Why It Works
Holiday mooncakes are pressed into decorative molds and brushed with egg wash for glossy golden-brown pastries filled with ingredients like salted duck yolk and mung bean paste, lotus paste, or red bean. But unlike their dry, stale factory-made counterparts, homemade mooncakes actually taste delicious. They're big on effort, but they're also incredibly rewarding, whether you're devouring them yourself or gifting them to show someone just how much you really care. Here, a non-traditional walnut spice filling is surrounded by sweet red bean paste for a layered appearance and maximum flavor. This dish is part of our seven-course Mid-Autumn Festival feast.
- For the Golden Sugar Syrup
- 10 1/2 ounces granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh juice from 1 medium lemon
- For the Walnut Filling
- 3 1/2 ounces walnuts (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 3/4 ounces granulated sugar (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons water
- For the Pastry
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 1/2 ounces Golden Sugar Syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda mixed with 2 teaspoons water
- 5 ounces all-purpose flour (approximately 1 cup)
- For Assembly
- 7 ounces red bean paste
- 1 large egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water
For the Golden Sugar Syrup: Add sugar, water, and lemon juice to a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until color begins to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
For the Walnut Filling: Pulse walnuts in food processor until finely chopped. Combine walnuts with sugar, five spice powder, cinnamon, melted butter, and water, stirring to combine. Store in refrigerator until needed.
For the Pastry: Combine vegetable oil, golden sugar syrup, and baking soda mixture in a large mixing bowl. Add flour and mix, kneading until a soft dough forms. The dough should not be sticky; add additional flour in small increments if necessary. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
To assemble mooncakes: Line baking tray with parchment paper. Divide walnut mixture into 1 ounce portions, roll into balls, and refrigerate until ready. Divide red bean paste into 1 3/4 ounce portions. If too sticky to handle, add a small amount of flour and combine until soft but not too sticky. Roll into balls and set aside. Divide pastry dough into 1 3/4 ounce portions, roll into balls and set aside.
Using a rolling pin, roll 1 red bean paste ball into a disk about 3 inches in diameter. Place 1 ball walnut mixture into center of disk and bring edges up and over to cover completely. Gently roll into a sphere. Repeat with remaining portions.
Roll 1 pastry ball into a disk about 4 inches in diameter. Place walnut and red bean ball in center of disk. Bring edges up over ball to cover completely. If pastry tears, patch with small piece of dough. Gently roll into a sphere. Repeat with remaining portions.
Dust mooncake mold with flour, and tap out excess. Place sphere in enter of mold, smoothest side down. There should be a 1/4 inch gap between sphere and edges of mold.
Gently press down on sphere until it fills the mold. Turn mold upside down and hit edge hard until mooncake starts to dislodge. Gently ease mooncake out of mold and place on parchment-lined baking tray. Repeat steps 7 and 8 with remaining spheres.
To Bake: Adjust oven racks to lower and upper middle positions and preheat oven to 400°F. Bake mooncakes for 6 minutes.
Remove mooncakes from oven and reduce heat to 350°F. Allow to mooncakes cool for 15 mins.
Brush mooncakes with egg glaze and return to oven. Bake for 6 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Glaze with second coat of egg wash. Return to oven for a final 6 minutes, until the mooncakes turn a deep golden brown.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before serving. To serve, cut mooncakes into small wedges. They can be kept in an airtight container for up to three days.
Moon cake mold, ideally 120 to 130 grams volume
Mooncake molds are available in various sizes and depths. I use a traditional large wooden mold with a 130-gram volume, but plastic press molds will work as well.