Mooncakes are one of my favourite childhood food. These cakes are traditionally eaten during Mid-Autumn Festival. There is profound history and tradition behind mooncakes which makes it even more special and nostalgic. Families eat mooncakes together during Mid-Autumn Festival. Relatives and friends will also customarily gift mooncakes as a sign of love and best wishes.
Mooncakes are eaten in wedges alongside tea. Though it may not look like it, these cakes are packed full of fat and sugar. It’s no wonder why it is only eaten once a year.
There are many varieties of mooncakes which can differ by its skin or filling. Popular fillings include salted duck egg wrapped in either lotus paste, red bean paste or mung bean paste. The skin can also differ depending on the traditions of each countries and its associated areas.
The style that I was introduced to (and also seems to be the most popular in Melbourne) is the cantonese-style mooncakes. Cantonese-style mooncakes have the distinct golden cakey skin with various fillings inside.
I have made mooncakes for a couple of years now and am sharing my recipe for red bean mooncakes. Whilst lotus seed is my favourite filling, my mum and partner absolutely love red bean. Hence, this year I’ve decided to make the red bean version.
Stage 1. Making the filling
You can buy filling pastes in asian grocery stores, but a homemade paste tastes so much better and even better yet you can control the amount of fat and sugar that goes in.
- Some recipes suggest to soak the red beans in water overnight. However, I find that this is unnecessary.
- There are many ways to cook red beans. The boil-and-stop method was taught by my mother who learnt it from my grandmother. You can just follow the conventional method to boil and simmer over a long while until beans are cooked.
- Traditionally the fillings are made with lard. However, any solid fat should do the trick and I have chosen coconut oil as it gives the red bean a nice taste
Red Bean Paste
- 2 cups red beans
- Enough water to cover the red beans
- 6 tablespoons of coconut oil
- ⅔ cups of raw sugar
- Give the red beans a good wash. Put the red beans in a pot and fill with enough water to cover the beans.
- Bring the beans to a boil over high heat. Then switch off the flame and leave aside. The heat created will be retained and continue to cook the red beans.
- In 30 minutes, bring the beans to a boil again. Then switch off the flame and leave aside.
- Repeat step 3 until beans are cooked. (usually only requires 3 boils for me). To test if the beans are done, mash a bean with a spoon or your fingers. If it mashes easily, then the beans are cooked.
- Drain the beans and add them to a food processor and process until smooth.
- Transfer the red beans into a pan, add sugar and stir until combined. Cook on medium heat and stir constantly. The residual water from the red bean mix will come out and evaporate over time in heat.
- Add the coconut oil half at a time and mix until combined.
- Keep stirring over heat and you will notice that the mixture will get thicker. Keep cooking until it forms a consistency to your liking or a doughy consistency that sticks to the spoon in one mass when stirring.
- Remove from heat and chill.
10. Form the red beans into 55g balls and leave aside.
Stage 2. Making the Mooncake Skin
I have below two skin recipes. One is the traditional recipe using lye (alkaline) water and the other does not use lye water. Some people are iffy about using alkaline water (“chemicals”), so this is substituted with more golden syrup and oil mixture.
Traditional Mooncake Skin Recipe
(Makes 4x 100g sized mooncakes):
- 55g golden syrup
- ½ teaspoon lye water
- 20g oil
- Pinch of salt
- 100g plain flour
No-Lye Mooncake Skin
Recipe (Makes 4x 100g sized mooncakes):
- 80g golden syrup
- 5g smooth peanut butter
- 25g oil
- Pinch of salt
- 100g plain flour
- Combine golden syrup and lye water (or peanut butter if using the no-lye recipe) in a large bowl and mix together until well combined.
- Add oil and a pinch of salt and mix.
- Add flour onto the mixture and gently fold to mix together.
- Use your hands to lightly knead the dough until well combined.
- Cover with cling wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes
- After 30 minutes, knead the dough for 1-2 minutes. Cover again with cling wrap and let the dough rest for another 30 minutes.
Stage 3. Baking the mooncakes
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
- Divide the dough into 4.
- Take one portion of the dough and roll into a ball. Use a rolling pin to roll out as thinly as desired.
- Place the ball of red bean paste into the dough and wrap together so that the red bean filling is sealed inside. Don’t worry if you see some thin spots in some areas. As long as the filling is inside the mooncakes will turn out fine!
- Roll the final combined dough into a ball.
- Lightly grease the mooncake mould with oil. PLace the ball inside the mould and press out to form a mooncake.
- Carefully take the mooncake and transfer into a baking pan.
- Repeat for all the other dough and balls
- Spray some water onto the mooncakes. This will prevent the dough from cracking
- Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until the dough starts to turn golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes
- Beat an egg, and use a brush to brush a thin layer of egg wash on top of the mooncakes (only the top side). Be careful to only brush a thin layer as the gaps will be covered and the mooncakes will look different.
- Place mooncakes back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
- Take the mooncakes out of the oven and leave them in the tray to cool
- Transfer the mooncakes onto an airtight container and store for 2 days. During this time, the oil from the filling will seep out and make the outside skin shiny. The mooncakes can be eaten from the second day onwards.