Thursday, September 4, 2008

Snow Skin Mooncake

Chinese Mooncake Festival is almost here and I couldn't be more excited. When I was young, my brothers and I would play with Lanterns and each had 1/4 piece of the baked Mooncake, with the original filling of lotus nut paste and salted egg yolk. Prices of mooncake goes up every year and it is considered a novelty which is only enjoyed once a year, around mid September of the Gregorian calendar or the 15th day of the 8th month in the Lunar Calendar, which is also a celebration of Mid-Autumn by the Chinese people.

The types and varieties of Mooncakes available now has multiplied and the choices makes my favorite Lotus Nut paste seemed so insignificant. The type of moulds available are as extensive as the pre-made fillings, which ranges from fruit pastes to bean pastes. Even vegetarian egg yolks are available.

My friend, Ling sent me a cookbook solely on Mooncakes and I was so tempted to try out everything. I have been studying the whole book for 3 months and having high hopes. As I can get the baked type at Chinatown, I opted to try making this Snow Skin or 'Ping Pei' version first. The saying 'You Never Know Until you Try' is very true in this attempt of mine and it looked easy in the cookbook illustrations but making them was no easy task. I was completely exhausted after making this batch and now I know why they charge so high a price for mooncakes. Well maybe mass production with modern technology doesn't count as effort but they sure save us, the over enthusiastic housewives alot of time of making them ourselves!

I was able to get hold of taro paste and red bean paste and so I proceeded to make 2 types. And I was so surprised when I opened the taro paste can.... it was brownish color, exactly like the lotus nut paste and all this time I thought the color would be light purplish, which I thought would be very nice for a plain white skin. Fear not as I reached for my blue and red coloring, mixed them together like Missy E plays with her paint colors and I got lilac to color the skin. As I love both white and black sesame seeds, I toasted some white ones and added them to the taro paste, while I added the black ones to the plain white skin which was to cover the red bean paste fillings.

The recipes all insisted on the ingredient called "Koh Fun" but I couldn't locate it and substituted with glutinous rice flour instead. My father in law told me that in Hong Kong, restaurants do use glutinous rice flour which is steamed beforehand and fried dry thereafter to make desserts. With a little info from the Blogsphere, I prepared the glutinous rice flour prior to adding the icing sugar and evaporated milk. The skin turns milky yellowish and if pure white skin is preferred, water should be used in place of the evaporated milk. The taro paste was more easier to work with compared to the red bean one as the later was more wet in texture and perhaps I should have refrigerated it before I started.

Both the wrapping and moulding part really worn me out! I did some admendment to the recipe by increasing the flour and liquid and reducing the icing sugar as I was not keen on producing something as sweet as those mooncakes sold in the stores. To start with, the dough resembles sweet pastry dough which is a little wet to the hand but not sticky and the rolling need to be done with gentle strokes or else it starts to fall apart in crumbs. I had to use a pastry scrapper to scrape it off the countertop and gently transfer to my palms and fill the fillings. During the whole process of wrapping, I found myself patching up here and there over the shaped dough and especially the white one as the red bean filling was oozing everywhere. It is very important to have an extra bowl of the cooked glutinous rice flour by the side as you need alot to flour the hands, the countertop surface and the mould itself. By the time I finished, I was a flour sack myself!

For a first timer, I think my Snow Skin mooncakes turned out successful, despite the uneven shapes and difficult rolling of a thinner skin for the white one that contains the red bean paste. My father in law tasted them and said it was good, firstly because it was not very sweet as those that he gets in HK and secondly, my addition of the toasted sesame seeds to the taro paste and also the white skin of the red bean paste mooncake, gave them a better taste together with the accentuated fragrant aroma that they gave out. I chilled them for 30 mins before serving them with hot tea. Since the sugar content is so high for these mooncakes, it is better served in small portions.


crazymommy said...

Well done!!
Your first attempt looks really good! :)

Agnes aka Ric3y said...

Aha Jie! You wouldn't know what my desktop picture is in my office's computer - this mooncake picture u sent to me via MSN! xD~~~

Ling said...

Story behind mooncakes - When the Han people were trying to overthrow the Ching Dynasty, they used to put written messages in mooncakes. Very "cloak and dagger" stuff!

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

looks yummy. i didn't like all the traditional mooncakes i ate this yr--too dry n sweet. but ping pei mooncakes are so much lighter n better. have never attempted to make mooncakes--too daunting.