Traditional Chinese mooncakes are usually eaten during the mid-Autumn festival when the moon is the brightest and fullest. For me, I have never been fond of mooncakes. I think that the storebought mooncakes that I ate had this aftertaste that felt like I had just eaten a mouthful of lard.
A good friend and mooncake affionado showed me how mooncakes were made and it was an epiphany. Julie's filling weren't too sweet and had a variety of nuts in. In her red bean mooncake, she had incorporated roses from her garden and it was heavenly! She even made a filling with cranberries, pumpkin seeds and a variety of nuts. Who knew?! I now do enjoy eating homemade mooncakes!
My lesson with Julie showed me that making mooncakes was easy and homemade mooncakes could not even compare to store bought ones.
Tips for making traditional Chinese mooncakes.
I learned that mooncakes are made with either a 50 gram weight or a 100 gram weight. This makes the recipe very mathematic...very Chinese! The dough weight is usually half the weight of the filling.
When making the dough, use cake flour instead of all purpose flour. Due to the lower protein level in cake flour, the amount of gluten is less which results in a crumbly, soft textured crust. This also makes it easy to make into a ball when encasing the filling.
Alkaline water is also used in the dough recipe. The alkaline water is said to react with the dark corn syrup, neutralizing the acidity of the syrup which removes the sour taste.
The dough needs to rest for at least 2 hours. 4 hours is ideal, until it is soft and limp! This makes it easier to handle when enclosing the ball of filling.
For this recipe, store-bought fillings are used with add-ins. Add-ins such as nuts and bits of dried fruit can be added to enhance the flavor and texture of the mooncakes. Julie has made some unique fillings such as infusing rose petals into her red bean paste and also make a filling with a five ingredient combination of cranberries, sunflower seeds and nuts.
Roll the filling into a ball before encasing it into the dough. This helps keep the crust fairly uniform around the filling. If the filling seems to be too soft, briefly freeze the filling to harden it slightly so that it is more manageable. These store-bought fillings can be found at Asian grocery stores.
Salted duck eggs are also added to the center of the filling to look like the full moon. Use the same technique as enclosing the filling to enclose the duck egg so that the duck egg is centered in the filling.
The mooncake molds come in 50 gram and 100 gram sizes as well as both square and round shapes. It is best to purchase a set that has both the 50 gram and 100 gram sizes for variety. Mooncakes that have the salted duck egg need to be 100 grams,
Shaping the mooncakes
When shaping the mooncakes, the work surface should be well floured and the dough balls with the filling should also be well floured too to avoid getting stuck in the mold.
When pressing down on the lever to create the pattern, one hand should be holding down the mold while pressure is given. If insufficient pressure is placesd on the lever, the pattern will be indistinct. However, if too much pressure is placed on the lever, the mooncake will ooze out from the bottom!
Baking the mooncakes
Before the initial bake, spritz water onto the mooncakes to prevent cracking.
The mooncakes require 3 bakings. The 1st baking sets the dough. The 2nd baking is the first application of egg wash to get the golden brown color. This is done twice. Between each baking, the mooncakes should cool down before the egg wash is applied to avoid cooking the egg upon application.
After the mooncakes are done baking, cool them completely before placing them in a sealed container or individual bags. Allow these mooncakes to sit for 3-5 days to allow the crust to soften. Enjoy and Happy Mid-Autumn Festival. If you've come up with your own yummy filling creation, please let me know in the comment section.
TRADITIONAL CHINESE MOONCAKES
- 100 grams cake flour
- 60 grams dark syrup
- 30 grams cooking oil
- 1 tsp alkaline water
- water in spray bottle
- 1 egg preferably with a bright orange yolk
Plain Filling Mooncakes
- 360 grams filling This includes the combination of nuts and paste.
Mooncakes with other ingredients (salted egg) and paste
- 6 salted eggs
- paste The weight of the paste and other ingredients (salted eggs) add up to 360 grams.
- Combine wet ingredients into a small bowl60 grams dark syrup, 30 grams cooking oil, 1 tsp alkaline water
- Add the combined wet ingredients into the flour and stir until combined.100 grams cake flour
- Place the dough into a plastic bag and allow to rest for 2-4 hours until very soft.
- Make 6 balls of filling weighing 60 grams each.360 grams filling
- Briefly freeze if necessary to harden the filling, making it easier to work with.
Filling with other ingredients or (salted duck eggs)
- Mix together all ingredients
- If using salted duck eggs, enclose the duck eggs with the same method as assembling the mooncakes. See video
- Preheat oven to 375℉ (190℃)
- When dough is relaxed, remove it from the bag and divide it evenly into 6 pieces.
- On a well-floured surface, roll the dough into 6 balls.
- Flatten each dough with the palm of your hand to form a circle.
- Place the filling in the center and enclose the filling using the technique in the video.
- Flour the filled dough ball well before inserting it into the mooncake mold.
- Press the mold 2-3 times with enough pressure to create the pattern but not too hard so the dough oozes out the bottom!
- Place the mooncakes on a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Spritz the surface of the mooncakes with a little water to prevent cracking.water
- Bake for 7-10 minutes until the dough firms up.
- Make an egg wash by separating the egg into a small bowl.1 egg
- Add ½ tsp of water to the egg yolk and whisk.
- Reduce oven temperature to 320℉ (160℃)
- After the mooncake has firmed up, allow it to cool slightly before applying the egg wash.
- Using a nylon bristle brush, lightly brush the egg yolk onto the mooncakes, ensuring that the ridges of the pattern are prevalent and not drenched in egg. If the crevices have too much egg yolk, dab those areas again to remove some of the wash.
- Bake again at 320℉ (160℃) for 7-10 minutes.
- Remove and cool slightly before applying the egg wash for a second time.
- Apply egg wash again.
- Bake again at 320℉ (160℃) for 7-10 minutes until deep golden brown or the color to your liking.
- Remove from oven and cool thoroughly.
- Place cooled mooncakes in a sealed container or individual bags for 3-5 days to soften the crust.