This is a mooncake:
You eat it while watching the moon, which will be exceptionally rad this year because it will coincide with a total lunar eclipse.
Mooncakes come in many varieties, but the most traditional kind is filled with lotus paste and salted duck egg yolk.
Different fillings include red bean paste, mung bean paste, date paste, and a nuts/seeds pastiche. There are also varieties in crust: chewy and golden-brown (traditional), flaky (Taiwan-style), and chewy-sticky ("snow-skin" with rice flour).
They're sold at most Asian grocery stores, which, depending on where you live, might be hard to find.
That's why you should make them yourself! Not only is it pretty doable, but they also taste infinitely better.
Here's everything you need to make the traditional kind:
And here's a step-by-step guide. The full recipe is at the bottom of this post.
1. Choose whether you want to buy your filling or if you want to make it from scratch.
2. To make the lotus paste, you need to soak the seeds in water for at least six hours.
Afterward, make sure to take our the green sprouts from the centers before cooking the seeds. Boil them for at least 1–2 hours until they are soft.
3. Pour the cooked seeds into a food processor with sugar and some water.
For 1 cup of dried seeds, you'll need about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of sugar, sweetened to your liking. Blend until the consistency is smooth like hummus.
4. Transfer the blended mixture into a pan and cook it over medium heat. Then add in the vegetable shortening.
You'll need about 2 tablespoons of vegetable shortening, but gradually add and continue to mix until the paste has a slightly glossy look.
Once done, transfer to a container and set aside to chill.
5. To make the dough, mix together the honey, the alkalized water, and the vegetable oil in a large mixing bowl.
6. Pour in the flour and incorporate until a loose, crumbly mixture forms. Then, knead the dough (not too rigorously) into the shape of a ball.
The ideal dough shouldn't be crumbly or too oily, so because of the differences in mold, it's better to start with conservative amounts of oil (you can always add more if the mixture is still too crumbly).
Once done, cover it in plastic wrap and set aside for 1–2 hours.
7. Next prepare your salted duck yolks (if you're using them): Separate the yolks from the whites and soak them in vegetable oil for about 30 minutes.
This gets rid of the raw taste.
8. To make the filling, start by scooping a small ball of whichever paste you buy/make into your palm and flatten it out.
Left: store-bought red bean paste
Right: homemade white lotus paste
9. Add an egg yolk to the center of the paste and fold the paste over until the yolk is fully covered and you've formed a ball.
For bigger molds (like mine), I used a whole egg yolk. For smaller ones, use half an egg yolk.
10. Taking the dough that you've set aside, flatten out a portion that's about 1/2 inch thick and that's big enough to wrap around half of the paste-yolk ball.
Wrap the dough around one side of the filling. Once you've done that, flatten out a smaller portion of the dough that can cover the rest of the filling.
Shape the outside until it's nice and spherical and no filling is exposed.
11. Now you're ready to make mooncake magic with the mold!
Flour the mold and press the ball into the mold.
You might need to clean up the bottom edges of your mooncake a few times before taking it out.
12. Once your mooncakes are formed, brush the sides with water to prevent them from cracking in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 355 degrees and then pop the mooncakes in for 5–8 minutes.
13. During this time, make an egg wash: an egg and a splash of water whisked together.
14. After 5–8 minutes, take the mooncakes out and brush them with the egg wash, carefully.
15. Bake them for another 12–15 minutes until golden-brown.
After they cool down, wrap them in plastic wrap and store them in an air-tight container. It's traditional to let them rest for one or two days before eating, but they are also extremely delicious right out of the oven.
Hurrah!! You made some insanely delicious treats. Now go share these with your friends at a supermoon-lunar-eclipse partay.
The Recipe: Traditional Mooncakes
Makes about 4 mooncakes
1 (2-inch-diameter) mooncake mold
For the filling:
Store-bought: 1 (16-18 ounce) can red bean paste (lotus seed or black bean paste works too)
Homemade: 1 cup dried lotus seeds (or red beans)
1/2–2/3 cup sugar, according to your taste
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (or lard or coconut oil)
For the dough:
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon alkalized or lye water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
Optional: 1 package fresh salted duck eggs
For the egg wash:
1 regular egg beaten with a splash of water
If you're using store-bought paste, skip to prepping the dough.
1. Soak the lotus seeds for 6–8 hours.
2. Rinse, remove the green sprouts, and boil for about 2 hours until soft.
3. Blend in a food processor with the sugar and a few spoonfuls water until it has the consistency of hummus.
4. Put the lotus paste in a skillet over medium heat and stir in the shortening; cook until it's glossy, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
1. Mix together the honey, alkalized water, and vegetable oil in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add the flour and mix with your hands until a crumbly dough forms.
3. Knead lightly into a ball (but don't overwork the dough). Wrap in plastic wrap, and set aside for 2 hours at room temperature.
1. Flatten a small portion of lotus or red bean paste onto the palm of your hand.
2. If you're using the salted duck egg yolks, add a salted egg yolk to the center.
3. Fold the filling around the yolk to cover it entirely and form a ball.
4. Pinch off a handful of the dough. Flatten it into a circle* that's about 1/2 inch thick and 2 inches in diameter.
5. Put the ball of filling in the center of the dough circle and fold the edges of the dough up around the filling.
6. Pinch off a small piece of dough and flatten it into a piece that is big enough to cover the remaining exposed filling. Put the smaller piece of dough over the exposed filling and mold until the dough completely covers the filling and you have an even sphere.
7. Flour the mold and press the ball into the mold firmly. Clean up the bottom edges if necessary.
8. Pop the mooncake out and put it on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining filling and dough to make about 3 more mooncakes.
9. Just before baking, brush the mooncakes' edges with a little water.
1. Preheat the oven to 355 degrees and bake the mooncakes for 5-8 minutes.
2. Take them out, and brush the tops and sides lightly with the egg wash using a pastry brush if you have one.
3. Bake for another 12-15 minutes.
4. Let the mooncakes cool then wrap them in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container for 1-2 days before serving.
*Remember to make the dough circle according to your mold. A good way to estimate is to make the flattened dough circle slightly bigger than the size of the mold.