How to make homemade moon cakes from scratch
By Zhanglin Kong, registered dietitian, program director of WIC/nutrition at South Cove Community Health Center
Hello everyone, my name is Bunbun! I am a star twice a year: Easter and the upcoming August Moon Festival. According to the fairytale, there is a jade bunny living in the moon palace as a loyal companion to the Goddess of the moon Chang’e. Luckily, I don’t live that far away. I am an urban bunny that lives in Allston with my owner Lin.
As the August Moon Festival approaches, do you feel it is the same every year? Luckily my owner is an adventurous dietitian who likes to test and make up new recipes. After some research, she came up with a simple recipe for homemade moon cake.
The ingredients are quite simple, except for the custom moon cake mold, which can be found in Chinatown or online. All ingredients are shown in the photo, except for the four eggs she used at the end. As you can see, they are all basic staples found in any grocery store.
• All purpose flour, 6 cups
• Olive oil, 2 cups
• Dry red bean, 1 large bag
• Sugar, 4 cups (3 cups for syrup, about 1 cup for red bean filling)
• 1 fresh lemon
• 4 large eggs
Lin chose red bean for the moon cake filling, as it is healthier than other types of stuffing. Five-nut filling is excellent in nutrition value as well, but it is hard to make at home. The red bean stuffing and sugar syrup for the dough have to be made one day ahead to reach the desired consistency.
Mix 1 cup of water and 3 cups of sugar in a saucepan. When the water comes to boil, squeeze the lemon juice in. Bring the heat down and simmer the mix for 30 to 40 minutes until browned, then pour it out into a sealable heatproof container. When the syrup cools down to room temperature, store it in fridge overnight for dough making.
Red bean paste filling
Making red bean paste is a straightforward but lengthy process. After soaking the red beans for several hours or overnight, boil the red bean in a large pot and then simmer on low heat for about three hours or until softened. For smashing the red bean into paste, Lin simply used a spoon and pressed the beans against the bowl. To save time, you can also process the beans in a blender until smooth, but the chunky texture will be lost this way. Stir the sugar into the paste and heat it up briefly for the sugar to melt. Then wait for it cool before storing it in the fridge overnight.
The next day, it’s the time to make the dough and bake the cakes. Put 6 cups of flour into a large mixing bowl, making a hole or well in the middle, then add 2 cups of vegetable oil and all the syrup. Mix well with a spoon or with your hands. Do not knead the dough, as we don’t want any gluten to make the dough firm.
The last step is putting the stuffing in the dough and molding it. After the lengthy preparation of everything, this turned out to be the easiest part. Get some dough and make it into a ball, then press it as flat and thin as possible. Place some red bean paste in the center, pull the edges up and pinch together to form a ball. Place the ball in the model and press down the handle. Please press the model firmly against a flat work surface, so that the dough doesn’t leak out from the mold’s edges.
After placing the shaped moon cakes on the baking pan, brush some beaten egg yolk on the surface of each cake. The egg yolk will give the moon cakes a nice golden color. Bake the moon cakes at 360 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes or until the cakes turn golden.
Finally, the moon cakes are ready! Carefully take out the baking pan and let the moon cakes cool to room temperature. Store the moon cake in fridge for another two to three days for a softer texture.
Freshly baked moon cakes smell so aromatic that for the first time, I don’t see them as edible gifts from exquisite metal boxes. Traditionally, the August Moon Festival and moon cake are symbols for family reunion. I hope making moon cake with family members can be a good way to share laughter and enjoyment.
Although bunnies don’t eat moon cake, I know Lin will give me some fresh sweet fruit. I wish everyone and every bunny in greater Boston a wonderful August Moon Festival!
This post is also available in: Chinese