Mooncakes are a staple of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival.
Traditionally, the holiday celebrates the fall harvest and first full moon of autumn. In the Chinese calendar, it falls on the 15th day of the eighth month (this year, that’s Sept. 13).
In many parts of Asia, it’s akin to Thanksgiving, a time for families to gather and indulge in sumptuous meals. In China, that means a lot of mooncakes.
(Read more: A Hong Kong bakery decides to protest—with mooncakes)
Mooncakes are small, round pastries stuffed with filling, either a sweet paste or savory meat. They’re often given as gifts, and weeks before the Mid-Autumn Festival, Chinese bakeries scramble to churn them out in large batches.
There are many types of mooncake. The most well-known is the Cantonese version, a dense medallion-shaped paste cake with a chewy, rubbery crust.
The paste is usually made from mashed lotus seeds, red bean, or nuts. Some include a salted duck egg yolk in the center.
Another is the Suzhou variety, which involves a lighter, flakier crust. This one is easier to make for the home cook, and we’ve provided the recipe below.
For the soft dough
- 2/3 cup (75g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (30g) butter
- 1/8 cup (20g) water
- 3 teaspoons (12g) sugar
For the pastry dough
- 1/4 cup (50g) flour
- 1 3/4 tablespoons (25g) butter
For the filling
- 3/4 cup (180g) red bean paste
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup (50g) black sesame seeds
- 9 salted duck egg yolks (optional)
- If you’re including the salted duck egg in your filling, first prep the yolks by baking them at 350°F for 10 minutes.
- For the crust, start by mixing the ingredients for the soft dough in a bowl, and divide into 9 pieces. Set aside.
- Mix the ingredients for the pastry dough in a bowl, and divide into 9 balls.
- Wrap a piece of soft dough around each ball of pastry dough. Flatten and roll into cigars.
- Flatten the cigars lengthwise and then roll them up again. This creates more layers to the pastry.
- Stand the cigars up and then flatten them into disks. This will be the skin of the mooncake.
- Wrap the salted duck egg yolk in red bean paste. Otherwise, just use a dollop of red bean paste as the filling alone.
- Slowly wrap the mooncake skin around the filling.
- Brush the top with egg yolk and sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top.
- Bake the mooncakes at 400°F for 20 minutes. Serve.