Written by CAPA-JRC reporter Eileen Luo
For the Chinese people, mooncakes are a staple of autumn. They’re traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is held annually in September or October on the full moon.
The sweet, round pastries have thick, tender skins and are typically filled with red bean or lotus seed paste. Usually, the Chinese characters for "longevity" or "harmony" are imprinted on top. Some mooncakes also have one or two salted yolks hidden inside.
What is their significance? In Chinese culture, roundness symbolizes completeness and togetherness. A full moon, by extension, symbolizes fortune and family reunion. Mooncakes also complement the harvest moon in the night sky at the Mid-Autumn Festival.
But let’s say you’d like to enjoy some mooncakes out-of-season. There’s Costco, which starts selling them a month or so before the festival even begins. But in January?
Hence, this recipe. It may be time-consuming, but the end result will surely be worth all that effort! Below is a snippet from the beginning of the recipe. Credits to The Woks of Life; this recipe is entirely theirs!
This is how the mooncakes look when they’re done. Delicious, no? Image credits to Judy from The Woks of Life.
Part I: The Syrup
8 ounces granulated sugar (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup water
Juice of ½ a lemon
Part II: The Lotus Filling
12 ounces dried lotus seeds (pre-halved is ideal if you can find it; we used whole)
4 cups water
1 2/3 cups powdered sugar (AKA icing sugar or confectioner's sugar)
1 1/4 cups peanut oil or corn oil
Part III: the Salted Duck Egg Yolk (it must be salted)
12 salted duck egg yolks
Part IV: The Dough
8.75 tablespoons sugar syrup (that you made or bought)
1/3 cup peanut oil or corn oil
1 teaspoon lye water (available at your Chinese grocery store)
1 3/4 cups flour (plus more for dusting)
Parts V & VI: Assembling and Baking the Mooncakes
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons water
Making the Syrup:
Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Once boiled, stir in the lemon juice, and immediately reduce the heat to low. Let the syrup simmer uncovered for 60-70 minutes (do not stir!), until the sugary liquid turns a light amber color.
After 60-70 minutes, the liquid might look a bit watery, but it will thicken once cooled. Try not to overcook it, because it will become thick like caramel (it should be the consistency of honey). If you do overcook the syrup and it’s too thick, add a few drops of hot water to thin it out. Keep adding hot water until you get a honey-like consistency.
Pour the sugary liquid into a heatproof container, and let it cool completely before storing it in the refrigerator.
The full recipe can be found here. Happy mooncake-baking!
This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 26 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.