White Lotus Mooncakes With Salted Duck Yolk

Traditions are meant to be passed on, and I hope that in the near future when our baby girl is born, she’ll be able to enjoy old and new traditions with us. Tomorrow my family and I will be celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival. When I was a kid myself, I would play with these little red lanterns with a lit candle inside. Walking carefully around outside holding onto the stick that was attached to my little lantern. The adults would sit around and chat, gaze at at the moon and purely enjoy each others company. We’d open boxes of mooncakes, slice them into bite size pieces and have it with a cup of tea. My favorite is the traditional filling, lotus seed paste with a salted egg yolk (2 yolks makes it even better!). Many of you might have seen bakers recently making mooncakes. Tis the season for these delicious little pastries! I’ve wanted to tackle them for a couple years now, but finally pushed myself to make them this year.

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A little bit of information about making your own mooncakes, they are usually bought and not made due to the complicated process. It can be quite time consuming and needs a bit of planning. Though that sounds daunting, it is actually a lovely process and gives the most beautiful results. Not to mention they are healthier and cost a LOT less. A box of 4 mooncakes can cost you $40 and up depending on the bakery/brand. Most people buy them as gifts for family and friends during this time of year, but why not make your own?! You can make different types of doughs and fillings, whichever suits your needs. Like I said earlier, I like the traditional flavor so I started off with that, but I’m currently working on a red bean and a black sesame one. I do want to try one that is a but out there, chocolate with a mung bean coffee filling, but I might have to just wait for next year to test that out.

To make this easier, I would split the work into two days. Also, I would purchase the golden syrup and lye water (aka kansui) instead of making your own. That in itself will save you a BUNCH of time. I decided to make my own solely because I wanted to know the whole process. If you are on a time crunch, honey can be substituted for the golden syrup, but the dough will have a slightly different taste, texture & color.  As for the lye water, it is used to lower the pH of the dough & give it a bit of a springy texture (like in ramen noodles). You don’t use much of it, but it is necessary. Maggie from Omnivore’s Cookbook has a wonderful guide if you’d like to learn all about it. The biggest tip is that the mooncakes will need to sit in an airtight container for 3 days before they have that lovely sheen we all love. When they come right out of the oven, they look a bit cakey and dry, but they’re still good to eat. I doubled her dough recipe for my mooncakes and they turned out wonderfully, so let’s get to it!

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for the filling

  • 12 oz. dried lotus seeds
  • 4 cups of water + more for soaking
  • 1 2/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups of vegetable or peanut oil

for the dough

  • 110 g. golden syrup
  • 1 tsp. lye water
  • 40 g. vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 200 g. cake flour + more for dusting

for brushing

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. egg white
  • pinch of kosher salt

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for the filling

  • The night before (or two nights before) you plan to make mooncakes you’ll need to soak the lotus seeds  overnight.
  • Begin by splitting each seed down the center and taking out the bitter green insides.
  • Place all the seeds in a large bowl, rinse them & fully emerge them in water. Make sure there is plenty of water as the seeds will soak it up. Cover and let it soak overnight.
  • The next morning, drain the seeds & add them to a saucepan with 4 cups of water. Cook the seeds till they boil, then cover and let it simmer for 30 mins till they become soft, yet still hold their shape. Set aside to cool.
  • Once cooled, strain the seeds through a sieve to get rid of all the water. Transfer to a food processor & puree till smooth. I have a small food processor and had to do it in a coupe batches, just make sure to scrape down the sides if you still see chunks.
  • Now transfer the smooth paste to a deep non-stick pan & cook, stirring/folding constantly on medium/low heat.
  • Add the oil & sugar in 3 separate batches (~every 7 mins), making sure that each addition is incorporated before adding the next.
  • Once the paste comes together and is smooth and shiny, transfer to a heat proof air tight container, cover with plastic wrap & let it cool to room temp before chilling in the fridge.
  • The filling can be made a couple days ahead and kept chilled in the fridge till ready for use. If using on the same day, you can use it at room temp, but I find that chilling it a couple hours makes it easier to manage.

for the dough

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the golden syrup and lye water.
  • Add the oil & salt and whisk to mix.
  • Sift the cake flour over the mixture and use a rubber spatula to fold it into the wet mixture. It may look a bit crumbly, but that’s okay. Be sure to fold it in and not mix it because you will toughen the dough.
  • Lightly dust your surface with flour & transfer the dough over, then knead it a couple times till the dough is smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap & set it aside for 30 mins to 2 hrs before working with it.

for brushing 

  • Whisk the egg yolk, egg white & salt, set aside.

for assembly 

  • For mooncakes with the yolk, weigh out 55 grams of filling and shape into a ball, cover with a damp towel & set aside. For mooncakes without the yolk, weigh out 70 grams of filling & shape into a ball, cover with a damp towel & set aside.
  • For mooncakes with the yolk, make a well in the filling and add the egg yolk, closing the filling back up & forming it back into a circle.
  • Now weigh out 25 grams of the dough, roll them into balls and cover them with the plastic wrap as you work with each piece.
  • Flour your work surface then roll a piece of dough into a 4 inch circle, place your choice of filling inside & wrap it, making sure there aren’t any trapped bubbles on the sides. Pinch the bottom together to seal it. Give it another little roll to smooth it out before placing into the mold.
  • Flour your mooncake mold liberally, shake off the excess & place your mooncake with the sealed side showing, flip it onto your work surface, push down to make the imprint, then push the mooncake out of the mold. If the mooncake top is stuck, gentle wiggle it off, then set onto a sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Continue to repeat that process until all the dough and filling is gone, placing the mooncakes an inch apart from each other.
  • Preheat the oven to 360°F.
  • Sprit the mooncakes a little with water so that they don’t crack in the oven.
  • Bake the mooncakes for 10-12 mins till the sides are golden brown, then take them out of the oven.
  • Brush ONLY the tops of the mooncakes with the egg wash. Make sure to brush super lightly so that no egg wash is built up in the design.
  • Return the mooncakes back to the oven & bake for another 10 mins.
  • Let them cool to room temp before transferring to an airtight container to chill in the fridge for 3 days. They can be eaten immediately, but they will taste better after 3 days.

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