Mid Autmun Festival is upon us, and although it’s not a massive celebration, it’s quite hard to miss, with big bright boxes of mooncakes filling the entrance of most Asian grocery stores for months in the lead up.
As a child, I always remembered Mid-Autumn festival as the time when we got to play with lanterns in the backyard. Not the real paper lanterns of course- they were too flimsy and would catch fire too easily. Instead, we each had a small blow up battery powered lantern which we brought out each year. It would light up and play a simple tune which would slowly become more and more off tune as the electronics wore out. But something about running around with a singing light was particularly mesmerising and it was an evening activity that would keep us occupied for hours on end.
As we grew older, and bright lights were no longer as exciting as they once had been these lanterns stopped making an appearance. For me, these days Mid-Autumn Festival has become more about spending time with the family and of course, the mooncakes.
Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as the Moon Festival due to its origins as a time to worship the moon, which is also why it occurs on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Lunar year- when the moon is at its roundest and brightest. And because every celebration needs some sort of signature food, this is where these mooncakes come about- small sweet pastries, which are round like the shape of the moon….the association is a bit loose but hey, it’s there!
The mooncakes we grew up with were of the Cantonese style baked mooncakes, with a lotus paste filling and these still remain the only mooncakes my parents purchase year after year. I’m not personally a fan of these but luckily these days mooncakes come in all shapes and sizes and are essentially anything with a filling and a casing and by anything I mean absolutely anything you can think of- from red bean, to ice cream, cream cheese and even seafood!
I think most people are aware that traditional mooncakes are not exactly a healthy treat, the lotus paste and crust consisting mostly of lard and sugar, the salted egg yolk (or yolks!) also adding to the calorie count. At around 3300kJ per piece and with a fat content that makes up more than half of the recommended dietary intake for fat (most of which is saturated), it’s not hard to see why it’s best to keep them an occasional treat. And if you also keep your portion sizes small (around 1/8th of a mooncake is ideal), there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy these as part of your Moon Festival celebrations!
As for me, I can’t say I’m a fan of the traditional mooncakes, but I do love snow skin mooncakes which come with a soft, chewy mochi like casing. These are not quite as calorific due to the lack of yolk and less of a need for fat for the filling, but they are still a sugary treat so portion control is definitely important!
There’s not much variety when it comes to snowskin mooncakes available in Australia so I do prefer making my own, which also means I can tweak these to my own tastes. In the past, I’ve shared my recipes for my snow skin mooncakes with both the custard and mung bean filling, so this year I thought I would be a little more adventurous and go for a matcha and red bean variety.
The recipe itself is based off my mung bean mooncake recipe, with the addition of some matcha powder to the skin and filling. It’s only a couple of teaspoons of matcha, but it makes all the difference, imparting a beautiful green hue as well as a slightly bitter taste which contrasts well with the sweetness of the red bean- it’s a flavour combination that never fails to impress!
It’s a bit of a timely process especially as I opted to make everything from scratch but I think the time spent is well worth it for the result. I like to make mine well in advance of Mid-Autumn Festival and store them in the freezer – just take them out 20-30 minutes prior to serving to defrost slightly and enjoy!
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival and enjoy those delicious mooncakes (in moderation)!
- 85g cooked glutinous rice flour
- 1 tsp matcha powder
- 30g cornflour
- 55g sugar
- 30g butter
- 225g milk
- 200g mung beans with skins removed (you can buy these from Asian supermarkets)
- 100g sugar
- 30g oil
- 3 tsp matcha powder
- 20g cornflour
- 2T water
- 100g red bean paste
- Sift together the rice flour, matcha and corn flour. Set aside.
- Heat the milk, sugar and butter together in a pan until very hot
- Remove from heat and quickly mix it into the flour mixture. Continue mixing until it becomes a soft ball of dough then put in fridge to cool.
- Soak mung beans overnight
- Transfer beans to a pot, cover with water and cook on medium heat for 15-30 minutes until soft. Turn off heat and leave for 10 minutes
- Strain if there is any water left. Pass the beans through a sieve (alternatively, blend them in a blender) to make a smooth paste
- Mix in the matcha powder then cook the paste with the sugar until dry, add the oil. Mix the cornflour with water and pour into the mixture- cook until thick.
- Divide the mungbean and red bean filling into your desired number of portions and roll into balls (for my mini mooncake mould, I divided the recipe into 16 portions). The red bean balls should be smaller than the mung bean ones. Flatten a mung bean ball, and place the red bean ball inside. Roll the mung bean around the red bean ball so that it encloses it. Repeat with all filling.
- Divide the mooncake skindough into the same number of portions
- Roll out the ‘skin’ so that it is flat and wrap around the filling (it will be very thin). Dust with extra cooked glutinous rice flour and then put in mould to shape.
- The skin should be soft and sticky but not too that it becomes difficult to handle. If it is too sticky, I would recommend steaming the dough for 10-15 minutes or incorporating more glutinous rice flour. Using gloves when handling the dough can also make it easier to handle.
- If you are using normal glutinous rice flour you can cook the flour by heating it in a pan until it is hot to touch (be careful not to burn the flour!).
- These mooncakes are quite soft, especially the skin component, so they are quite difficult to shape! If you are finding them too soft to make a nice shape, place them in the fridge to cool for about 30 minutes.
- You can always take some short cuts by buying the mung bean paste, red bean paste and even cooked glutinous rice flour from an Asian supermarket (I tend to find the store bought pastes not as fragrant and sweeter than I’d like).