Learn how to make traditional Chinese Mooncake with egg yolk, collect all the important tips for perfect Mooncake for the Chinese Mid Autumn Day.
Hello, mooncake season!
Elaine was born on the Mid Autumn day 30 years ago. Eating mooncakes and homemade sticky rice cake along with the birthday cake have been our family activities for 30 years. Starting from last year, Elaine makes mooncake for my family instead of purchasing some from the market.Chinese eat mooncakes to celebrate the family reunion day. Mooncakes on the market are either round or square shaped. Most of the traditional mooncakes are round. The roundness symbolizes completeness and reunion. Family members usually share mooncakes together.
Mooncakes can be differ from filling to crust. This is a guide to traditional Cantonese style sweet mooncakes. But recently mooncakes are a large group for example Su style savory mooncakes(minced pork as filling), snow skin mooncake (this one does not need baking), Yunnan ham and flower mooncakes, ice cream mooncakes, chocolate mooncakes etc. We even heard of reman noodles mooncake this year.Cantonese sweet mooncakes usually use different pastes, nuts and egg yolk as the ingredients for the filling including lotus seed paste, red bean paste, black sesame paste, mung bean pastes or mixed nuts(五仁月饼). Firstly, the two important ingredients for the dough of Cantonese mooncake: lye water and golden syrup (invert syrup). Following picture is the store bought versions I get from bakery stores in China.
Lye water (枧水)
Lye water sometimes called as alkaline salt is a alkaline solution. Tradition Chinese lye water is made with Kansui powder (蓬灰) and alkaline. But today’s version is a combined alkaline solution contains potassium carbonate and sodium carbonate. The ingredient label on the store bought bottle contains 80% pure water, 15% sodium carbonate and 5% potassium carbonate. The lye water can raise the alkalinity (pH) to neutralize the acid in the golden syrup. Baking soda does too, but sodium hydroxide is far more potent. Another purpose is the Maillard reaction, which is responsible for the crisping and browning crust skins.
This one might quite hard to find. Lye water You can try to search it at large Asian store, especially with lots of bakery ingredients. There are several approaches to make substitutes for lye water used in mooncake. They might work slightly different but can yield a very similar result.
Approach 1: dietary alkali powder with clean water at the ratio of 1:4.
Approach 2: If you use baking soda directly, you will get much softer and less browned crust. So firstly bake baking soda on a lined baking tray at 120 degree C for around 1 hour to turn it into stronger alkali. Do not touch it during the process to prevent skin irritation. And then mix 1 teaspoon of baked soda with 4 teaspoons of water.
Approach 3: A better substitute than baking soda due to tis high pH is sodium carbonate. The pH value is between the pH of baking soda and lye water. I find this one on amazon.
I have tested several times with my fellow housewives, golden syrup can be replaced by honey.
Golden syrup is made with sugar, water and acidic material (lemon juice). It is also known as artificial honey usually used in moon cakes and other cakes to replace sugar. It can add sweet taste, create a deep dark color of the final cakes and maintain the water. You can either choose homemade version or store bought version.
If there is any chance that you need to make mooncakes soon and do not want to bother simmer 40 minutes or access to Asian stores, you can replace golden syrup with honey at the same amount. I have tested several batches last year. Honey can work as a reliable substitute. Following picture is the batch using honey instead of golden syrup. There is little difference in texture and taste, but it yield a light color comparing with the ones using golden syrup.
A few tips before starting your mooncakes
- You need a kitchen scale to measure all the ingredients, accurate amount really matters to the final texture and taste.
- Success mooncakes=well balanced taste+well wrapped fillings+well kept shape (including the clear pattern on surface)
- If you are using homemade paste filling, make sure your paste is dry enough. Moist fillings might cause cracks on the skin.
- Cover all the fillings and divided wrapper dough with plastic wrapper to prevent drying out.
- Do not use too much flour to dust, otherwise it influences the pattern.
- Mooncake assembling needs patience and skill. I even spoil my first one during this batch(as it is my first batch this year). The filling of the left bottom one in the following picture comes out. But wearing plastic gloves can make the process easier. But be gentle and slow down when pushing the wrapper up.
Let’s start making the beautiful mooncakes.
Attention: The following recipe is based on 7: 3 (filling vs wrapper) for 14 moon cakes around 50g. If you want to use ratio 8:2, adjust the ingredients accordingly. And this is based on 50g moon cake shaping tool. If your egg yolk is too large, divide them into halves and wrap in two moon cakes. I am using New Moon Cake Decoration Mold mould to shape my moon cakes.
Wrapper : prepare all the other ingredients: golden syrup, alkaline water, flour and vegetable oil together. Combine golden syrup with vegetable oil and alkaline water in a large mixing bowl. Add flour in. Mix well. Knead to a ball, wrap with plastic wrapper and knead several times until smooth. Reset for 2-3 hour in refrigerator.
