Part of my New Years resolutions are to teach myself more recipes that are either directly from my Chinese heritage or pay homage to them. I've grown up eating mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival so I want to start practicing recipes where I can make my versions of them come October 4th!
For practice mooncakes, I gotta say I learned a LOT! I did a bunch of reading to see how different people make them and to learn more about the process of how they get their silky smooth but still crumbly exterior pastry. This whole treat takes at least 5 days before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor so PLAN AHEAD. I was hoping to have them ready for Chinese New Year but totally underestimated the amount of time it takes for them to "mature". You'll also need to get quite a few ingredients together between azuki beans, glutinous rice flour and kansui, which was the most difficult to find. In the recipe I provided the links to how to make it at home.
Let's start with the filling. Sweet red bean paste is the most traditional when it comes to mooncakes. I opted to make my own and turns out it's pretty easy to make from scratch! I love that I can control the amount of sugar in it vs. the store bought kind. If you want to cut two days from your process then just buy the paste from your Asian store or online.
I purchased my molds on Amazon. They're perfect since they are mini-molds and didn't cost very much. I thought for the pattern variety and ease of use it was totally worth the purchase. The key for mooncakes is to make sure the dough around the filling isn't too thick so that they come out of the mold and then bake/mature evenly.
Another thing that was completely new to me was baking initially until the tops and edges start to brown, then remove from the oven, apply the egg wash and then return back to the oven to finish baking. While there are quite a few new ingredients you'll need, the good news is you'll have plenty left over to make mooncakes for all your friends and family! Recipe below for creating these beauties at home!
Sweet Red Bean Mooncakes
Red Bean Paste:
Makes about 1.5 to 1.75 cups of bean paste. Recipe adapted from Just One Cookbook.
- 1 cup Azuki Red Beans
- 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
- Pinch of salt
. Place azuki beans in a medium bowl and fill with water until it is 1 inch over the beans. Soak overnight for 8hrs-12hrs.
2. The next day, you'll notice that they've become considerably more plump and absorbed a lot of water. Drain, then rinse the soaked beans with cold water twice.
3. In a large saucepan, add beans and fill with water until it is 1 inch above the beans. Keep in mind that beans will grow in size and also continue to absorb water as it's cooking. Place on a high heat and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn off heat. Strain beans and pour out water. This was your first boil completed.
4. Return beans to the pot and fill with water just till it covers it in the pot. Place over high heat and bring to your second boil. Then turn down heat to medium low just so the water continues to simmer. You'll be simmering for at least 1.5-2hrs so pull out a book but don't stray too far. You will need to add water as you go since the water will evaporate. Just make sure you continue to add enough water so the beans are covered. Stir once in a while to make sure they aren't getting stuck on the bottom.
5. After 1.5 hours, check the beans by picking one up with a slotted spoon and pinch it to see if they're soft and mushy. If they are still hard in the center, keep cooking. It took me a few tries before I got the right mushy consistency. You do not want to see any "white" bits in the bean cause that means they're not done cooking.
6. Once beans are mushy, prepare a fine mesh strainer above a bowl and strain any extra water out of the beans. Lightly jiggle the sifter to get the water out. Do NOT press or stir the beans because they will just push through the strainer into the liquid bowl. Keep liquid on the side in case you want to liquify your filling.
7. Place strained beans into a food processor and then pulse until the paste is smooth.
8. Return smoothed bean paste into the pot and add your sugar. Place on medium to medium high heat and start to melt the sugar. This will make your paste VERY thin but don't stop stirring. Keep going and eventually you'll cook off the excess liquid and then get a beautiful thick bean paste. Paste will continue to harden slightly from whatever consistency you stop cooking.
9. Place bean paste into a bowl and apply plastic wrap directly on the paste to avoid it drying out. Cool to room temp then place into the fridge until ready to use.
Mooncake Dough & Assembly:
Makes 10 mini-mooncakes. Recipe adapted from Omnivores Cookbook.
- 1/2 cup red bean paste, room temp
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
- 1/8 cup glutinous rice flour
- 56 grams golden syrup (I use Lyle's brand, found at Whole Foods or Amazon)
- 1/2 teaspoon kansui (or lye water/alkaline solution)
- 20 grams canola oil
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 100 grams cake flour
- 1 large egg yolk + 1 teaspoon water + pinch of salt (this is for the egg wash only)
Make the filling:
1. In a small bowl, combine red bean paste, butter and rice flour with a spatula. Continue to stir until well mixed and incorporated. This should be dough light and easily rolled with your hands. If it's too soft, place into the fridge for 10 minutes to chill and harden so you can work with it.
2. Divide the red bean mixture into 10 balls (about 20 grams per portion) and roll into balls. Place into fridge to chill while you work on the dough.
Make the dough:
3. In a large bowl, add golden syrup and kansui until it is well incorporated together. Add canola oil and mix until everything is evenly blended. Keep mixing until it's as mixed together as possible.
4. Sift in cake flour and salt. Gently mix the dough together with the spatula until it can form a ball. Dough will be sticky but can hold it's shape. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour to the dough.
5. Remove from the bowl and knead a few times with your hands in a folding motion. Cover in plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes.
6. Knead again on a lightly floured surface and then let it rest for another 30 minutes. Dough is now ready to be used.
7. Divide dough into 10 equal pieces. Working with one at a time, flatten and then carefully wrap the red bean filling that has been chilled. Do your best to apply the dough evenly around the filling covering any gaps so you can't see any of the filling.
8. Lightly flour the mold, then place dough ball into the mooncake mold with desired decorative plate. Press down and then carefully remove the mooncake from the mold.
9. Place shaped mooncake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat rolling out dough, wrapping and shaping with the rest of the mooncakes. After completed, place baking sheet of mooncakes in the fridge to chill for 10-20 minutes until the dough hardens slightly.
Baking the Mooncakes:
10. Preheat oven to 360 F. Prepare egg yolk wash by adding 1 teaspoon of water and pinch of salt.
11. Space mooncakes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper at least 1-2 inches apart. These will not spread but you want them to have enough room to breathe.
12. Bake in heated oven on the center rack for 8-10 minutes until the tops/corners start to brown.
13. Remove from oven and quickly apply egg yolk wash. Make sure to only apply a thin layer of wash on the tops so you don't lose the design. Do not get wash on the sides of the mooncakes. You can also go back and clean up the design with a clean brush.
14. Place back into the oven and continue baking for another 9-10 minutes until the egg wash is golden brown.
15. Remove from oven and cool the mooncakes on the baking sheet to room temp. Once cooled, place into an airtight container and let them mature for 3 days. After 3 days you'll notice the oils from the filling come out and create a very soft exterior.
16. FINALLY EAT THEM! :)