MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL is also know as Moon Festival because at that time of the year the moon is at its roundest and brightest. Mid Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar. It is the second biggest festival after The Lunar New Year in China. During this Festival, people give family, friends and colleagues mooncakes. The treats are traditionally filled with an egg yolk embraced by lotus seed, red bean or five varieties of nuts and seeds. My favorite one is the lotus paste. The stories behind mooncakes are quite interesting too —- besides the legend of “Chang’E Flying to the Moon 嫦娥奔月”, the most well-known one is “Wu Gang Chopping Laurel Tree on the moon”.
I was a little late making mooncakes this year. I was supposed to make them two days before the festival as the mooncakes normally need to rest for 2 days to get the best texture. These cakes are high in calories, sugar and preservatives, so I decided to make them myself to have a healthier version. Although it was quit a lot of work to make the lotus paste (took almost an hour to stir the paste in the pan), using the mooncake press/mold was quite fun. The paste should be made one day ahead of time and keept in the fridge.
HOW TO MAKE LOTUS PASTE:
Grape Seed Oil/Olive Oil
- Soak Lotus Seeds in water for 30 mins.
- Make sure to remove the green bitter tasting germ inside the seeds (if any) and discard any seeds in dark brown color, drain water. Pour new water into a pot to cover all lotus seeds and bring to a boil, turn down fire and simmer until tender. (picture 1)
- Discard water but save ½ cup. Transfer lotus seeds into a food processor, add ½ cup of the water from the pot and grind into a smooth paste. Pass through a fine sieve if you want the finest texture. (picture 2)
- Heat up a non-stick pan, melt half the sugar until it turns brown in color. (picture 3)
- Add in blended lotus seeds, remaining sugar, salt and 1/2 of oil. After the paste soaks up all the oil, add the remaining oil. Stirring all the time until the lotus seed paste gets thickened. (picture 4)
- Stir in honey and condense milk. (picture 5)
- Continue stirring till paste leaves the side of the pan. (picture 6)
- Keep in the fridge overnight before using it.
HOW TO MAKE MOONCAKES:
100g All purpose flour
70g Golden Syrup
2ml Alkaline water
25ml Grape seed oil
500g Lotus Paste (see recipe above)
6 Salted Egg Yolks
1 Tbsp Rose-flavoured cooking wine (玫瑰露酒)
1 Egg (for egg wash)
(I’m using a 63g mold and the dough/filling ratio is 3:7, you can also work with the 2:8 ratio)
- Mix salted egg yolks with wine. Wipe dry the yolks with kitchen paper after a few minutes. Cut each into two halves. Set aside.
- Place golden syrup in a bowl. Add in alkaline water, stir to combine. Add in oil and mix well.
- Add flour in to the syrup mixture and combine well. Gently knead the dough till smooth (takes 1~2 mins). Shape it into a round ball and wrap with cling wrap. Leave it in the fridge to rest for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Before making mooncakes, bring the dough to room temperature for 30 mins. Divide dough into 12 equal portions, each weighs 19g (based on a 63g mold and the dough/filling ratio 3:7). Roll each portion into a ball shape. Divide lotus paste into 12 equal portions as well, each weighs 39g, the salted egg yolks are roughly 5g each half. (Picture 1)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare the egg wash by whisking the egg, sift through a fine sieve.
- Take a lotus paste ball and poke a hole in the middle with your finger. Place egg yolk inside. (Picture 2).
- Flatten each dough into a small disc with a rolling pin. (Picture 3)
- Wrap it around the filling and shape it into a ball. (Pictures 4 and 5)
- Lightly dust the wrapped dough with some flour. Place it in the mooncake mold. (Picture 6) and press the mooncake out (Picture 7). Place mooncake on a baking tray line with parchment paper. (Picture 8)
- Spray some water on the mooncakes. (Note: this step prevents the mooncake from cracking during baking.)
- Bake in the preheated oven for 10 mins. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 15mins (this step helps stabilizing the pattern on top).
- After 15 minutes, brush the top with very little egg wash (too much egg wash, the pattern will disappear after baking). Return to oven and continue to bake for another 6 mins. (Picture 9)
- Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes, brush the 2nd layer of egg wash (very little egg wash) and return to oven and continue to bake for another 6 mins or until golden brown. Since every oven works differently, please check and make sure the mooncakes are not over browned).
- Leave mooncakes to cool completely and store in air tight containers. Wait for 2 days before serving, the skin will become soft and shiny, called “回油” in Chinese.
It is best to enjoy these with a cup of hot Chinese tea!