Firstly all of the fillings should be prepared previously. I usually make them in the previous day. I combine lotus seed paste, mung bean paste, red bean paste, and black sesame paste this time. But it is ok if you choose only one filling.
Treat the egg yolk: If you can find fresh salted duck egg, crack the egg and then wash the egg yolk in clean water. Set aside to drain before using. If you are using packaged salted duck egg yolk, remember to sprinkle some white spirit (白酒) on the surface to remove raw taste.
Measure the filling: I made 14 mooncakes in the video tutorial and 8 of them are loaded with salted egg yolk (Measure: egg yolk+paste filling=35g) and 6 of them are pure filling (30g).
Wrap the egg yolk with bean paste firstly:carefully shape into round ball and set aside. It is quite important to cover all of the ready fillings with plastic wrapper to prevent drying out.
- When the crust dough is ready, use a kitchen scale to divide them into 14 balls (each 15g).Take one portion of the wrapper, press into a round wrapper (larger is better but do not break the wrapper) and then place one filling ball in center.
- Push the wrapper from bottom to top little by little until the whole ball is completely wrapped.
- Shape into a round ball. This step can help to make the skin as even as possible. Then slightly shape the ball into an oval so you can easily place it into the mould.
- Dust your mould with flour and then shake several times to remove the extra amount of flour. Use mooncake mould to shape it.
- When the assembling process is done, coat the ball with a layer of flour. Also coat your tool please. Place the ball on your board, then carefully cover with the shaping tool, press the rod and gently remove the cake from the tool.
Preheat oven to 180 degree C (356F). Spay a very very thin layer of water on the surface of the mooncake can help to avoid cracking surfaces. But too much water will spoil the pattern on the surface. Bake for 5 minutes to firm the shape.
In a small bowl, whisked one egg yolk with 1 tablespoons of egg whites. Transfer the mooncakes out and brush a very very very thin layer of egg wash on the surface. Low the oven temperature to 170 degree C and put them back to the oven and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes. I baked around 16 minutes.
When well-baked, transfer out cooling crack to cool down completely.
Keep and Serve
When the mooncakes are out of the oven, the skin is not oily like the ones on the market. We need the last step: place in an airtight container (I am using single package as I need to ship them to my family). Wait for around 1 or 2 days for the pasty to become soft (This process is named as”回油”, meaning the process of returning the oil to the surface).After this last step, mooncakes can be kept for around 2 weeks in fridge.
Traditional Cantonese Chinese Mooncakes.
- 115g plain flour
- 28g(around 2 tablespoons) peanut oil or other vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon flour for coating the tool
- 75g golden syrup (homemadeor store bought)
- 2g lye water
- 8 salted egg yolks, each 10g
- 380g bean paste or black sesame filling (25g*8+30g*6)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon egg white
- Prepare the filling paste in the previously, lotus seed paste, mung bean paste or red bean paste.
- Combine lye water, golden syrup, and vegetable oil in a small bowl and then mix with flour. Stir until well combined. Wrap with plastic wrapper and then knead several times until smooth. Set aside in fridge for 2-3 hours.
- Transfer out and then divide into 14 equal balls (each one 15g)
- Measure the fillings for egg yolk mooncake: paste+ egg yolk=35g. Measure the fillings for pure paste filling: paste filling=30g. Wrap the egg yolks with paste firstly. And shape all the filling into round balls. Take one portion of the wrapper, press into a round wrapper and then place one filling ball in center. Push the wrapper from bottom to top little by little until the whole ball is completely sealed. Shape it into a round ball firstly and then into an oval.Slightly dust your mooncake tool and press the rod and gently remove the cake from the tool.
- Preheat oven to 180C (356F). Spray a very thin layer of water on surface to avoid cracking surface (especially you used larger amount of dusting flour). Bake for 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisked the egg yolk and combine with egg whites. Transfer mooncakes out and brush a very thin layer of egg wash on the surface.
- Continue bake for around 15 to 20 minutes until the mooncake becomes well browned.
- Transfer out to a cooling down crack to cool down completely. Place in an airtight containers. Wait for around 1 or 2 days for the pasty to become soft and oily. After the "oil return" process, keep the mooncakes in fridge up to 2 weeks.
For mooncakes, smaller duck egg yolk around 10 grams each one is highly recommended. If your egg yolks are larger, for example near 20g. Divide it into two halves and wrap in two moon cakes.
When pushing the outer wrappers, be carefully and slow down your process. Do not break the wrapper. If you do, pinch any small holes together. The time needed for assemble one moon cake should be around 1 minute even you are quite skilled. Be patient during the process.
Following picture is taken 3 days after baking.