Moon cake, or yuebing, is a quintessential food for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Because of its roundness, it symbolizes family reunion and togetherness. The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, which is on Sept 13th this year.
– The ration of filling to dough is usually between 2:1 to 3:1. The moon cake mode I used is for 4.4 ounces moon cakes, so I make the filling ball to be 2.6 ounces, and the dough to be 1.8 ounces. You could change the proportion, as long as they add up to be the same as the moon cake mold’s weight.
– Each ingredient serves a purpose. For an instant, golden syrup is one of the main elements that help the moon cake skin to be soft, chewy, and shiny. And, lye water gives moon cake its golden color.
– The filling needs oil in it. I saved at least 4 hours by using a premade sweet red bean paste. But the paste does not have any oil in it, so I added additional oil in it. Moon cakes need the oil from the paste for the skin to become soft and shiny.
– To prevent cracking, always cover the dough and the unbaked moon cakes with a plastic wrap. And spray the moon cakes with water before going into the oven.
– Do not eat the moon cakes immediately. Baked moon cakes need to be stored in an airtight container for two days before serving. The moon cake skin will become soft, chewy, and shiny; and the color will deepen, after two days. In Chinese, we call this process, 回油 huiyou. It literary translates to “return oil.”
Makes: 12 moon cakes, 4.4 ounces each
Prep Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
1 moon cake mold, 4.4 ounces (it can be purchased online or in Chinese supermarkets)
2 baking trays
2 sheets parchment paper
1 mist spray bottle
1 small pastry brush
2 cooling racks
3/4 cups golden syrup (honey is a great replacement) (golden syrup can be purchased online)
6 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon lye water (sell in Chinese supermarkets)
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 pounds sweetened red bean paste (fine)
1/4 cup of peanut oil
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of water
To make the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, add the golden syrup, peanut oil, lye water, mix well. Then transfer in sifted flour and knead until you don’t see any flour anymore, for about 3 minutes. Wrap it up with a plastic wrap, and let it rest for 2 hours.
To make the filling:
In a pan, transfer in the red bean paste, and half of the peanut oil, and continuously stir over low heat for about 3 minutes. Then pour in the rest of the oil, and stir until thoroughly combined for about 9 minutes. The paste should feel thick and heavy like peanut butter texture. Transfer the paste to a plate. Wait until cool for about 1 hour. The filling will become harder after it’s cooled down. You could also chill it in the fridge.
As an alternative, if you want to make the filling from scratch, first soak 1 1/2 pound of azuki beans in water for 2 hours to overnight. Rinse and drain.
Then, in a pot, add 3 cups of water, bring to a boil. Add the beans and cook on low heat for 2 hours until they become mushy. Add 1/2 cup of water every 30 minutes until done. To thicken the sauce, turn on high heat and cook for about 15 minutes, constantly stir. At this point, the liquid should have almost dried out. Pour in 1 cup of sugar. Use an immersion blender to blend everything until smooth. Then follow the above step, by adding the peanut oil in the paste.
To make the filling balls:
Take out 2.6 ounces of filling. Measure the exact weight with a scale. Form a ball with your palms. Put it on a plate. Do the same with the rest of the filling.
To make the dough balls:
Take out 1.8 ounces of dough. Measure the exact weight with a scale. Form a ball with your palms. Add a small amount of flour if the dough is sticky and hard to handle. Put it on a plate, and cover it with a plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Do the same with the rest of the dough.
To assembly the moon cakes:
Lightly dust the working surface with flour. Take a dough ball and pat with your palm into a disk, about 3 inches in diameter. Add a filling ball in the center. Wrap the dough around the filling. Bring edges up to cover the filling completely. Roll it into a ball.
Dust the ball with flour. Place the ball in the mold. Gently flatten it until it fills the mold.
Put the mold on a parchment-lined tray, press the stamp down, and slowly lift the mold to release the moon cake on the tray. Immediately cover with a plastic wrap to prevent drying out.
Repeat with the rest of the dough and the filling.
Spray the moon cakes with water and let it rest for 30 minutes. This will prevent the moon cakes from cracking. Cover with a plastic wrap.
To make the egg wash:
In a bowl add an egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water. Whisk until combined. Sieve the egg wash. Set aside.
To bake the moon cakes:
Spray the moon cakes with water again before baking.
Bake in the middle rack of a preheated oven under 400°F (204°C) for 5 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes. Lightly brush the egg wash on the moon cake all over. Don’t brush the egg brush while it’s still hot, or add too much on it, as it might destroy the patterns on the moon cakes.
Return the moon cakes to the middle rack of the oven, and bake under 375°F (190°C) for another 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven. Wait until cool for about 30 minutes. Then transfer to a wire to cool down completely for another 2 hours.
Store in an airtight container for 2 days before serving.