Traditional baked mooncakes, a Chinese bakery product, are usually eaten during the Mid-Autumn festival. This festival is also known as the Moon Cake Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie 中秋节 ), because a special kind of sweet cake (yue bing 月饼) prepared in the shape of the moon and filled with sesame seeds, ground lotus seeds and duck eggs is served as a traditional Chung Chiu delicacy. Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunar calendar every year, when the moon is at its brightest for the entire year (falls on 27 September 2015 this year) and it is the third most important Chinese festivals.
Today, Chinese people celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival with dances, feasting and moon gazing. Children are then told the story of the moon fairy living in a crystal palace and will come out to dance on the moon’s shadowed surface on this day. Mooncakes are regarded as an indispensable delicacy on the occasion and are offered between friends and relatives when celebrating the festival. To accentuate the brightness of the moon, people traditionally light up lanterns of all kinds during the festival.
There are indeed many varieties of mooncakes available today. However, my favourite mooncake would still be the simple traditional baked mooncakes filled with lotus seed paste and 1 egg yolk or better still, 2 egg yolks with the skin baked and glazed to a shiny golden brown. The salted egg yolk in the middle of the mooncake symbolizes the full moon. These mooncakes are quite filling and they are usually cut diagonally into small wedges and shared.
Typical mooncakes are round or rectangular in shapes. They are rich, heavy and dense unlike most western cakes and pastries which are normally light and fluffy. Mooncakes are enjoyed in small wedges accompanied by freshly brewed Chinese tea. Traditional mooncakes have an imprint on top comprising the Chinese characters for “longevity”, “harmony” or “prosperity” as well as the name of the bakery and filling in the moon cake. Imprints of a moon (月亮), a woman on the moon(嫦娥), flowers(花), vines(藤), or a rabbit(玉兔) may surround the characters for additional decoration.
Traditional Baked Mooncakes 传统烘月饼
- 250 gram golden syrup
- 80 gram oil, preferably to use peanut oil
- 8 gram alkaline water, lye water
- 240 gram all-purpose flour, (A) added to the golden syrup
- 120 gram all-purpose flour, (B) added after 4 hours
- 1 kg lotus seed paste, homemade or store-bought
- 50 gram melon seed, slightly toasted
- 9 Salted egg yolks
- 1 egg yolk, beat and sift
- 1 tbsp water, beat and sift
- 1 - 2 mooncake mould, Any mooncake mould of your choice. My mould is 170g
- Start by making the mooncake skin. Prepare all ingredients needed to make the pastry.
- In a large bowl, add in golden syrup.
- Add in peanut oil.
- Followed by alkaline water.
- Whisk together the golden syrup, alkaline water and peanut oil until well blended.
- Next, add in the all-purpose flour (240 gram).
- With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir to combine all ingredients. Do not over-stir.
- Cover with a cling wrap and set aside for 4 hours.
- Next, clean salted egg by first removing the black charcoal from the egg.
- Then rinse egg under running water.
- Crack the cleaned salted egg to remove the yolk. Repeat the same with the rest of the eggs.
- Then baked the salted egg yolks in a 175 degree C preheated oven for 5 minutes. Set aside when done.
- Next, roast melon seeds in the preheated oven for 5 minutes.
- Mix the roasted melon seeds into the lotus paste. Lightly knead to combine the melon seeds into the paste.
- Roll lotus paste into a log, divide into 9 equal pieces about 110g each and roll into balls.
- Then make the dough skin by mixing the set aside dough with the all-purpose flour (120g).
- Gently knead the rested dough just until it comes together and firms up.
- Divide the dough skin into 9 equal pieces, each about 45g. Roll each portion into a small ball shape.
- Now we are ready to assemble the mooncakes!
- First, take a lotus paste ball and poke a hole in the middle with your finger. Place the baked egg yolk inside.
- Roll and shape into a ball.
- Flatten skin dough on palm of hand. Then flatten further using your fingertips. Put lotus paste ball onto the flattened dough and enclose filling by gently pressing edges until filling is sealed.
- Gently push, press and squeeze the dough, holding the ball securely in your palm, until the dough skin gradually covers the lotus paste ball. Repeat this step to finish the remaining dough skin and lotus paste balls.
- Dust a little flour on the mooncake mould.
- Place the stuffed round mooncake into the mould. Turn it UPRIGHT on the surface. Then press the plunger down until you feel resistance.
- Lift the mooncake mould off the surface and use the plunger to push the mooncake out. Repeat the same with the rest of the wrapped lotus paste balls.
- Alternatively you can use a traditional wooden mooncake mould. Lightly floured the wooden mould.
- Dust lightly the filled dough with flour, put into the lightly floured mooncake mould and press hard and flatten the dough so that the shape conform to the mould.
- Gently knock a few times to dislodge the moulded mooncake.
- And we're done!
- Transfer the moulded mooncakes onto a baking sheet.
- Preheat oven to 200 degree C. Place the mooncakes in the preheated oven to bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove the mooncakes from the oven and leave to cool on wire rack for 5 minutes.
- Lightly brush as thoroughly as possible the top of mooncakes with beaten egg yolk.
- Then bake in the oven for another 10 minutes or till golden brown. And we're done!
- Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Then store in air-tight container for 2 days.
- The mooncake skin will become soft and shiny in 1 or 2 days time.
- At this point, it's meant to be enjoyed. Great to serve with a cup of freshly brewed chinese tea. Enjoy!