Mid-Autumn is almost here, and I’ve been bitten by the mooncake bug. My recent trip back to Singapore saw me prowling through the mooncake fair at Takashimaya, indulging in this, this and this, and ever since I returned to London, I’ve been missing ’em babies.
The Mid-Autumn festival, celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese, falls on the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunar calendar. It is a time for family to gather to savour mooncakes whilst admiring the moon, which is the fullest and roundest at this time of the year. There are various Chinese legends as to how people came to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, and most are associated with the reunion of Hou Yi and Chang’e on this day. At that time, it was said that there were ten suns, which alternated to bring light and heat to earth. But one day, all ten suns appeared and caused the earth to burn. Hou Yi, a skilled archer, was summoned to shoot down all but one sun, and for his successful efforts, he was rewarded by the Emperor with a pill that would give him immortality. Hou Yi kept the pill hidden, but Chang’e discovered and swallowed it. She then gained immortality, flew to the moon, forever separated from her husband, Hou Yi. It is on the 15th day during the 8th month in the lunar calendar, that Hou Yi and Chang’e would reunite and that is why the moon is said to be the most beautiful on this night.
Since we’re celebrating Mid-Autumn with a group of close friends in London, and I have been dreaming of snowskin mooncakes that aren’t widely available here, I thought I could try to make some. These require quite a bit of effort, I don’t think it’s difficult, but it takes up a considerable bulk of time and patience. So if you would like to try making snowskin mooncakes, make sure you set aside two half-days or a one really long day. You will also need to start off with a very, very good mood.
Mooncakes are traditionally filled with lotus paste, or red bean paste with a salted egg yolk centre, but modern adaptations have seen yam, green tea, chocolate and custard etc coming into the market. The skins are either unbaked (snowskin, somewhat like mochi skin), baked, or deep fried (flaky). I rather like snowskin, so I decided to make Snowskin Mooncakes with Home-made Lotus Paste and White & Milk Chocolate Pink Champagne Truffle. I made the lotus paste first; this is the filling that would be wrapped by the snowskin. I have adapted both lotus paste and snowskin recipes from Amanda, and this is what worked for me.
250g fresh lotus seeds (those with skins and green centres already removed)
150g granulated white sugar
125ml vegetable oil
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 and 1/4 tablespoon condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
8+6 tablespoons drinking water
Makes 400g of lotus paste.
1. Soak lotus seeds for 20 min and drain off the water after soaking.
2. Cook for 3 hours (varies) in boiling water until soft and tender, drain off, and blitz softened lotus seeds in food processor. Add 8 tablespoons of drinking water whilst blitzing to form a thick paste.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and caramelise 75g of sugar on low heat in a non-stick saucepan. If you want a darker-coloured lotus paste, caramelise the sugar to a dark copper colour. Be careful not to burn the sugar, constant stirring is required.
4. Add the blitzed lotus paste, 75g sugar, oil and salt to the caramel, and fry on low heat till it thickens (somewhat like the consistency of slightly runny kaya). If the oil is not taken up by the paste and it forms a layer over the paste, add 1 tablespoon of drinking water at a time and fry until the oil seeps into the paste. (I needed 6 tablespoons). Again, constant stirring is absolutely essential.
5. Add golden syrup and condensed milk and fry till paste is thick and dry enough to leave the sides of the saucepan. It is crucial to stir continuously to prevent the paste from ‘splitting’, where oil seeps out of the paste to form a separate layer. Steps 4 and 5 should take about an hour.
6. Cool the paste and refrigerate (cover bowl with clingfilm) for later use (I used mine over the next two days).
So the tiring part is over, and the fun part comes when you make the snowskin and shape the babies with spring-loaded moulds! Of course the traditional moulds are made of wood, but those are rather difficult to source in London, and I turned to eBaY for modern-day solutions. The spring-loaded plastic moulds are really fabulous – easy to use and clean, hop over to my Facebook Page for a look in one of my photo albums, I’ve uploaded a rather amateurish picture of the mould from my iPhone.
Here’s the recipe for the snowskin:
100g koh fun (cooked or fried glutinous rice flour, store-bought)
100g icing sugar
30g shortening (I used Trex solid vegetable fat), cold
120ml drinking water
Food colouring (I used pink and yellow)
1 tablespoon condensed milk
Champagne truffles (I bought the Prestat ones)
Makes 14 mini snowskin mooncakes
1. Sift koh fun and icing sugar together. Rub in shortening until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2. Mix water, colouring and condensed milk. Make a well in the centre of dry mixture in Step 1, and add in liquid, mixing until a soft, just-combined dough forms. Do not overknead. At this point,the dough should be soft, but not sticky. Rest dough for 10 min.
3. Divide lotus paste into balls of 1-inch diameter. Divide dough into balls of 1 and 1/4-inch diameter. The size of the balls will depend on sizes of mould and the truffle centre. The mould I used was about 4.3cm in diameter.
4. Lightly dust working surface with koh fun. Roll out dough into a flat piece.
5. Wrap champagne truffle with lotus paste, and then wrap this with the flattened dough.
6. Lightly dust the mould with koh fun, pop the dough from Step 5 into the mould, press firmly with fingers to help the dough take shape, and pump out the mooncake. Refrigerate to set, and enjoy them with family & friends!
*If you would like to do the two-toned dough, lay one flattened piece of pink dough onto of one flattened piece of yellow dough. Use a rolling pin to press on them. Roll the combined piece into a swiss roll. Cut the swiss roll cross-sectionally and with the swirly part of the cross section facing up, press down with your palm and roll it out accordingly. Done! If you don’t understand this, drop me a line, and I’ll try to explain.
I thought the mooncakes turned out quite well. The lotus paste was nice and smooth, fragrant with a hint of caramel. The sweetness was nicely juxtaposed with the spiciness of the champagne truffle. The skin was soft too, without being too filmsy or chunky. I made these two days ago, so I’ll update this post to let you know how well the snowskin keeps in the refrigerator.
I hope you enjoyed the post! I most certainly enjoyed making and photographing the mooncakes. Let me know how this recipe works out for you.