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Chinese mooncakes - Happy Mid Autumn Festival !

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txfarmer's picture
txfarmer

Chinese mooncakes - Happy Mid Autumn Festival !

This year Chinese Mid Autumn Festival falls on 9/22, Wed, even though it still feels like high summer here in Dallas, I have been making traditional mooncakes to mark the occasion.



 


Traditionally, it''s a holiday for people to gather with loved ones. The round moon symbolizes "togetherness" and "family". My parents are in Seattle, while my husband's family is all the way in China, so we can only celebrate with them spiritually.



These mooncakes in the picture are of "Cantonese" style: the dough was kneaded then filled with various fillings (usually sweet), pressed with a special mold with different patterns for the top surface, then finally baked. The process of making them was long and tiring since I had to do everything from the scratch, while in China one can often buy the fillings or other ingredients readily made. It took me a whole day to make 40+ of them, with 3 different fillings: red bean paste with salted egg yolk, chestnut paste with salted egg yolk, and finally coconut cream.




The hard work was worthwhile though since we took them to my parents' home in Seattle last weekend, and had an early celebration there. My husband made very nice packaging for these so they don't get destroyed during the trip.




While in Seattle, I also made a batch of "Suzhou" style mooncakes. They have a different wrapper than the ones above, laminated similar to danish dough, and the filling is often savory. Here we used grounded pork and salted cabbage.



Comments

Franko's picture
Franko

Wow! Just gorgeous looking pastries you've produced there for your family celebration Tx. When I lived in Vancouver I  frequently visited some of the excellent bakeries in Vancouver's Chinatown, marveling at the variety of exquisitely made jewel-like small pastries they had to offer. These ones that you've made are every bit as perfect.


Very high level work, and as usual great photography!


Franko

breadme's picture
breadme

Those look great.  My mom once tried to make them out of a newspaper recipe and the dough was crunchy for some reason.  At this time I have no idea what the dough recipe was like.  Any chance of getting yours?


 


Thanks!

Franko's picture
Franko

It'd be greatly appreciated if you wouldn't mind sharing your recipe for the pastry, but I'd really like to know how you do the salted cabbage and pork filling as well.


All the best,


Franko

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Dear txfarmer, I am interested in your pastry recipe too, and also, where you purchased your molds! Your mooncakes are so pretty & I've never seen anything quite like them. Thanks, from breadsong

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Thanks for taking the time to share your recipe and method for these lovely cakes. Molds like you have will be hard to find, but maybe someday I'll happen upon some!  Regards, breadsong

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

David

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Perfect to celebrate a lovely holiday, Txfarmer.  I hope you saved a few for you and your husband to share tomorrow.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Beautiful work!


Eric

txfarmer's picture
txfarmer

I didn't post recipes in the original post since these things require hard to find equipments and ingredients, but since several of you requested, I will post them here. Be warned, it's a long and tedious process to make either style of mooncakes, and takes a lot of practice to get it right.


Cantonese Style mooncakes


-wrapper dough


AP flour, 100g


syrup, 70g (see notes)


oil, 30g


Alkaline water, 2g (see note)


custard powder, 2g


-filling


anything you want, traditionally red bean paste, lotus seeds paste, etc.(see notes)


-method:


see this post for a good illustration: http://www.anhsfoodblog.com/2010/09/baked-mooncake-with-salted-yolk.html (see note)


- notes:


1.The link above says you can use store bought golden syrup, I don't agree. The texture of the syrup would greatly affect how the mooncake looks and tastes, even how difficult to make them, so I either use the mooncake syrup from China (only available there around mid autumn festival), or make my own. 400g sugar + 180ML water + 50ML lemon juice, cook on very low heat until thick and brown, about 40min to 1 hour, the consistency should be similar to honey. Keep for at least one week before using for the flavor to settle, you can even make a batch and use it for two years.


2. The link above says Alkaline water(枧水) is available at Asian stores, it's true for cities like Seattle, but not for Dallas where I live. I had to buy "edible alkaline" (食用碱, white powder in little bags also found in Chinese market, note that they are different from baking soda or lye), mix with water with the following ratio: 1 part edible alkaline + 3 part water. Unlike what the link says, you can NOT skip this, it's there to offset the acidity in sugar syrup, without it, your mooncake dough would be dry and crack.


3. The link says you can buy fillings, well, it's true if you live in China - around mid autumn festival time, otherwise I don't think any of the paste in the market would work. They will be too oily, or too dry, or too wet. If the filling is not of the right consistency, the mooncakes would not taste good, more importantly, it would be very different to wrap. It's an art to make those fillings. YOu first make a paste (let's say red bean), then you use a cheese cloth to "wash the paste" 3 times - which means you add a lot of water to the paste, so the small particles can dissolve in water and go through the cheesecloth, while the larger particles like skins would be filtered out. After 3 times, you can a very wet/liquid but very smooth paste. Now you add 10-20% fat (use lard for the best flavor) and 10% sugar, in a nonstick pan on very low heat, cook until most of the water evaporate, and the paste is not sticking together. Don't cook it too dry, it will crumble while you wrap; don't leave it too wet, it wont' hold shape; don't add too much oil/fat, it will seperate from the skin during baking.


4. The link showed wood mould from ebay, I used small plastic ones I bought from China. The plastic ones are easier to use (less sticky), cuter, and uses interchangable surface piece with different patterns. My mould is also much smaller - each mooncake is 50g, while the one shown in the link is much bigger.


5. The ratio of wrapper to filling should be 3:7 or 2:8(for me it means 15g dough+35g filling, or 10g dough+40g filling), 3:7 is easier to make since there's more dough to wrap the filling, but 2:8 would taste better. Don't go above 3:7, the cakes would be too doughy.


