It’s mooncake season!!!
We made the salted egg yolks.
Shrimpy made our fillings.
And now, it’s what you’ve been waiting for… time to make the mooncakes!
We are using a recipe from Omnivore’s Cookbook, which I’ve used several times with good results.
We are going to start with a bit of golden syrup. Mine is store-bought – it’s reasonably easy to find online. But if you can’t get that, it’s also possible to make your own golden syrup at home – you just need a bit of time.
Next, add in your kansui. This is lye water – and if you happen to make ramen at home, you might already have some on hand. However, it’s also fairly easy to make at home. All you have to do is bake some baking soda to make it more alkaline, and then mix it with water. I used the homemade version.
Mix those together well, until emulsified.
Next, we’ll add in a bit of oil – peanut or a mildly flavored vegetable oil would work well. It won’t completely combine, but try to blend it as well as possible.
And then your flour. I’m using cake flour here. It makes the dough very tender, but you can also use all-purpose.
And just a little bit of salt.
Gently fold that together until thoroughly combined, then knead it just a few times. Seal it in plastic wrap, and let rest for an hour, kneading it again halfway through.
Next step – filling your mooncakes! If you need some ideas for more traditional fillings, you can check out the post we published last week, where we showed how to make mung bean, red bean, and lotus seed pastes.
If those aren’t as accessible to you, you can pretty much use any sort of filling that will be solid enough to roll into a ball at room temperature, and that is already cooked and safe to eat since the baking time of mooncakes isn’t very long. Bean pastes, lotus seed, black sesame, and nut fillings are common, but I even tried out a mooncake with pumpkin pie filling and it worked out great.
Depending on the fillings you’re using, you may want to take them out early and let them come to room temperature. For me, the mung bean filling really needed to warm up before it was malleable, but the red bean and lotus seed needed much less time.
When you’re ready to make your mooncakes, make a ball with your fillings. If desired, you can carefully form the ball of paste around a salted egg yolk – but note, you’ll have to use a larger press – we’ll talk about mooncake molds in a minute. For small (50g) molds aim for quarter-sized balls; for large (100g) molds, it’ll be closer to the size of a golf ball.
If any of your fillings are too soft, you can form balls and then stick the balls back in the fridge to harden up.
This isn’t as traditional, but you can also have a bit of fun with it. We decided to experiment with che ba mau mooncakes. Che ba mau is a Vietnamese three color dessert, and it’s made with mung beans, azuki beans, and pandan jelly. We already had two of the three flavors, and to make the pandan layer we just mixed pandan flavoring with some of the mung bean paste until we were happy with the color and flavor.
Then we took a tiny ball of each flavor, and layered them before wrapping – which is our next step!
In order to wrap the mooncakes take a small ball of dough. Roll it into a ball (depending on the size of your mold, you may be aiming for a quarter-sized or silver dollar-sized ball), then roll it out. You can use a rolling pin if you’d like, but I found that using my fingers to press it into a thin sheet worked just fine.
Once your piece of dough is nice and thin, wrap it around your ball of filling. Make sure all of the filling is enclosed. Roll it into a smooth ball, and now it’s time to press!
These are the presses I have – the kind where you fit the ball into the mold, and then firmly press down with the handle to shape the mooncakes. The one I have came with two shapes and two sizes, with three patterns each, for a total of 12 different mooncake designs.
There are also wooden molds where you press the mooncake into the mold with your hands.
Either way, if you have trouble with the mooncake dough sticking to the mold, you can lightly dust with more flour before molding your mooncakes. I didn’t have any issues with my plastic molds, but I imagine wooden molds might stick more.
But what if you don’t have mooncake molds and don’t want to purchase any? If you want to form them into shapes, then you could probably press it into a muffin tin or cookie cutters. But honestly, they work wonderfully as balls! Just put your ball of filling and dough on your baking sheet, and continue as is. (We’re henceforth calling these Moonballs!)
If you’re making mooncakes with multiple fillings, you can use food coloring to mark which mooncake is which.
Now it’s time to bake! Preheat your oven to 350F. Place all your mooncakes on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, making sure there’s about an inch of space between them. Then bake for 8 minutes.
