1. Preparing the dough
The first part of this mooncake recipe is to prepare the dough. There are only four ingredients required – golden syrup, lye water, vegetable oil, and plain flour.
Here are the steps on how to make it:
- Measure the amount of golden syrup, lye water, and vegetable oil accurately with a kitchen scale. Mix well.
- Sieve the flour. Add all at once to the above mixture.
- Use a fork or a stainless steel wire whisk to combine all the ingredients. It is hard to mix at the beginning, but after a few stirs, the liquid will start to wet the flour to form a sticky mass. Eventually, it will become a soft dough that picks up all the flour in the mixing bowl.
- Cover the dough with cling wrap. Refrigerate for thirty minutes to let the dough relax. It is more manageable to work with a relaxed dough which is more elastic. As a result, it will not break or crack easily during shaping and wrapping.
Now let’s take a look at each ingredient in detail.
Golden syrup is an inverted sugar. Inverted sugar is a mixture of two simple sugars, i.e., glucose and fructose, as opposed to the regular sugar, which is sucrose. It is prepared by boiling the regular sugar with an acid such as lemon juice until it becomes a thick amber-colored syrup.
I have seen some mooncake recipe use honey, not golden syrup. You can use honey as the substitute, and omit the lye water as honey is not acidic. (Lye water neutralize the sourness of golden syrup). However, the pastry may not be as soft as those made with golden syrup, and the color of the pastry is on the lighter side. It also tends to be slightly sweeter than mooncake that made with golden syrup with the same quantity.
I prefer to use vegetable oil with a neutral flavor, such as corn oil, peanut oil, canola oil, and palm oil. Some people prefer lard, but it has become unpopular recently as there is a concern about the health issue. Moreover, there is a large population here who do not eat pork. Pork-free products are the trend now because everyone in our community can enjoy it.
Lye water (kansui/枧水 )
Lye water is alkaline and therefore neutralize the sour taste due to the presence of acid in the golden syrup. By doing so, we can rip the benefit of the golden syrup that creates a soft pastry without the sour taste.
Lye water darkens the color of the pastry. Increase the amount of lye water if the color of the mooncake is too pale after baking for twenty minutes.
Homemade lye water
Since the purpose of lye water is to neutralize the acid, that means other alkaline ingredients will do the trick if lye water is unavailable. I do not suggest you do so, as lye water is readily available in the Chinese community. However, in the event you can’t find this item, you can use baking soda and water as the substitute.
To do so, bake one portion of baking soda at 175°C/350°F for thirty minutes. Then add four portions of water to dissolve the baking soda. Use this liquid as the substitute for lye water.
Cake flour is ideal for making mooncake. It has sufficient gluten to form the dough but is not too much that will harden the soft pastry.
Since the amount of water varies among different brands of golden syrup, the amount of flour required to form the soft dough is not the same. Because of this, I will add ninety-five percent of the flour to the oil and golden syrup mixture, then add the remainder slowly to the right consistency, if necessary.
2. Prepare the filling
The lotus paste
You can either purchase the ready-made lotus paste or make your own.
If you are willing to spend some time making the lotus paste filling, make your own is the best since you can control the sweetness, softness, and texture. I prefer to head to my bakery specialty shop to get the ready-made one to save time.
Lotus paste is not available in every part of the world, but it is the most commonly used filling for mooncakes. You can also use red bean paste to replace lotus paste for the traditional Cantonese mooncake available online at Amazon.
I have read some recipe with complicated steps to making mooncake, but I promise my recipe is easy 🙂 Look at this equation:
Pastry + Salted Egg Yoke + Lotus Paste = Cantonese style mooncake.
I am using the salted egg fresh from the market since they have everything that I need. You can purchase the salted egg yolk (with the egg white removed) online too.
Here are the steps:
- Clean the salted egg, then crack it open.
- Remove the egg yolk.
- Wash the egg yolk with water to remove the egg white sticking to the yolk. We only need the yolk.
- Use a piece of cloth or kitchen paper towel to pat dry.
- Wrap the yolk with the lotus paste
Although I prefer to wrap the egg yolk with the lotus paste without pre-cook the egg yolk, I have carried out a simple test to validate two methods to cook the egg yolk as suggested by some mooncake recipes.
- 1. Steam the egg yolk with a tablespoon of wine for five minutes. Accordingly, the purpose of the wine is to remove the raw egg yolk smell.
