Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Happy Belated Lunar Festival

I love mooncakes -- they're among my favorite Asian treats. The other day, I went on eBay and impulsively bought a mooncake press because why not. It was only $5 and to me, food presentation is just as important as taste so I wanted to make mooncakes that looked good. I ordered the press at the beginning of August and it took almost a month to arrive since it were shipped for free from Hong Kong so I didn't expect anything less, although I was a tad worried that it wouldn't arrive in time. Luckily it did.

Store-bought mooncakes are about the unhealthiest things ever (1000 calories of sugar and fat each??) and I don't think these are any healthier but I make room in my diet for these because they are delicious.  I looked up a bunch of recipes online but ended up coming up with my own adjusted recipe. They're filled with lotus seed paste, which I made from scratch a day in advance. You can also fill them with store-bought lotus paste or other fillings like red bean. 

The filling was incredibly delicious though, and totally worth making from scratch if you have the time/effort/blender. Here's what I did:
  1. Drain two cans of whole lotus seeds and remove any remnant germs/cores, since they would make the paste bitter. The seeds don't need to be soaked nor precooked since they're already soft enough.
  2. Put the seeds in a blender with a little bit of water and blend until smooth. The water is added to help make the paste smooth so minimize how much you add. You'll be cooking it out later.
  3. Add a drop of oil to a frying pan, turn the stove on to medium high heat, and add the blended lotus paste plus 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir well. Add 1/4 cup of oil in numerous additions -- I added about a third of it at a time, stirred and waited for it to incorporate, then added more. It may seem like a lot of oil but trust. You can taste test as you go and add more sugar as necessary. Cook until it's a thickened paste, then cool in the fridge and store in an airtight container until use.

For the crust, I combined 200 grams of all-purpose flour, 120 grams of agave (or you can use honey), 1 tsp water, 1/8 tsp baking soda, and 60 grams of oil. Mix the ingredients well in a bowl but don't over mix, then cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for about an hour in the fridge. Easy peasy.

When it's time to make the mooncake, preheat the oven to 350F. Measure out the paste and dough at a 2:1 ratio -- I did 60 grams lotus paste to 30 grams of dough. I flattened the dough out with my fingers onto plastic wrap (I don't have a rolling pin but you could use that), and rolled the lotus paste into a ball. The plastic wrap will make the next step easier and prevent the dough from sticking to your countertop.

Use the plastic wrap to gather the sides up, enveloping the lotus paste ball completely in the dough. Roll the ball a bit in your hands to help smooth it all out.

The ball should fit inside the mooncake press. If you don't have a press, you could just skip this step and bake -- it'll taste the same, but won't be as pretty.

Voila! I put the pressed mooncakes onto a lined baking sheet and put the tray in the oven.

Beat an egg in a bowl. After baking the mooncakes for 5-10 minutes, remove the tray from the oven and brush on the beaten egg. I messed up this part actually - the mooncakes should only be lightly coated with egg so that you don't ruin the design, so in the future I would remove extra liquid from the brush.

Return the mooncakes to the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Voila! So pretty. They were gobbled up so quickly...but for best results you should let them soften in a sealed container for a day.

I made some snow skinned mooncakes a few days ago as well...these were okay but didn't hold a candle to the lotus seed dudes. I'm going to be sticking to my recipe and plan to make these quite often, even if there's no occasion :)

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