6. The process of wrapping the dough around filling ball seems impossible at first, but after enough practice, it's entirely possible to wrap it evenly around the filling, especially with 3:7 ratio. Skilled bakers in China even make 1:9 ratio, which means only 5g of dough wrapped around 45g of filling, however that takes a lot of skill AND perfect filling consistency and dough. You need to be patient, slowly pushing the dough around the ball of filling.


7. You can NOT eat these cakes straight out of oven, it needs to "oil up", which means for the oil/fat in the dough/filling to permeate through the cakes. The surface of the cakes would look dry at first, after a few days, it would look shiny and smooth like in the pictures. The "oil up" would take 3 to 7 days depending on your dough recipe and everything else (syrup,etc).


Phew! Now you know I didn't lie when I say it's a long and tedious process! Even the most dedicated Chinese home bakers won't make these often, only once a year.


The Suzhou style ones are a tiny bit easier since you don't have to worry about syrup and Alkaline water(枧水), but then you have to laminate the wrapper dough ONE BY ONE! I will post the recipe/process in a seperate post if anyone is really interested. BTW, I don't have recipe for the pork/cabbage filling since I don't cook like I bake, I kinda just throw everything together guided by experience. It's basically a mixture of grounded pork, preserved salted cabbage (again, a specialty food in Chinese market, in little bags), soy sauce, chinese cooking wine, salt, pepper, oil.

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Tidious work, huh txfarmer? we get to enjoy the sight of these delicacies while we sit comfortably, thanks to you..


Beautiful Cakes!


khalid

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

from a fellow chinese in HK. I never expected to see mooncakes on TFL, let alone home-made ones in te US!! Do you make these every year? I don't have any mooncakes at home so I shall feast my eyes on yours :)

txfarmer's picture
txfarmer

I only started baking two years ago, so yeah, "sort of" made those every year so far. Probably not next year though, too much work.

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

I must say that looking at these and this post so late in the evening, your creations reminded me of the beautiful full moon that came up in the eastern sky----hence, Moon Cakes.  I was lucky enough to taste some of these after a client sent me to Hong Kong and Singapore (majority of population, around 80% are of Chinese extraction).  They are delicious.  I particularly liked the bean paste.  Did you have to make the bean paste by scratch, as well?  If it is your pleasure, would you please share that recipe.  The commercial variants are really, really dry for my liking.  Beautifu Moon Cakes, and thank you for sharing them with us.  Shashene.


Bernie Piel

txfarmer's picture
txfarmer

I did make them myself, it's very time consuming and tedious, take dry red bean (small ones from Asian market), cook until mushy, smash with whatever tool into rough paste, then following what I pasted above in recipe section to get the smooth texture:


---------------


3. The link says you can buy fillings, well, it's true if you live in China - around mid autumn festival time, otherwise I don't think any of the paste in the market would work. They will be too oily, or too dry, or too wet. If the filling is not of the right consistency, the mooncakes would not taste good, more importantly, it would be very different to wrap. It's an art to make those fillings. YOu first make a paste (let's say red bean), then you use a cheese cloth to "wash the paste" 3 times - which means you add a lot of water to the paste, so the small particles can dissolve in water and go through the cheesecloth, while the larger particles like skins would be filtered out. After 3 times, you can a very wet/liquid but very smooth paste. Now you add 10-20% fat (use lard for the best flavor) and 10% sugar, in a nonstick pan on very low heat, cook until most of the water evaporate, and the paste is not sticking together. Don't cook it too dry, it will crumble while you wrap; don't leave it too wet, it wont' hold shape; don't add too much oil/fat, it will seperate from the skin during baking.


 


 

EvaB's picture
EvaB

and from your post with the recipe really difficult to get just right. So will not attempt them but will hope for a trip one year to Vancouver BC, and China town to get some good ones.

txfarmer's picture
txfarmer

Every year even I am tempted to just buy the Cantonese ones since it takes so long and so much work to make, but every year to give in and make them myself - then regret and swear never again! :P

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

So beautiful.... I remember reading about these cakes in a story.  The book was given to me by a friend.  Now I know why the characters loved them so much.


Sylvia

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

afraid I'll have my hands full fixing some of the eggplant recipes I received.  But, really, thank you very much for taking the time to share this, TXfarmer.  It looks a little complex but, I'm sure it's worth it.  Yours looked divine.


Bernie Piel

girlswear's picture
girlswear

I've totally forgot about mid autumn festival!! I haven't any mooncakes for ages!!!!!!!!!


I definitely have to try this.


Will have to get a mooncake mold somewhere though...

Richard L Walker's picture
Richard L Walker

I can see why one wouldn't make  these all the time, but they are so  gorgeous.  I can see why you also take  care  to give them a pretty wrap when giving them  to others.  Wow.

Party_Cat's picture
Party_Cat

Definitely couldn't have said it better, Richard. Those mooncakes are positively lovely. It certainly looks like much time and effort was put into not only making these cakes look pretty, but delectable. The glaze give these desserts a really nice touch. I'd place bets that one couldn't replicate this in under an hour. Lookee here, folks -- this isn't something you're going to find in vending machines. Although, that would be pretty awesome. ;) *drool*. Desserts like these take time and patience. 

Thanks for sharing these lovely photos! :)

maggie664's picture
maggie664

Could anyone submit a recipe for moon cake pastry which is more like a skin rather than one that resembles shortcake, please. Thx, maggie664

Truc Quyen's picture
Truc Quyen

Hi, I love this kind of cakes so much . I tried your recipe last night. just have 3 questions? how many gram of  flour do you put in 300 gr of green  bean(raw )?

do you spray  water over the cake before or after bake it? do you put salt in your filling ?

thanks so much for the recipe , your cakes look so wonderful. have a nice weekend.