why can’t I make mooncakes like ice cream mochi?” Snow skin mooncakes are not too far off from mochi in my mind, except the obvious texture difference. I ended up churning a batch of Valrhona Caramelia Szechuan peppercorn ice cream and stuff it inside the green tea snow skin. The thought process behind it was the sweet, caramelized milk flavor can soften the heat of the Szechuan peppercorns. The subtly bitter, green Matcha tea can work with the sweet ice cream. It tasted good in the end but handling the ice cream was a relative pain because it got soft pretty fast even though I didn’t handle it too long as I was molding it.
That “something seasonal” that my mother requested earlier, I ended up making a purple yam snow skin and filled it with homemade fig paste and almonds. I had a lot of figs in my garden this year and ended up making fresh fig paste. I cooked the figs with brown sugar, some honey, and a splash of aged Cognac; simmered it to the point that it reduced to a rich, thick paste that my entire home smelled like figs and Cognac. (A heavenly scent, I might add.) The purple yam snow skin was simple to make as I bought fresh, bright purple-fleshed yams at my local Asian market, washed and steamed it. Purée it and mixed it with my snow skin mixture with less glutinous rice starch and water, yielding a bright purple dough.
The recipes below are snow skin mooncake and the Caramelia Szechuan peppercorn ice cream. You may adapt the snow skin with different flavors (e.g. green tea, etc.) but if you are thinking of using purple yam, I’d take into consideration of taking out about 10-15% of the glutinous rice flour and water (I weigh my ingredients but given cup measurements for the popularity of this type of measuring). You need to invest on a good scale to make mooncakes in order to make it consistent with the amount of filling to skin.
3/4 cup glutinous rice flour, steamed and cooled
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup vegetable shortening or butter
1/2 cold water, approximately
1 tablespoon matcha green tea powder, optional if you want green tea snow skin
1. Sift the glutinous rice flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl. Make a well and add in the butter and water. Mix with your hands or a spatula until it forms a dough. It should not feel wet/tacky or too crumbly if you tried flattening a small piece on the palm of your hand. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside.
2. General guideline for forming your mooncake, weigh your mooncake mold with and without dough to know how much mass you can work with. Take that weight and use approximately 1/3 as your skin’s weight and the remaining 2/3 for filling. Once you know the weight of each element, divide it up accordingly and form balls.
3. For the skin, take the ball of snow skin and flatten it until it’s about 1/8 of an inch and place the ball of filling in the center. Wrap the skin around the filling until all the edges are sealed.
4. Flour your mooncake mold with glutinous flour (or cornstarch) and knock out excess. Place that formed mooncake ball from Step 3 and press down firmly until it forms a flat surface on the edge of that mooncake. Knock out to remove the mooncake from the mold. (If you need a visual guide this step, this YouTube video gives you the idea.)
Caramelia Milk Chocolate Szechuan Peppercorn Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz‘s milk chocolate and black peppercorn ice cream
8 ounces (230g) Valrhona Caramelia chocolate (or dark milk chocolate that is at least 35% cacao solids), broken or chopped
1 1/2 cups (375ml) whole milk
3/5 cup (120g) sugar
pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups (375ml) sour cream or
2 teaspoons Cognac or brandy
2 tablespoons good-quality Szechuan peppercorns
1. Put the pieces of milk chocolate in a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over the top. Then make an ice bath in a larger bowl (or the sink), that you’ll rest the bowl of milk chocolate within later.
2. In a medium-sized saucepan, warm the milk, sugar, Szechuan peppercorns and salt. Let it steep for 45 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
3. After 45 minutes have elapsed, warm the milk mixture until it starts to simmer. Slowly pour about half of it into the yolks, whisking constantly, to warm them. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof utensil, until the custard thickens and coats the spatula.
4. Immediately strain the custard over the milk chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the sour cream and the Cognac.
5. Rest the bowl of milk chocolate custard in the ice bath, and stir until cool. Chill thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Should the custard get very thick once chilled, whisk it vigorously before adding it to your machine, which will thin it out so it’s pourable.
If you have questions about this process or want me to post any of the above fillings, comment below and I’ll answer or possibly post the recipe, if it warrants enough people requesting it. Good luck and have fun making snow skin mooncakes!
If you would like to see other photos of the snow skin mooncakes I’ve made, please scroll though the slideshow below.
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