Last week, China celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival! One traditional way to take part in the celebration is to enjoy delicious pastries called mooncakes. Our friend Jennifer Che from Tiny Urban Kitchen has shared her recipe with us – give it a try!
The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the two largest annual festivals celebrated in China. It’s a time for people to celebrate the bountiful harvests of summer, appreciate their loved ones, and gaze at the moon at its biggest and brightest.
It always happens on the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar, which jumps around on the solar calendar (the one most of us use). This year the holiday landed last week, on September 8th. Typically, people celebrate by feasting, visiting family, and giving each other mooncakes. What’s a mooncake? It’s a disc-sized pastry (shaped a bit like a hockey puck) that is filled with lotus seed paste and one salted egg yolk which is meant to represent the moon. In more recent times, people have gotten pretty creative with mooncakes, and all different flavors and shapes have popped up, such as green tea (matcha), snow-skin “mochi”, and even chocolate ice cream!
Today, we will make Snow Skin Mooncakes, which derive their name from the fact that they can be snow white on the outside. These mooncakes are eaten cold and can be made without baking.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 cup roasted glutinous rice flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of shortening
50 mL cold water (optionally colored with food coloring)
filling of your choice (store bought lotus seed paste, red bean paste)
Mooncake molds are a bit tricky to find in a typical U.S. store. A traditional mooncake mold is carved out of wood. Plastic ones are also available, and are a bit easier to use, especially for a beginner, because it’s easier to remove the mooncakes from the mold since you can push it out like a push pop!
The filling choice is up to you. At Asian supermarkets it’s not too hard to find pre-packaged mooncake fillings, such as lotus seed paste or red bean paste. If you’re really up for a challenge, you can try something like ice cream! Ice cream is tricky because it melts fast. To counter this, scoop individual balls of ice cream and freeze separately on a tray until they are frozen solid. This may take several hours, or even overnight. Use the densest, most premium ice cream you can find, since those tend to be harder.
First we need to make the roasted glutinous rice flour. Although this type of flour is easy to find in Asia, I could not find it in my local Asian grocery store in Boston. Never fear! It is really easy to make. In a saucepan over medium low heat, without any oil, heat the glutinous rice flour for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until it turns a bit tan, starts to smoke, and is fragrant.
Next, sift together the powdered sugar and the roasted glutinous rice flour. You want to make sure that all the lumps are out! Once everything is mixed, use your hands to rub in the shortening or butter until you get a bread-crumb like consistency.
At this point, you may add food coloring to your cold water. Then, one tablespoon at a time, slowly mix in water until the dough is smooth and kneadable.
Like this! Cover any portion you are not using with plastic wrap, because it can dry out quickly. If you’re working with a normal, non-melting center, you can roll out the outer dough, wrap it around the inner ball of filling (e.g., lotus seed paste, red bean paste, etc), stuff the ball into the mooncake mold, and push it out!
If your ice cream is super rock solid, the above method may work for you. Otherwise, you can try stuffing the skin into the mold first, adding the ice cream, closing up the bottom, and then punching it out.
Voila! Freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.
- Jenny Che, tinyurbankitchen.com