With the Mooncake Festival around the corner it was time for us to make the next move, this time to Chinatown. We were lucky to find this incredibly interesting looking building that appeared to be a hostel. I am mesmerised by this historical three storey building with the combo of antiques, unfinished walls and exposed wooden structures.
The Mooncake Festival also known as The Lantern Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival is always celebrated on 15th day of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Historically, thirteen Mooncakes were stacked into a pyramid to represent the thirteen moons of a complete year (twelve moons plus one intercalary moon). Imperial cooks would make huge Mooncakes over a metre in diameter with intricate designs that included the Moon Goddess, the moon palace and cassia tree. In contrast, normal Mooncakes were just several centimetres in size.
Mooncakes are known as tang (round) yuen (completeness) they are made from sweet glutinous rice and symbolise harmony and unity within the family home. They are also known as reunion cakes as family members gather together to sample the tasty sweets and unite in celebrations. It is also common to give them as a gift to friends, employees, bosses and customers during this time.
A Mooncake is a small — usually round — cake, approximately 10cm in diameter and 4/5 cm high. It is composed of a pastry containing a filling. The traditional filling is either lotus bean paste or a sweet red bean paste. Cakes are very rich and dense and are usually cut into four pieces and eaten with tea. The list of possible types of fillings is endless, from coconut which according to De Tai Tong Cafe’s chef is the most popular to green tea, durian, lotus or pandan leaf just to name a few. They are usually sold in boxes of four or eight but it is possible to buy a single packed as I did.
In a festive mood I decided to do some tasting of those precious cakes and purchased three different Mooncakes from De Tai Tong Cafe. As a bonus I got an explanation of the process of making and a recipe which I share below. With only a couple of substitutions it became an exciting Vegan friendly dessert worth spoiling yourself with.
The first one I got had a flavour of Pandan Leaf — apparently it is considered the sweetest filling available by the local people and not necessary appreciated by everyone. However as I am a declared sweet tooth it was obligatory for me to go for it. I must admit it was fairly sweet but I wouldn’t call it too sweet, if you are a fan of kaya (coconut pandan leaf jam that South East Asia is famous of) you will definitely enjoy this one.
The second mooncake I got was Green Tea, which to be perfectly honest was chosen for its odd looking colour than anything else. It turned out to be a true green tea kick as it had a lot of it in powdered form added to both the filling and the pastry. It was a little bit too intense for my liking.
And finally the Six Coarse Grains with Red Date Paste which seemed like a healthy option. Most probably a choice dictated by a feeling of gluttonous guilt for buying so many cakes at once. In fact it was a healthy option in comparison to the ingredients of the other cakes and had an extra bonus of almonds and melon kernel seeds which gave it a chewy but crunchy texture.
Frankly, I was a bit hesitant for a while when even passing by any dessert that involved red bean paste and bare in mind it is one of major ingredients of many desserts. I did try to avoid it as long as I could yet I am glad that I got tempted with the Mooncakes which depend largely on red bean or lotus paste. This completely new combo of sweet and savoury favour with a slightly rough texture is my new favourite. And I will definitely use it when back in Europe and reinventing the old good recipes.
There is no better way to join the celebration of Mid Autumn Festival than with a veganized, healthy and yummy homemade mooncake! It is very easy to make it yourself, the only extra effort you need to put into this recipe is to get a Mooncake mould and that’s it!
- 150 g superfine flour — sifted
- 90 ml golden syrup or honey
- 38 ml coconut oil (originally peanut oil is used)
- 2 g alkaline water
- 980 g to 1 kg lotus paste or red bean paste
- 20 g melon seeds — lightly toasted
- 1 tea spoon of coconut oil
- Mix the golden syrup, oil and alkaline water with a whisk
- Then pour the liquid to the sifted flour, mix with a spatula until they are combined well and not sticky
- Next cover it with a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 — 60 min
- Mix the melon seeds and the lotus paste. Divide this mixture into pieces each 140 g, roll into balls and then put aside
- Lightly knead the dough in the bowl and divide into portions of 40 g each. Next roll dough into balls lightly and gently flatten. Make it a bit thicker in the centre and thinner at the sides
- Next place a ball of paste in the middle and wrap up, pushing the sides gently to enclose the paste fully. Roll the ball of dough between the palms of your hand.
- Place the ball of dough into the lightly floured Mooncake mould, flatten gently. Place it on a parchment and press out the cake. If there is visible flour on the cake, lightly dust off with a clean brush (otherwise the dough will crack when baking
- Lightly spray water on the cakes to prevent cracking
- Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 min then remove from the oven and let cakes to cool for 15 min
- Apply a little bit of coconut oil once and return to the oven to bake for 7 min at 175 degrees Celsius (make sure to change position of the baking tray).
- Remove cakes from the oven and let them cool completely
- Freshly baked Mooncakes should be left uncovered to allow the free circulation of air to slowly soften the skin and help it to mature and mellow. This is the hard part of baking your own Mooncakes — you need to be patient as it takes takes 3 to 4 days.
One thing to remember is to be precise about the dough to filling ratio otherwise it won’t fit into the Mooncake mould.
Peanut oil is used to enhance the flavour, but I replaced it with coconut oil for its health properties and to enhance the taste.
The alkaline water helps to make the dough more stretchable, and allows the Mooncakes to brown nicely upon baking (just a small amount is needed, if used too much it will give the cake a very dark colour).
An important point to note about the dough is, you need to let it rest for at least 2 hours or more before using it.
Originally posted in 2013 on my blog , here.