Monday, September 24, 2012

Snowy moon-cakes 冰皮月餅

Mid-autumn festival is around the corner. To be precise it will be celebrated (this year) on Sunday 30 September.  Also called the moon festival this is one of the liveliest fetes in the Chinese calendar. People of all ages go to parks with relatives and friends to view the moon, chat and eat moon-cakes (yuht-bíng月餅), fruits (such as persimmon, pomelo, etc) and other snacks (boiled taro wuh-tauh 芋頭, water caltrops 菱角 lìnhg-gok, etc.)

There are many types of moon-cakes starting with the traditional ones made with lotus paste, a lard-based crust and one or several salted (duck) egg yolks. Chocolate, jelly and ice-cream moon-cakes are now fashionable. There is also a mochi-type which became popular about 3 decades ago; it is called snowy moon-cakes or (bîng péih yuht bíng 冰皮月餅 – lit. ice-skin-moon-cake). The name comes from its light and whitish crust made of non-baked flour. The fillings are varied and new flavours appear each year on the market, e.g. tiramisu, chocolate, coffee, etc. Some have even fresh fruit inside. According to Chef Pastry Jeff Lam who taught us to make bîng péih yuht bíng the snowy variety is famous in Malaysia where the weather is hotter than Hong Kong at the time of the festival.
The prettiest moon-cake (in my opinion) and the most representative of the festival is the traditional one. When you slice the cake the half egg yolk looks like the moon.

Iced moon-cakes with floral patterns

Persimmon

Pomelo
Last year I followed the recipe of my friend Noel and made my first traditional moon-cakes (filled with lotus seed paste - but no egg yolk) by myself at home. This year I joined a group class to learn how to make snowy moon-cakes.

Utensils, ingredients and recipe ready for use

Dough (white and green); custard (yellow)
First the Pastry Chef demonstrated how to proceed then it was our turn to make ourselves mini moon-cakes.

This is the dough (see recipe below) I made
We first made the dough with the flavour of our choice (e.g. banana, vanilla, almond, or pandan - green colour essence). We did not use the dough we made as it needed to rest. We brought it home to make more moon-cakes by ourselves. The Chef gave us the dough he had prepared beforehand.
Then we shaped small balls with the red bean paste and custard provided to us as there was not enough time to make it ourselves. Afterwards we rolled the dough into small circles and wrapped a circle around each red bean and custard balls. Then (one by one), we pressed firmly each ball with our thumb into the mould, flipped the mould over and pressed firmly to release the cakes.

Dough (pandan flavoured) with red bean paste filling
inside the multiple shapes mould
Vanilla-flavoured dough with custard filling
inside the pink press mould

The pink (single shape) mould has sharper edges than the multiple shapes one. I found it easier to shape the cake with the pink press mould than with the plastic tray (multiple shapes). The press helps you to make the markings and shape the cake nicely.  It is also easier to push it out of the mould.
When using the plastic multiple shapes mould more care is required so as not to spoil the markings on top and sides of the mini-cakes.

Pastry recipe - from Pastry Chef Jam Lam


Ingredients:

Pastry:
  • 520g mung bean flour 綠豆粉 luhk-dauh-fán
  • 320g icing sugar
  • 80g shortening (Crisco) 百菜油 – baak-choi-yàuh
  • 5g pandan essence (or any other flavours) / or fresh vanilla seeds
Syrup: for 850g syrup
  • 250g sugar
  • 600g water
  • 160g whipping cream
Steps:
  1. Sieve cake four and icing sugar. Add shortening and essence. Stir well.
  2. Prepare syrup: in a saucepan put sugar and water over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Let cool down. Then add whipping cream.
  3. Pour ½ of syrup in flour/sugar combination and mix. Add the 2nd half and mix until dough forms a smooth ball.
  4. Let dough stand for at least 1 hour.
Notes:
- Don’t forget to dust the inside of the mould as well as your hands, the rolling mat and pin. The cake should come out without difficulty provided you don’t forget to dust the mould with flour between each cake.

- You can buy the utensils for making moon-cakes at Man Kee Chopping Board, 340-343 Shanghai Street; and red bean, lotus seeds paste at a wholesale shop (does retail in the afternoon) on 18, Pak Po Street, Mongkok. 

Happy mid-autumn festival! 中秋快樂!
 

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