Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Traditional Baked Mooncake

Traditional Baked Mooncake

Hellooo! Anyone here?? Oh well, I talk to myself a lot, so, here I go... I must say I HAVE MISSED Blogging! Life have been so hectic the past few weeks, that I was M.I.A from here. Sob... sob...
 
While I was away, I did get to bake. Actually, I went for a Mooncake (MC) class. It was a totally impromptu-spur-of-the-moment thing and as the wise ones say, the rest is history. In the class, I learnt many things, from how to conduct a great baking class to the technicalities that are involved in this delicate, traditional "cake" that we, in Asia, are so used to. 

I love all the Chinese festivities, and often there is a type of food that is enjoyed for all the major festive occasions. Mid-Autumn Festival is one of my favorite time of the year. When I was little girl, my neighbors would have a potluck Moon Party and there will be lots of food (yes, we love to eat on any occasion) and we, the kids would play with colorful lanterns, taking walks around the neighborhood. Ahhhh.... I wish I can let my kids enjoy such things now too. :) Update: The Lil' Master did go for the neighbourhood walk with his dad and tagged along his self-made lantern from school. :D
 
All pumped up from the class, because it looked a lot simpler than I had imagined, I quickly got all the ingredients and made some. Well, there were a few SOS calls made to my "Si Fu"and by the 3rd bake, I got the hang of things. Yayyyy! (Skipping happily!)
 
So, here I would like to share some of the Do's and Don'ts about MC making.
 
Starting with DO plan ahead. This is not something that you can just snap your fingers and whip out. To make the traditional baked MC, you will need plenty of time. The skin itself needs to rest for a minimum 4 hours before you can use it. I have kept the skin dough for 3-4 days in the fridge and learnt that you get the best results if you stick to the 4 hours rule (6 hours is still OK).  

Do have a digital scale for measuring all the ingredients. My lovely and talented cousin-sister-in-law made her first batch using an old scale and the MC "failed" (that was her exact words) and the skin cracked. 
 
After the 4 hours of resting the skin dough, the texture will be become more solid and easier to manage from the freshly mixed dough that has a sticky and shiny appearance like this:

Looks a lot like peanut butter, right? 

A better description of the texture would be elastic and malleable. This is very important as the skin needs to be flexible enough to be shaped, stretched and not break while you cover the filling. If the dough is too sticky for you to even start working with, knead in a bit more low protein flour until the dough reaches to a play dough-like texture. Note that the dough will still be slightly sticky, but, it will come together and not break up when being stretched.  

The ratio of skin to filling is about 1:3 or less. For example, if your MC mould is for 185g of MC, you can apportion 45g for the skin and 140g for the filling. A tip here is to weigh all the skin and filling: lotus paste, salted duck egg yolk, nuts, etc at the same time. Put a plate on the digital scale that is flat and large enough for you to put the skin and filling/s on. With this, you can make up the weight to 185g in one go. :) 
 
Clockwise: Pure lotus paste, Purple sweet potato lotus paste, flattened mooncake skin 

Roll the measured skin dough into a ball and on a clean surface, press the dough onto the surface and flatten out with the fleshy part of your palm (the part near to your wrist). You can put some flour on the dough (that is facing you) while you are doing it.
 
Do make sure the under side of the skin does not touch any flour. With this, the dough will not move while you are flattening it and the filling will adhere better as well.

Try to ensure the middle part of the skin dough is evenly flattened and leave the edges slightly thicker. This will help when you are wrapping the skin over the filling. With a dough cutter or scraper, carefully scrape the dough up and turn the side with flour onto your palm and the flour-less part will now face you.

Put the filling onto the flour-less part like the picture below: 


Notice that the outer part of the skin is floured and the inner part is clean

Slowly wrap the skin over the filling (I know you will think that this is Mission Impossible, but have faith, it will be OK) by pressing and pushing lightly the edges of the skin over the filling and "hug" the filling. Finally, seal the edges properly and give the wrapped MC a roll in between your palms. Put more flour on the MC like this:


Then, apply the mould onto the MC ball by firmly pressing down the plunger a few times, so that the pattern will be defined and the sides of the MC will be neat.

Don't apply flour to the MC press/mould as you will end up with too much flour on the MC , making it be difficult to egg wash and the pattern will not be as defined. I used a plastic mould, which you can easily purchase from a baking ingredients shop. (Do preheat your oven to 180 degree C now). Place the pressed MC onto a tray lined with parchment paper.
 
If you are using a wooden mould, then you will need to flour the wooden mould lightly. My Si Fu demonstrated using both the plastic plunger mooncake press and the wooden type. The wooden mould will need some knocking on all the sides before the MC falls out effortlessly. She did it like a lil' dance and it really looked effortless and her movements was seamless. I suspect it will take some practice if it's your first time. :P 

Tadaaaa!! There you have it, gorgeous looking mooncakes! :)


First attempt

In a preheated oven, baked the MC for 10-13 minutes until you reach the desired browning. Place the tray on the middle rack. You may spray with water before baking if your MC skin is too dry to prevent the skin from cracking.

Do observe the browning closely in the final few minutes. Every oven is different, hence, adjust the time accordingly. The MC should be firm to the touch. If the sides are still soft, pop it back into the oven for a few more minutes.