- 2. Soak the yolk with oil, then bake it for five minutes. Drizzle some cooking oil to the egg yolk, mix well and set aside for an hour. This step is to let the egg yolk absorb the oil. Place the egg yolk on the baking tray and bake at 175°C until the surface of the egg yolk starts to turn to lighter color and oil bubbles surrounded the yolks. It will take about five minutes of baking to happen. Since the mooncake is baked at high temperature, the egg yolk will be heated up, and the oil will combine the yolk with the filling. The egg yolk will detach from the lotus paste if the paste you use contains too little oil.
The result :
The result clearly showed that the baked egg yolk separated from the filling. It may be due to I overbaked it, which results in shrinkage of the yolk. The steamed egg yolk seems overcooked a little, while the best result is from the one that was just clean with water and pat dry.
Needless to say, I will neither bake nor steam the egg yolk, which does not show any significant benefits. The salted egg yolk will be cooked as these are mini-sized mooncakes.
3. To assemble the mooncake
Measure the ingredients
The ratio of pastry to filling is critical. A good mooncake should have a thin layer of pastry with plenty of fillings. The ratio should be one part of pastry to two parts of fillings. A skillful chef can use even less pastry to encase the filling.
I use 18g of pastry to 35g of filling. The weight of the filling is the combination of the lotus paste and the yolk. Since the weight of the yolk varies, just put the yolk on the weighing scale and add the lotus paste up to 35g.
Wrap the egg yolk inside the lotus paste
To assemble the mooncake is easier then what is described in most of the recipes. There is no specific technique involved. So you can do it your way as long as the egg yolk is fully wrapped within the lotus paste.
I prefer to use my hand to shape it into a circle with the center slightly thinner than the edge.
- Place the egg yolk at the center. (You can use half egg yolk if you prefer more lotus paste.)
- Wrap the egg yolk with the lotus paste.
- Close the top by pushing up the paste to the top.
- Roll it into a ball. Set aside.
- If you feel that it is too soft to handle, keep it in the refrigerator for a while until it becomes firmer before start wrapping with the pastry.
Wrap the filling with the pastry
Wrapping the filling with the pastry is more delicate than dealing with the egg yolk and the lotus paste. A good quality mooncake should have a thin pastry with consistent thickness.
- One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to roll out the pastry in between two plastic sheets or cling wraps. Roll the pastry to a circle about three times of the dough. You may find a different method of wrapping in other mooncake recipes, which is the individual preference of different recipe developers.
- Remove the cling film on top, fold the pastry towards the filling.
- Pinch away the excess pastry where the pastry is double folded to ensure consistent thickness. You can paste the excess pastry on top where the filling is still exposed.
- Roll the mooncake with your palms to form a ball. This action also ensures the pastry has fully adhered to the filling without gaps in between. Otherwise, the filling may detach from the pastry after baking
4. Molding and baking
Shaping the mooncake
- Roll the mooncake in a bowl filled with some flour. Shake off the excess flour. This step is to ensure the dough will not stick to the mold during shaping.
- Similarly, plunge the piston of the mooncake mold to the flour, and shake off the excess.
- Place the dough on the baking tray.
- Put the mooncake mold on the dough and plunge the piston downward. The dough will take the shape of the mold, and the pattern will be imprinted on the surface.
- Plunge the mold down lightly to the dough repeatedly for at least seven to ten times to get a perfect shape. Otherwise, the mooncake will look lopsided and with a blurred pattern.
Bake the mooncake
- Bake it at the middle rack, 175°C/350°F top and bottom temperature for five to six minutes or until the surface start to firm up. Some mooncake recipes use a different temperature but it is all acceptable. It is essential to let it firm up before removing them to apply the egg wash. Otherwise, it will end up with a blurred pattern.
- Remove the mooncake from the oven and brush the surface of the mooncake with egg wash.
- Use a kitchen paper towel to remove any excess egg wash trapped in the gaps of the pattern.
- Return the mooncake to bake for another ten minutes or until golden brown.
If you find that the mooncake cracks during baking, try to spray some water to the mooncake before baking. It should be only one or two sprays from a distance so that there will be no excessive water lands on any part of the mooncakes.
- Remove the cake from the oven to cool at room temperature.
- Transfer the mooncake to an airtight container and keep for three days. During this period, the oil from the filling will migrate to the thin layer of pasty, resulting in a very soft and moist outer layer.
As I mentioned, this is the basic traditional mooncake recipe. You can add melon seed to the lotus paste, or use red bean paste or five kernels instead of lotus paste as the filling.
The other variation is called Snow Skin Mooncake, in which the process does not involve baking at all. It is entirely a different mooncake recipe which will be discussed separately.