Although we do not usually celebrate Chinese New Year, we always love to try new traditions and recipes that help us learn more about different cultures, their history and their cuisine. The kids have always been exposed to different cultures to widen their perspective of the world and adds to memorable life experience. Chinese New Year is no exception! Although mooncakes are traditionally enjoyed during the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month usually between September and October, when families give thanks for the harvest and pray for longevity and good fortune, moon cakes can be eaten during any occasion. PLUS we were just dying to learn how to make them!
Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, falls on February 12th, Year of the Ox. Festivities begin with Spring Festival and ends with the Lantern Festival on February 26th. Lunar New Year a celebration of hard work put in over the past year as well as well wishes for a prosperous new year. So, there will be lots of firecrackers, gold and red colors and decorations, delicious food and festivities that go on for two weeks.
Intricate, Beautiful Design on the Outside, and Delicious Flavor on the Inside
In Chinese culture, mooncakes are round in shape to symbolize completeness and reunion, and sharing them with others signifies the unity of families. The pastries are made of a tender dough stuffed with a sweet filling --traditionally a lotus seed paste or red bean paste. With an intricately designed pastry mold, the pastry is pressed into the mold to make the beautiful outside design. There are a variety of designs including moons and flowers. We found ours mooncake molds on Amazon.
For the dough, lye water is used to neutralize the sour taste due to the presence of acid in the golden syrup. With doing this, benefit from the golden syrup that creates a soft pastry without the sour taste.
Lye water darkens the color of the pastry. Increase the amount of lye water if the color of the mooncake is too pale after baking for twenty minutes. For the rich filling, we used golden syrup instead of sugar because it retains more moisture and therefore produces a more tender pastry and helps to reduce the rate of staling of starch, thereby extending its shelf-life.
Chinese Red Bean Moon Cakes Recipe
Makes 4-6 servings
For the Red Bean (adzuki) paste: 7 oz (200grams) adzuki (red) beans 150 grams sugar 120 grams sunflower oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
For the egg wash: 1 egg yolk 1 tsp water
For the Red Bean Filling:
1. Start by soaking adzuki beans in water overnight or for at least 8 hours. Drain and remove any excess water.
2. Boil the soaked beans in fresh water (enough to cover) until soft (about 1 hour). Drain, then puree in a food processor until smooth. If the consistency is too thick, add a small about of water.
3. Transfer the puree into a non-stick pan. Cook over medium heat. Add sugar and oil in portions and constantly mix and flip mixture. Once the paste mixture becomes dry and is in a moldable shape, remove to cool. (Any leftover paste not used can be frozen.)
For the Dough:
Mix the golden syrup, oil, and lye water thoroughly and then add flour—the amount of flour needed. We actually added a few more tablespoons to adjust the consistency so that it was less sticky. Knead the entire mixture until completely combine. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour.
Assemble the Cakes
1. To assemble the cakes, first measure the filling on a weighing scale to 50 grams.
2. Measure 40 grams of dough and flatten into a round circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Place in the filling in the center of the dough, and gently push the dough upwards and around the filling to tightly wrap it and make a ball. (Your mooncakes should be about 90 grams each total.)
3. Coat the ball with a thin layer of cornstarch and gently place the cake into the moon cake mold.
4. Place the mold on a baking tray (lined with parchment paper if necessary). Gently press to shape. Repeat for the remaining mooncakes.
5. To bake, preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the cakes for five minutes.
6. Reduce the temperature to 325°F. Take the mooncakes out and brush the top with a very thin layer of egg wash, removing excess liquid from your brush by pressing it on the rim of the bowl. Put back into the oven and bake further for five minutes.
7. Remove and brush with another thin layer of egg wash. Then continue to bake for 10 to 15 minutes until evenly brown.
8. Once completely cooled, store the mooncakes in an airtight container for at least one to two days. They are ready to be served when they become soft to touch and appear shiny.