After the first bake

After the first bake, cool the MC completely until it is not hot to the touch. I have left it overnight with no issues. Egg wash the MC carefully and preheat the oven again to 180 degree C. Do use a small fiber brush (about 1 inch wide) and make sure there is no egg wash trapped in between the crevices of the pattern and use a light touch when you egg wash these babies. :) You all know what? It took me a few minutes just to egg wash one piece of MC the first time. It gets easier after you have a few practice. 

Bake for 5-6 minutes until you see a nice sheen on the MC. DON'T over bake here... In my initial attempts, I baked for 10-15 minutes as I felt that the browning is too light. The mistake resulted in over baked MC with sides that began to swell and air pockets developed between the skin and the filling. When you cut the MC, the skin will easily be separated. NOT good. So, people learn from my mistake y'all. :)

Updated on September 2015: You can also use Baker's Glaze, that you can get from the ingredients shop. This is an oil to glaze the MC for those who does not want any eggs in the final product. If you are using the Baker's Glaze, you will only need to bake the MC once. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 180 C and let the MC to cool before  glazing with a soft bristled brush. So easy!
 
Last but not least, do let the MC rest for about 2-3 days for it to soften and the oil from within make its way to the surface, giving the MC the signature glossy look, before you eat them. I know... It will be VERY hard to resist cutting into them the instant they come out of the oven. 

When you cut into the MC, the final thing to look at is how even is the skin is around the filling and how thin is the skin. Like what the elders will say, the best MC has thin skin and lots of tasty filling. After a few trials, you will know how improve your "wrapping" skills. 

Not bad for a first attempt! 
 
This was the prettiest piece in my maiden attempt

Overbaked MC... see that the skin is slightly detached on the top?

All in all, it was a great and empowering experience! Haha! I say that because this was the most "difficult" thing that I made to-date and it was relatively easier that I had initially thought. Clap!  Clap!  Clap!  for myself. 

So guys and gals, you must give this a try and you will save your pockets from the very expensive MC sold commercially. Essentially you are paying for the extravagant packaging. But, yes, I agree that the presentation is very important, especially when it comes to mooncakes. You could buy the boxes from the baking ingredients shops and dress them up to your own creativity. :)

5 Nuts and Pandan Snowskin Mooncake


The great thing about these homemade mooncakes is that you get to choose a filling that is less sweet (healthier but MC is supposed to be sweet or it wouldn't be MC, right? Besides the sugar acts as a natural preservative). 

Or you know what? Make your own filling from scratch, like what my lovely and talented cousin-sister-in-law, Liza (Salute and really kow-tow to her), did! Whatever you do, it is a deeply satisfying experience. I promise... (Smiling widely now). A well made traditional baked Mooncake can last in an air-tight container for about 2 months, in room temperature. Now, I didn't know this before attending the class. ;)

Ingredients:

Skin
250g Low protein flour
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
150ml Golden syrup
50ml Oil
3/4 Tablespoon Alkali Water
1/4  teaspoon Dark soy sauce (or more to achieve desired color)

Filling
500g Pure Lotus Paste (Low sugar)
8-9 Salted duck egg yolk (Lightly coat with oil and steam for 7-8 minutes)
50g Lightly toasted melon seeds (Add preferred amount)
200g Purple sweet potato lotus paste (Any preferred filling)
  • Incorporate the desired amount to seeds/nuts into the lotus paste and mix well. (You can add toasted melon seeds to the lotus paste in a ratio of 1kg lotus paste to 140g of lightly toasted seeds. I agak-agak only)
  • Weigh the correct amount of filling plus egg yolk and ensure the the total filling is 140g. 
  • Roll the filling into a ball and make a indent in the center and put in the yolk. 
  • Wrap the purple paste over the egg yolk. Then, wrap the lotus paste over the sweet potato paste.
  • Set aside the filling balls in an air tight container and this can be prepared when the skin dough is resting.
Egg Wash
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon Water
1 teaspoon Oil
  • Lightly mixed and sieved.
Instructions:
1. Mix the sieved flour and baking soda in the mixer (I used KA speed 1-2) for a less than 1 minute to
combine.
2. In a measuring cup, put all the liquid ingredients in and mix well with a fork.
3. Add the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture part by part until the dough comes together and add the dark soy sauce and mix until the color is even. (The dough will be sticky and wet, so do scrape down with a spatula to ensure proper mixing
4. Wrap the dough with a cling wrap and rest for 4 hours. (If you are not planning to use the mixer bowl, you can leave the dough in the bowl and rest it in the bowl)
5. Divide the dough into 45g portions with the filling at 140g if using a 185g mould. (Adjust accordingly to your mould size)
6. Flattened the skin dough, wrap the filling and seal the bottom well.
7. Dust with low protein flour and apply the mold. 
8. Preheat the oven at 180 degree C.
9. Place the mooncakes onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-13 minutes until the desired browning. (Updated: If using Baker's Glaze, baked for 12-15 minutes, let cool and apply glaze. Only one time baking is needed.)
10. Cool completely and apply egg wash.
11. Bake for another 5-6 minutes.
12. Let the mooncake rest in room temperature (Any container will do, no need for air tight containers) for 2-3 days for the oils to surface before serving.

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