Mooncakes are Chinese pastries traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The festival is for lunar worship and moon watching; mooncakes are regarded as an indispensable delicacy on this occasion. Moon cakes are offered between friends or on family gatherings while celebrating the festival, one of the three most important Chinese festivals.
Typical mooncakes are round or rectangular pastries, measuring about 10 cm in diameter and 4-5 cm thick. A thick filling usually made from lotus seed paste is surrounded by a relatively thin (2-3 mm) crust and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs. Mooncakes are rich, heavy, and dense compared with most Western cakes and pastries. They are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by Chinese tea.
chocolate mooncake with ice-cream filling
five kernel mooncake
Modern mooncakes resembles the traditional type although with certain modifications. Part of the reason is that people are becoming more health-conscious. Traditional moon cakes are made with lard, and a lot of sugar. Another reason that the traditional mooncake has undergone a successful diversification is its popularity. In fact, it has become so popular that many mooncakes are bought by businessmen who give them to their clients as presents. Modern mooncakes differ most vividly in the type of fillings that are offered. For instance, mooncakes containing taro paste and pineapple, which were considered novelty items at their time of invention have in recent years become commonplace items. In addition, filling with ingredients such as coffee, chocolate, nuts (walnuts, mixed nuts, etc), fruits (prunes, pineapples, melons, lychees etc), vegetables (sweet potatoes, etc), and even ham have been added to give a modern twist to the traditional recipes. To adapt to today’s health-conscious lifestyle, many bakeries offer miniature mooncakes and fat-free mooncakes. Some are made of yogurt, jelly, and fat-free ice-cream. Even high-fibre low-sugar mooncakes have made their appearance. To be competitive, bakers boast about how little sugar and oil they use in their mooncakes. Customers can pick and choose the size and filling that suits their taste and diet. For added hygiene, each cake is often wrapped in airtight plastic, accompanied by a tiny food preserver packet. The modern mooncakes new versions are well-accepted among young people in China.
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. unsalted butter or margarine, melted
2 tbsp. water
1 1/2 c. sweet red bean paste*
1 egg or egg white, lightly beaten
1. Preheat oven to 375oF.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl.
3. In a second bowl, beat 3 eggs and sugar until they thicken, about 10 minutes.
4. Add melted butter, water, and the flour mixture to eggs and sugar. Stir until the mixture becomes dough like.
5. Using your hands, shape dough into a long rope about 1 1/4 inches thick. Cut into about 20 equal pieces.
6. Flatten each piece of dough into a circle about 3 inches across. Place about one teaspoonful of bean paste in the center of the circle and fold the edges of the dough toward the center. Pinch the edges together firmly to seal. (It may help to dampen your fingers with a little bit of water.)
7. Gently roll each cake into a ball and flatten slightly. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
8. Use a cookie cutter or mooncake molds to lightly press a design into the top of each cake, or draw a design with a fork tine or toothpick. Place cakes one inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
9. Lightly glaze the top of each cake with beaten egg. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool. Serve at room temperature.
Preparation time: 45 to 60 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Makes about 20 cakes
* Sweet red bean paste is sold in cans at most specialty grocery stores, but you can also make your own. Soak 1 c. of dried red beans (preferably the Tiensin variety, but adzuki will also work) in water for at least 3 hours. Drain and place in a saucepan with just enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil, drain, and rinse under cold water. Boil and drain again, then add fresh water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, or until beans are very soft. Gradually stir in 1 c. sugar and a pinch of salt and remove from heat. Mash mixture in a food processor or with a potato masher until the biggest lumps are gone and leave to cool.
sweet red bean paste mooncake