Mid Autumn Mooncakes
On the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, Mid-Autumn Festival celebrates the harvest and the moon shines the brightest. Families go out at night with colorful lanterns, eat mooncakes, and gaze at the moon. Mooncakes are round like the moon and they symbolize togethernes and harmony. They are meant to be cut and shared, this way you can try them all!
Mooncakes are filled with a thick, dense paste – usually red bean or lotus seed, but can be filled with anything from black sesame, fragrant green tea, custard, candied pinapple or pomelo, and more! My favorite is this nutty date paste filling! I can't get enough of it!
Two ingredients are essential to making the classic flaky pastry, and these are lye water, an alkaline water that gives the mooncake dough a softness (like fig newtons) and also lends to the pastry's deep golden color. Golden syrup a thick inverted sugar syrup – I couldn't find any, so I tried Trader Joe's maple agave syrup which worked well (maple syrup does not work!)
You can make the filling in advance so that the mixture is cooled down before assembling your mooncakes. Makes around 4 large (3") or 8-9 small (2") mooncakes*. The smaller mooncake molds are also more shallow than the larger molds.
FOR THE FILLING
3/4 cup jujubes (dried red dates), pitted
1 cup water
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp maple agave
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp glutinous rice flour
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
FOR THE PASTRY
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup Lyle's Golden syrup or Trader Joe's Maple-Agave syrup
1/4 vegetable oil
2 tsp lye water
1 tsp lemon juice
"Egg" wash – 2 Tbsp plant milk + 1 Tbsp syrup
PREPARE THE FILLING
In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the jujubes, turn the heat down to medium and cook until they have softened, about 10 minutes.
Skim any foam that rises to the surface and use an immersion belnder to puree until smooth.
Return the pot to a medium heat and add the sugar and syrup, stirring to dissolve. Gradually pour in the vegetable oil, stirring to combine. Sprinkle in the glutinous rice flour, stirring continuously until the paste has thickened. Set aside to let it cool.
When cool, combine around 6 tablespoons of the paste with the chopped walnuts.
PREPARE THE DOUGH
Place the flour and baking soda into a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients one at a time, stirring in between each addition. Knead the mixture well. If it's too sticky, add a little more flour. And if it's too dry and not coming together, add another tablespoon of golden syrup. The dough should feel smooth like a nice pliable pie crust. Place the ball of dough back into the bowl and cover with a cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
ASSEMBLING THE MOONCAKES
Lightly sprinkle flour into the mooncake mold. Break off a ball of dough that will loosely fit about 3/4 of the mold. Because I have some unique shapes like a koi and teddy bear, I like to roll the dough out to about 1/4" thick and place it into the mold like you would for place a pie crust into a baking dish, but with lots of overhang. Add the filling, pressing it in so that the filling nice and compact, and you can create a defined impression in the pastry. Leave a 1/3" space from the top, so that you can wrap and enclose the pastry. When completely closed, the mooncake should be flush with the level of the mooncake mold. If you have a lot of excess pastry, you can trim that off.
Gripping the handle of the mold, flip it upside down. Quickly and firmly rap the top edge of the mold onto your countertop. Do this a few times until the mooncake is released, revealing it's beautiful imprint. Place the mooncake onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Continue assembling until you run out of dough. Lightly brush the mooncakes with the 'egg' wash and bake for 10 minutes for the smaller mooncakes 15 minutes for the larger. Make sure to brush the mooncakes with the egg wash every 5 minutes for a nice, rich glaze.
Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container. These mooncakes will keep for up to 5 days at room temperature (if they last that long!) ;)
*Wooden mooncake molds can be found at Pearl River Mart
Here's the recipe for Snowskin Mooncakes
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