We also ordered more pizza delivery than ever, because after spending so much time tweaking recipes and experimenting in the kitchen, we were too tired to cook dinner. I think I made more than ten batches, a small quantity per batch of course, until I lost count. While I was making the final batch to finish up this post, I was still baking them one at a time, to determine the best oven temperature and the perfect egg wash recipe. We ended our mooncake project yesterday with a bottle of champagne and two thick cuts of prime steak.
Why go to so much trouble when there are literally hundreds of mooncake recipes online? The reason: I really wanted to find a way to make all the ingredients from scratch, to allow anyone who wants to make fresh mooncakes and enjoy Mid-Autumn Festival, regardless of access to an Asian store. The truth is, among the four ingredients in mooncake dough, there are two — golden syrup and kansui, that you might have never heard of, and they can be difficult to acquire. A quick introduction, golden syrup is also called inverted sugar syrup.
It is an amber-colored syrup made from sugar, but has a much richer texture and a deep aroma than a simple syrup. It also contains acid, which is a requirement for mooncake making. It is often used in Asian pastries and ramen noodles. It adds a yellow color to dough like making egg noodles without egg. It acts a bit like baking soda, as it keeps the dough fluffy and moist, but without introducing too much gas.
Most recipes suggest you purchase golden syrup online and purchase kansui in an Asian store. However, golden syrup is quite pricey and kansui is only available at large Asian markets.
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On the other hand, these two ingredients are very cheap and easy to acquire in China although most Chinese people have never heard of them , so there is very limited literature on how to make them at home and how to use them in mooncake recipes. Mooncakes require very accurate measurements, and a single small tweak will change the results significantly. Say you follow a very precise recipe, one with ingredients measured in increments of one gram. Since there are different formulas of golden syrup and kansui, you could get different results than intended, even if you follow the recipe a hundred percent.
You need to be accurate but also stay flexible when needed. I read many things online and did a lot of research around these two ingredients — golden syrup and kansui. I have tested numerous recipes with both store-bought and homemade ingredients. I also tested the combination of store-bought and homemade. They all work and and can create delicious mooncakes. And now you can learn do the same, using this recipe.
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I picked a nutty black sesame filling and egg yolk as the mooncake filling for this recipe. The sweet and nutty sesame paste is a delicacy and goes perfectly with the egg yolk. There are not so many recipes for it online because most people buy the paste pre-made , so I developed it myself.
It generates a paste with a silky texture and great flavor.
It uses butter instead of lard, but the mooncake still holds its shape. This recipe is just one possibility that I discovered along the way while cooking. Here are some cooking notes that I gathered from other sources and verified in my kitchen. Please note, not all the points are related to this recipe. I wanted to share them anyway, because you can use them to develop your own mooncake recipe. They can also help you troubleshoot a recipe if something goes wrong. Here we go. And it should turn tough after chilling in the fridge. Lard is a common ingredient in traditional mooncakes, but it might yield an unpleasant flavor.
I find that coconut oil and butter yield similar results. Only use coconut oil if the flavor combination works.
On the other hand, if you add too much solid content, the filling will start to taste like dough. I found that glutinous rice flour works great in this case. Unrelated to this recipe, if you are making a red bean or lotus seed filling or any filling that contains water , the other way to make a thicker filling is to cook the paste on the stove, to reduce water content.
The first reason is that the filling will be crumbly and fall apart without oil. The second is that traditional Cantonese mooncakes must be served 1 to 3 days after baking, because the mooncake skin will be very tough and crumbly right after baking. As the mooncakes rest, the oil inside them seeps out and infuses into the outer layer of dough.
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This way, the texture becomes soft and moist. Traditional Cantonese mooncakes use cake flour, which is what is used in this recipe. It yields a very tender dough easy to work with, but slightly sticky that yields a beautiful pattern after baking. The golden syrup will create a tender and moist cake that keeps its shape despite being paper thin, and can be shaped into delicate patterns.
Kansui is used to neutralize the acid introduced by the golden syrup, resulting in a sweet pastry with no sourness. The amount of kansui also determines the tenderness and color of the cake. The mooncake on the left used baking soda instead of kansui.
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It yielded a pale color due to the lack of alkaline. The one on the right used a bit more kansui than needed. It resulted a darker color and a funny shape. On the other hand, even if the color or shape is slightly off, the mooncakes will taste just as delicious. Please note, the acid content will not be the same. This will affect the amount of kansui you need to use. You can read a bit more on the topic in this post. To make kansui at home, you only need baking soda and water. The two have slightly different contents, but yield very similar results. You can learn how to make kansui in this post.
When you follow a recipe and it turns out that the dough is too soft to work with or too tough to knead, you should only add oil or flour to adjust the consistency of the dough.
The answer is, you should keep it thin, really thin. That equals about 2. There are different theories on the perfect egg wash. I tested them, but only noticed subtle differences. My favorite way is to use egg yolk with a pinch of salt.
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The egg wash will be very thick and a bit difficult to apply, but it yields an even and beautiful golden color with a distinctive aroma. If you think this is too much trouble, beat a whole egg and use that instead. For making mini mooncakes, my favorite temperature is degrees F C. The first phase usually takes 8 to 10 minutes. During this phase, the mooncake takes its shape and the dough hardens. You should see the edges of the mooncakes start to turn golden.