I much prefer snowskin mooncakes to the traditional ones so I thought I’d give it a go. After looking up recipes on the Internet, I found that it wasn’t all that hard after all. They don’t require a lot of ingredients or steps. Or so I thought!
The last time I made mooncakes I was co-opted into an assembly line in a cottage industry run by a distant relative who made them for sale every year. Since I was just a student, I was unpaid labour. It was quite fun, my job just consisted of wrapping the fillings into the skin, pressing them into the moulds and banging them out. I was quite surprised she used store-bought fillings, which came in huge drums.
Apparently the secret was in the skin, and that we weren’t privy to. I was told she had paid money to a “sifu” in Hong Kong to learn his secret and I could remember her crouching in the back of her flat making up her secret formula. So basically I didn’t know much about the actual recipe except for the hard labour part.
However, with the Internet, there are loads of formulas out there today for making mooncakes and I choose this one because it looked simple. Also snow skin mooncakes do not require any baking.
Phoon Huat made it easy because I could buy everything there. I picked up a pack of lotus paste filling and gao fen. I also bought a wooden mould for making mini mooncakes, because I felt like being traditional. There were cheaper plastic moulds available.
Obviously, there was a learning curve!
1. The mould.
I thought the mould would be a standard size. According to the recipe I should have used 30g skin with 25g of filling. Well, it didn’t fit even though the Phoon Huat sales assistant told me the mould was for 50 to 60 g. Instead of starting over, I tried to squash the whole ball inside and ended up with a mess. The dough is sticky and bits got stuck everywhere as I dug it out. And I had the devil of a time digging the remains out.
So, lesson learnt. I had to adjust the size of my mooncakes. I enlisted the help of my more mathematically-inclined hubby and cut the proportion to 20g skin with 22g filling.
2. Precise measurements
Obviously, the weight requirement would mean a precision I’d hereto lacked because I was a cups-and-spoons kinda gal. So the next item on my shopping list was a digital weighing scale. They tend to be really expensive, I found one at Phoon Huat for about $36. Needless to say, all the fillings and the skin had to be carefully weighed ball by painstaking ball. But I figured I needed a weighing scale anyway, so that was an investment!
3. Sticky dough
The dough was also very sticky and I had to use a lot of the flour to dust it as I rolled the skin and as I pushed the whole mooncake into the mould. There were times when I missed spots and dough would get stuck to the mould and I had to pause to clean them out. And given the softness of the dough, I felt that the mould impressions weren’t very clear.
4. Seasoning the mould
Only after I’d made my mooncakes and decided to try getting some hints on cleaning the mould that I discovered my wooden mould had to be “seasoned” before I used it, whatever that meant. It had to be soaked in oil and then washed. I hope that step means my mould won’t have mouldy problems. So before I make my next batch I’m going to have to season the mould. Getting the plastic would have been easier! However, another shop did tell me that plastic moulds may not be as hardy. And I did not see the moulds used in the website. That had a plunger.
So after a lot of banging and whacking to get the mooncakes out of the mould, I told my husband, why do we have to put them in the mould? Why can’t we just eat them in their balled shape? So he said why even bother to wrap them? Hold the filling in one hand and bite from the dough in the other hand.
I guess that was a rhetorical question. Anyway, after my long dissertation on my experience, you’d be right to think why did I bother. Well, mooncakes are horrifically expensive. And I’ve always liked making things. Also, they turned out pretty tasty! I am going to attempt them in other flavours.
So if you haven’t been put off yet, here’s the recipe if you’re interested in trying. It was adapted from a blog Chinese Food Delight. After you get over the initial stage (and hopefully my experience will help), it really is easier than expected.
- 100g fried glutinous rice flour sifted (it’s also called gao fen as I discovered from other sites)
- 150g icing sugar
- 120g boiling water
- 1 tablespoon shortening
- Few drops of banana essence or other flavouring (I used peppermint because I didn’t have many types of essence available)
- Few drops of colouring (optional)
- 300g paste (Phoon Huat sells all sorts but I bought the standard lotus paste)
- I also added some melon seeds because I like the crunchy taste.
(a) Making the Skin Dough
- Pour 120g of boiling water into 150g of icing sugar and stir till dissolved. Add a few drops of colouring (optional) and stir till even. Leave to cool.
- Add shortening (in small lumps) to the cooled mixture. Sift 100g of fried glutinous rice flour into the mixture slowly. Stir the mixture evenly as you sift. When it becomes difficult to stir, use your hand to knead it into a soft and fine dough.
- Add essence and knead evenly until the dough does not stick to your hand. If it keeps sticking, leave it to sit for 30 minutes.
(b) Making the Mooncake
- Separate the filling into 25g each and roll them into balls. Set aside.
- Separate the skin dough into 30g each and roll into balls with smooth surface. (If it won’t fit into your mould like mine, you can just adjust the proportion until it fits)
- Roll the dough balls over a thin layer of sifted fried glutinous rice flour and flatten them into a circle using either your hands or a kitchen roller.
- Put a filling in the middle of the skin and slowly wrap it up. Roll it into a ball and then over a thin layer of sifted fried glutinous rice flour again.
- Sprinkle some sifted fried glutinous rice flour into the mooncake mould and cover all sides of the pattern evenly. This is to ease the removal of the moon cake from the mould later. Knock excess flour out of the mould.
- Put your wrapped ball into the mould, with the nicer side facing in. Press hard and evenly. Carefully shake the moon cake out of the mould onto your palm and place it in your moon cake box (which can be bought from the baking supply store where you buy your mooncake filling).
- Refrigerate the mooncakes for a few hours and they are ready to eat (without baking).