Traditional Mooncakes (月餅)
I have this vision in my head, where you got some Malaysian or Singaporean aunty, in front of computer with bifocals, reading this food post and chuckling to herself thinking “What is that boy doing? The mooncakes won’t turn out good like that, my recipe is better”.
*fade out view of Aunty, walking into the kitchen horizon*
But hey, all I can say is I’ve given mooncake making a really good and honest go. Experimenting with various skins, ingredient proportions, sugar syrups and ways to make homemade fillings. By the time this post is up, I’d probably have made 4kg of homemade fillings and over a hundred mooncakes. 75% of which have been dispatched and redistributed to the friends I’ve hung out with for that week.
My very first batch of traditional mooncakes took 5 hours to finish, but now I can make 10 mooncakes in 2.5 hours. They’re tedious, and I think the one reason why I do it is my stupid need to make something completely homemade and sincere. Down to the fillings, sugar syrup and salted yolks. To read about all the prep work needed to make each individual ingredient, follow the links below. In this recipe post, I’ll only be writing up the actual making and baking of the traditional mooncakes.
I know purists would say mooncakes aren’t mooncakes unless you use lard in them. Lard apparently imparts optimum mouth feel to these delights. But sadly, I’ve tried using lard twice this year and the porky smell was just too strong for me. So lard won’t feature in my mooncake recipe. Mum’s recipe also called for Super Lite Hong Kong Flour, which can’t be found in Melbourne. So I used flour that’s used to make Chinese steamed buns instead.
Truth be told, mooncakes can be easy to make, you don’t have to search the ends of the earth and move mountains to get the ingredients right. Supersoft bun flour can be substituted with plain flour and the painstaking mooncake sugar syrup can be substituted with golden syrup. The fillings can be store bought at many Asian grocers and uncooked salted duck eggs can be bought from poultry vendors at Asian markets. If you don’t have alkali water, omit it. And if you don’t have the molds, make little piggys!
piggy Piggy PIGGYS!!
Aaaaaa… sooo kawaiii!!
I love love eating mooncakes. That’s why I’ve embarked on this crazy mooncake baking saga. I remember when mum baked mooncakes back in Singapore, I’d pop them into my mouth right after they’d come out of the oven. One, two, three… they’d go into my mouth in quick succession, 24 hour maturation phase be damned. My favourite mooncake would still be the traditional lotus seed paste with 2 yolks, with the skin baked and glazed to a shiny golden brown.
But how did my mooncakes turn out? I’ve passed them to many friends. Some of them really really liked them, some were abit ‘meh’ about them, and some didn’t even comment. Ingrates. Personally, I concede that the texture’s quite different from store bought mooncakes. My homemade fillings were softer and wetter, probably because I didn’t cook them till they’re firm. The skins were also quite soft and oddly sticky moist. Getting the salted yolks to cook to the precise consistency also proved challenging. But taste-wise, I honestly loved my homemade traditional mooncakes. Filling, yolk and skin… all of it.
Here, I’ve got two mooncakes, both are traditional skin lotus seed paste with one yolk. The one on the left is from Maxim’s Bakery and on the right was homemade 5 days before. It was a taste comparison between store bought and homemade mooncakes.
You can see the homemade skin’s thicker, not as even and the mold imprint isn’t as immaculate. The homemade lotus paste also isn’t as super smooth and shiny in texture. My homemade mooncakes don’t hold together very well when you cut into them because everything’s soft and moist. But aside from overcooked yolks, I thought they still tasted pretty good. Fakegf’s feedback was the yolks were a fail (overcooked), but the homemade lotus paste was much much nicer to eat because it’s fragrant and not ridiculously sweet. I’ve adjusted the attached recipe to hopefully give better cooked yolks.
The mid-autumn festival is just around the corner now, it falls on 12th September this year. You should think about making the mooncakes yourself rather than forking out a fortune buying them. Buy the ingredients in the morning, make them during the day and you can have homemade mooncakes in your home that very evening!
Foreground: chestnut paste
Background: black sesame and lotus nut pastes
Here, I share with you the recipe that mum’s handed down to me. I will tweak it every year as I bake more mooncakes. They may not have turned out as perfect looking as store bought mooncakes, but they still have made me very very happy… If any of you have tried this recipe, let me know how it turns out, I love feedback!
- Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture
- Slowly pour in sugar syrup mixture, a little at a time and mix well till it forms a dough
- Leave dough aside to rest (uncovered) for 30mins
- Buy whole, uncooked salted duck eggs
- Break and discard the whites, gently wash the yolks clean
- Drain and coat with peanut oil
- Steam the yolks at the lowest possible simmer for 10-15mins. Taste test one. if still undercooked, steam a further 5 mins
- Undercooked yolks remains translucent with a sticky plasticky texture, while overcooked yolk will turn opaque and become rubbery, your aim is to get it crumbly
- Defrost your fillings overnight if it was frozen
- If adding seeds, mix in 30-50g melon seeds per kg of filling
- 1 Egg Yolk
- 5g Mooncake Sugar Syrup
- 1tsp Hot Water
- Knead the rested skin dough (above) till it firms up
- Divide dough into balls, as determined by the mold being used, place on an oiled tray
- Likewise, roll filling (+/- yolk) into balls at predetermined weight, make sure they’re compact balls, place on an oiled tray
- If using salted duck yolks, place yolk on weighing scale first, then add paste to make up the weight of filling required
- Flatten skin dough on palm of your hand, then pick it up and flatten further using your fingertips
- Put ball of filling onto the flattened dough and enclose filling by gently pressing edges until filling is sealed
- Dust the filled dough with flour, put into lightly floured mooncake mold and press in gently
- Knock or piston out the molded mooncake
- Place on baking tray lined with baking paper
- Bake in pre-heated oven at 200ºC for 8 mins
- While baking, prepare the egg yolk glaze (above)
- Remove, glaze, return to bake at 180ºC for 9 mins
- The mooncakes are ready to be consumed 24-48 hours later, the maturation time is needed for the cakes to ‘return oil’ from filling to skin