While they’re baking, whisk an egg with a pinch of salt for your egg wash.
After 8 minutes, take your mooncakes out, brush them with egg wash, and then put them back in the oven for another 8 minutes.
Once they’re done cooking, let your mooncakes cool completely, and then store them at room temperature in an air-tight container. Technically you can eat your mooncakes immediately if you’d like, but realistically you should let them sit at least 24 hours before eating. If you can hold off, they’re even better after 3 days – the oils from the filling will seep into the dough, and the wrapper will change from crumbly to super soft and luscious.
slightly adapted from Omnivore’s Cookbook
- 56g golden syrup, store bought or homemade
- 1/2 tsp store-bought kansui, or 1/8 tsp baked baking powder mixed with 1/2 tsp water (homemade kansui)
- 20g peanut oil or neutral vegetable oil
- 1/8 tsp salt and a pinch for the egg wash
- 100g cake flour and extra to dust the mooncake dough
- 1 batch of your desired mooncake fillings
- 1 egg
To make the dough:
- Combine golden syrup and kansui in a large bowl. Mix with a spatula until emulsified.
- Add oil and mix again until evenly blended. They will still appear separated, but try to mix as evenly as possible.
- Sift cake flour into the bowl. Gently fold the dough with a motion of scraping from bottom to top, like you are folding a cake dough. Do not stir the dough in a circular motion. It will toughen the dough.
- When the flour is fully combined, shape the dough into a ball. The dough should be soft and a bit sticky but still hold its shape. Slowly add more flour if the dough is too difficult to handle. Gently knead the dough a few times with hands, with a folding motion. Seal with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.
- Gently knead the dough a few more times and place it back in the plastic wrap. Let rest for another 20 to 30 minutes. Then the dough will be ready to use.
To assemble mooncakes:
- Work on the mooncakes one at a time. Scoop 2 tsp dough, roll into a ball, and press into a flat disc.
- Place the filling ball in the center of the dough sheet. Carefully wrap the dough around the filling. Spread the dough until it seals the filling in completely. Try to wrap the filling in a thin, even layer of dough. If you find the dough on some spots is too thick, pull off the dough and smooth the surface. It is doesn’t matter if the dough is so thin that it reveals the color of the filling.
- Dust both hands and the dough with a bit of cake flour. Roll the dough betweens hands so the surface will be dusted evenly.
- Slide the plastic pattern disc into the mooncake mold, pattern side down. Sometimes you need to twist the handle a bit to make the pattern disc slide to the end.
- Carefully place the mooncake into the mold. If you find it difficult to do without scraping off dough, you can gently roll the mooncake to fit into the mold.
- Place the mold on the parchment and press the handle until you cannot move it any further. Pull the handle up and release the mooncake.
- Carefully hold the mooncake without squeezing it, and remove the pattern disc.
- If you find the process too difficult and cannot shape a clear pattern, wrap all the mooncakes first and shape them into balls. Place the mooncake balls onto a large baking tray and seal it with plastic wrap. Place in fridge for 10 to 20 minutes until the dough hardens a bit (do not chill the dough for too long).
To cook mooncakes:
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Place mooncakes on a baking tray, 1 inch apart. Spray a thin layer of water onto the mooncakes to prevent the dough from cracking.
- Bake on the middle rack for 8 to 9 minutes, until the dough toughens and the edges of the mooncakes start to turn golden.
- Meanwhile, beat the egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt.
- Remove the mooncakes from the oven. Brush a thin layer of egg wash on the surface of the mooncakes. Only brush the top surfaces, not the vertical surfaces. If you accidentally brush too much egg wash and it fills up the pattern, use a small brush to clean the gaps and remove excess egg wash.
- Place mooncakes back in the oven and continue baking until the egg wash turns golden brown, about 8 minutes.
- Let mooncakes cool in the tray before removing. Use a spatula to gently push mooncakes to detach them from the baking tray. Transfer to a plate to cool completely.
- Store mooncakes in an airtight container. The mooncakes can be served after 24 hours, and they will look and taste better after 3 days.
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