I attended two lessons to learn how to make mooncakes. This is one thing that I have been thinking of doing in recent years. I went back to Creative Culinaire where I learned my fundamental bread-making course about 6 years ago, for these two lessons.
In my past postings, I have written about how DS and I so enjoyed eating mooncakes that the two of us could eat up 5-6 boxes (or 20-24 pieces) of mooncakes during the Mooncake Festival period. That was very sinful, I know. We have drastically reduced our consumption in recent years. As I age, (though I am still not that old yet), health has to come first. 🙂
I did not actually aim to pick up from the lessons the ability to produce nice, yummy home-made mooncakes for own consumption or to be gifted away. I was more interested in knowing the ingredients used in making them (although I more or less know some of them), how they are made etc. To be honest, it was about finding out how “sinful” mooncakes are!
In the two lessons and a total of about 10 hours, I learned to make five types of mooncakes, either by using the traditional wooden moulds or hand shaped them.
1) Thousand Layer Flaky Yam Mooncake
This is a hand-shaped mooncake requiring two layers of pastry, just like détrempe (water dough) and beurrage (roll-in fat) in western puff pastry or in Chinese, we call them 水皮 and 油皮. It requires some skills in rolling and shaping the pastry, and as you can see, I didn’t do it well. I have chosen not to use any colouring for the pastry, hence they turned out rather pale-looking. This type of mooncake requires deep-frying (at about 150 degrees Celsius for about 5 minutes) before baking in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. They are oily, so definitely not for my liking although I like yam.
Deep-frying before baking
After frying, cool them before putting into the oven
2) Traditional Baked Mooncakes
Few of the variety of traditional wooden moulds available in the lessons
I chose the ones with Chinese characters that describe the types of filling used for the mooncakes we made.
Plain lotus paste with melon seeds (top) and plain lotus paste with single yolk (bottom) – before baking
We learned the technique of how to use the traditional wooden moulds. It was quite fun knocking the moulds to get the mooncakes out! I can’t show it here since video-taking was not permitted during the lessons. I was satisfied with my work as a first-timer although not that perfect.
We used ready-made lotus paste for the filling. Given the short duration of only 5 hours in each lesson, it was impossible for us to make the filling from scratch but we were given the recipe for it.
After two rounds of baking. First baked at 200 degree Celsius for about 6-8 minutes, then glazed the top with egg yolk and bake for another 6 minutes. Not bad right?
Lotus Paste with single yolk
There is no need to pre-steam or cook the salted egg yolks but seasoning them with sesame oil and Chinese rice wine (Hua Diao Jiu) or even brandy for about half an hour before using them will enhance the flavour of the egg yolks.
I have also learned for the first time that nobody actually eats freshly baked mooncakes on the same day! They have to be kept for 3-4 days for the skin (pastry) to soften before eating. What a revelation!
3) Walnut Mooncakes
These are hand-shaped, mini-sized crusty mooncakes, like the Shanghainese version of mooncakes.
Made using 20g of pastry and 20g of lotus paste
In this recipe, baking ammonia was used as a leavening agent. Surprised? Yes, I was. I learned that baking ammonia is quite commonly used in baking. Another revelation!
Tray of neatly arranged walnut mooncakes before baking. I preferred a rounder shape. Those mountain-look-alike ones were made by my baking partner and they are closer to the shape demonstrated by our instructor
4) Traditional Nutty Mooncakes (五仁月饼)
I don’t think this type of mooncakes are common/popular these days but it was interesting to know the ingredients used for this type of mooncakes.
We got to bring home one big and two small ones each but too bad, neither DS nor I like this type of mooncakes. I remember my mum used to like them but since she is still recovering from a major surgery, it is not a good idea to offer her these mooncakes.
As the name (五仁) goes, the filling of this type of mooncakes uses five types of nuts – olive seeds, almonds, walnuts, melon seeds and sesame seeds. There are also other ingredients like Kek Piah (dried citrus fruit, like orange peels), candied winter melon, Bak Kwa (Chinese pork jerky), rose wine etc. etc. So, it is somewhat complicated.
5) Snowskin Piglet Mooncake
This is the easiest to make and most fuss-free type of mooncakes – skin is easy to make, no need to bake (thus less sinful), and they can be eaten immediately after making. Perhaps these are the reasons why I am seeing a lot of postings for home-made snowskin mooncakes on Facebook! Since it is a non-baked mooncake, hygiene is of particular importance when making them.
We were allocated lotus paste enough to make one medium-sized or two mini piglets. I chose to make a medium-sized one.
Too cute to be eaten?
My hand-shape skill for this is little piglet is not bad, right? 🙂
Snowskin is made using fried glutinous rice flour, baked Hong Kong flour, and cold pandan syrup. Ready-mixed flours are easily available in the markets too but I would prefer to mix the flours myself if I were to make this type of mooncakes at home.
The two lessons were enjoyable. Chef Judy Koh, the instructor who owns Creative Culinaire, is still as jovial as before. I was partnering with a foreigner from Indo-China who is residing in Singapore. She is conversant in English and we work together well. After the first lesson, we decided to partner with each other again in the second lesson. In the second lesson, we had two westerners in the class too.
From the lessons, I concluded that the process of making of moon cakes are tedious, though not difficult. More so if I want a healthier version of my very own home-made lotus paste filling (such as less oil, less sugar, without preservative etc.) . I have certainly learned and benefited from the lessons but one thing I know after the lessons, it is unlikely that I will attempt to turn what I have learned into practice, at least not for this coming Moon Cake Festival (8 Sep).
Believe it or not, I have actually lost my interest and appetite for mooncakes after all the fun during the lessons!! Mooncake sellers, sorry but no business from me this year.