You’ll need access to a decent-sized Asian market in order to do these…apologies to readers in more rural areas. Of course if you’re extra motivated you can make your own sweet bean paste out of adzuki beans and pickle your own eggs (it takes about three weeks but is very worthwhile I hear…makes even better mooncakes). Recipes are out there on the web for the asking.
Oh, and you’ll need a mooncake mold. These can be traditional wooden molds or plastic extrusion-type presses. I tried for a month to get a plastic one shipped mail-order since it seemed less intimidating, but settled for a wooden one in the end. Say a prayer.
For the Skins
8.5 ounces Chinese golden syrup
2.5 ounces peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese lye water or alkaline water
12.5 ounces cake flour
Combine the syrup, oil, soda and lye water in a bowl and mix with a fork. Add the flour and gently bring the dough together. Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit for several hours or overnight.
For the Filling
Salted chicken or duck yolks (in the refrigerated section of Asian grocery stores by the eggs)
1 recipe sweet adzuki bean paste
Egg wash made with all yolks
Salted yolks are sold vacuum-packed and while they’re pickled, they aren’t cooked per se. Since mooncakes only bake long enough to brown the crust, everything inside the cake must be cooked and ready to eat before you shape. The salted yolks can either be steamed for 10 minutes or baked in a 300-degree oven for about 15 minutes until done (test one to be sure). Cool them before using.
To shape the cake, start by enclosing the yolk in bean paste. Amounts will vary according to the size of your mold. Flatten a piece of skin dough into a disk and wrap it around the bean paste ball. Push the dough ball into the mold, then either extrude it from the press (if using a plastic model) or whack the wooden mold with all your might on the counter to loosen your cake before turning it out. Repeat until your bean paste and skin doughs are used. Lay the cakes out on a parchment-lined sheet pan.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the mooncakes for five minutes (the interiors are already cooked so you really only need to brown the crust). Remove them from the oven and brush them with egg wash. Bake them another 5-7 minutes until golden brown, but not too much more than that since the expanding curst will make the delicate patters disappear!
Cool the cakes on a wire rack completely before eating.