Took a leap of faith and made my very first batch of mooncakes. Well, the first batch was made from a recipe I read on the newspaper, by some chef at Capella hotel. No offence, but it turned out like crap. Looks like I still have lots to learn, I'll summarize all my learning points at the end of the blog.
Since I've already bought a whole kilo of white lotus paste, might as well try again, so I searched the web for a recipe for traditional mooncakes, (only from trustworthy bloggers this time) and found this recipe from Anhsfoodblog. Turns out quite ok, but I did make some slight adjustments.
Here's what we need:
120g golden syrup
40g cooking oil
160g plain flour
¼ tsp baking soda
white lotus paste
1 egg beaten with a little milk
- Preparing the skin - Combine the golden syrup, cooking oil together. Mix in the plain flour and stir until you have a smooth paste. Cover, leaving the dough to rest for a few hours.
- Filling portion - Big mooncake - wrap 50g : filling 130g Small mooncakes wrap 25g : filling 35g
- Wrapping – this steps requite a bit of practice. Make sure when you wrap the filling, no additional flour is around. Start by flatten dough slightly with your hand, then put the filling ball in the middle. Gently wrap the dough all around the filling with smoothing and rounding motion. Be gentle not to break the skin.
- Shaping – Gently dust the mould with flour, the tap off any excess. Very lightly, dust the ball with a little flour. Press the mooncake ball into the mould. Knock the mould to release the mooncake. Repeat with the rest.
- Baking - Place the mooncakes onto the baking tray, lined with baking paper. Bake them in a preheated 200C oven for 7-10 minutes.
- Take the tray out, and wait until the cakes cool down for 30 minutes. Use a pastry brush, brush a light coat of eggwash onto the mooncake (just the top, don’t brush on the side of the cake). Return the tray to the oven, and bake for further 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
- MOST IMPORTANT - Let the mooncake rest for at least 3 days before consumption. In Cantonese, we called it 出油, where the oil from the lotus paste and yolk would slowly seep into the mooncake skin, making it shiny and soft.
So with that in mind, next year when you are buying mooncakes, please don't ask the vendor if it's fresh, because there's no such thing as a "fresh" mooncake. Freshly baked mooncakes are hard and dry and terrible in taste!
So with that in mind, here are my notes for making home-made mooncakes:
- Prepare early, minimum 1.5 months! As mentioned earlier, you need to keep freshly baked mooncakes for at least 3 days. Also, traditional mooncakes need a special sugar syrup that's made at least a few days to a few months in advance. The sugar syrup would darken over time and the brown syrup would contribute to the rich brown colour of the skin. My dad used to own a bakery and they would make the syrup at least 6 months in advance! Seriously!
- Add salted egg yolk. It doesn't matter if you like yoke or not, you should add it anyway. The oil from the yolk would slowly seep into the skin, adding flavour and improving texture.
- Use good quality paste. On top of flavour, good quality paste also have higher oil content, so again, contributing to the oiling of your mooncake skin.
- Dough should be wet. If your dough is wet and damn difficult to wrap the paste, you probably got it right. They never said it was easy!
- Eggwash - Go easy! If you brush on too much, the delicate pattern on the mooncake would be distorted.
I guess that's it. I've definitely underestimated the complexity of making a traditional baked mooncake. It's so simple yet difficult all at the same time! I would learn from this and make even better ones next year. But seriously, if you aren't a baking enthusiast, it's not worth the effort. Go buy a box and enjoy! Leave all these craziness to the crazy ones. :)
By the way, I'm submitting this very special post to Aspiring Bakers #11: Mid-Autumn Treats (September 2011). Hope all readers enjoy my little post!