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Traditional Mooncakes

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This recipe makes enough dough for a dozen 50g mooncakes assuming a 1:1 ratio of dough to filling.

Active Time: 25-35 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour to 1h 15m, not including time to make your filling

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Ingredients

  • 1⅓ cups All purpose flour | 5.5 oz | 160g

  • 2¾ tablespoons neutral oil (like canola oil) | 1.4 oz | 39g

  • ¼ cup + 2 teaspoons golden syrup (like Lyle’s Golden Syrup) | 3.4 oz | 96g

  • 1 teaspoon alkaline water (lye water) | 0.2 oz | 5g

  • 1 egg yolk + 2 tablespoons of water for brushing

Notes

  1. A ziplock bag is thicker and easier to handle than using plastic wrap. It won’t stick to itself, and by leaving the bottom edge intact to act as a hinge, it leaves the zipper sides available to act as handles to more easily grasp the edge of the bag. This is especially true if you are wearing food service gloves.

Instructions

Make the dough

  1. Measure oil, golden syrup, and alkaline water into a medium bowl. Stir to combine. It may get cloudy and lighten in color as the alkaline water reacts with the acid in the golden syrup.
  2. Add the flour and mix using a silicone spatula until all the liquids are absorbed and all of the flour is incorporated. Use the spatula to fold the dough over itself a few times.
  3. Using your hands, form a ball of dough, and knead it for 15-30 seconds. Long enough to ensure that all of the flour is fully incorporated. It will be a smooth, wet, and oily dough. Don’t expect a dry pastry dough. I like to wear food service gloves when I do this to keep the dough from sticking to my hands.
  4. Flatten into a round disc, wrap in plastic, and allow it to rest for about 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator. You can make the dough in advance and refrigerate it for up to a couple days. If you do, allow it to rest on the counter to return to warm a little as it may crack more easily if too cold. This dough is easier to work with when it’s cool to the touch. 
  5. Divide the dough into equal size portions and roll them into balls. You can use a 1:1 ratio of dough and filling if you are new to making mooncakes. Therefore, a small sized (50g) mooncake mold needs 25g of dough for each portion. As you get more accustomed to forming mooncakes, you can use less dough and more filling, leading to a thinner crust.
  6. Cover and set your dough portions aside while you prepare your filling. If you made your dough in advance, you can cover and refrigerate your dough.

Make the filling

  1. There are lots of fillings to choose from. Check out filling recipes here: https://kneadandnosh.com/category/recipe/?s=mooncake

Assemble the mooncakes

    1. Preheat your oven to 325°F/165°C (no fan) or 300°F/150°C (fan). Prepare a ziplock bag by cutting the sides, leaving the bottom edge intact, and unzip the top*. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2. Divide your filling into equal-sized portions, and roll into balls if you haven’t already. 
    3. Unfold the ziplock bag, and place a dough ball in the center. Fold the top side of the bag over the dough ball, and then gently press the dough flat with the palm of your hand. Using a rolling pin, gently roll the dough into a circle that is larger than your balls of filling. At most, make the circle about 2 times the diameter of your filling.
    4. Unfold the ziplock so you can place a ball of filling in the center of the dough. Lift the ziplock bag and flip the filling and dough over into your hand. Gently peel the plastic off and set aside.
    5. With your free hand, using your thumb and forefinger, form a ring around the dough and ball, and work from the top downward toward the equator to press the dough around the filling, making sure there are no air bubbles. When you’ve enclosed at least half the ball, flip the dough and ball over. Continue to use your thumb and forefinger to wrap around the ball, working your way from the equator toward the “north” pole. As the dough “bunches” gently press these bulges of dough upward to cover the remainder of the filling ball. Once you’ve fully enclosed the filling, gently roll between your hands to form a smooth ball. As you become more adept at this process, you’ll find that you can use a lower ratio of dough to filling resulting in a thinner crust.
    6. Place the filled dough ball into your mooncake mold. Place the mooncake mold down directly on your parchment lined sheet pan. Once shaped, it’s best not to move your mooncakes, so place the mold where you want the mooncake to rest and be baked. With one hand, hold the mold in place, and with the other, gently press the mold plunger down onto the filled dough ball, then release the plunger. Gently lift the mold while pressing the plunger down to push the mooncake out of the mold.
    7. Repeat with your remaining dough and filling portions. Space the mooncakes on your sheet pan with at least an inch of space to allow air to circulate around them so they bake evenly. Bake on the center rack for 10 minutes then remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the sheet pan for 10 minutes.
    8. Beat the egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of water. After a 5 minute cooling period, brush each mooncake with a thin later of the egg yolk wash. Be careful to add only a thin layer of egg yolk wash. You don’t want to fill the decorative lines with egg wash. Return to the oven for a final 10 minute baking period or until an even golden brown. Allow the mooncakes to rest on the sheet pan set on a cooling rack until fully cooled, and then transfer to an airtight container. Mooncakes are best when allowed to rest for 1 to 3 days. In this time, some of the moisture and oil will migrate outward softening the crust, and giving them their signature shine.

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