{ m o o n c a k e s }

how to make

Mooncakes are traditionally given as gifts in late August and September, in the weeks leading up to the Mid-Autumn Festival. They're my absolute favorite dessert -- rich and dense, with velvety-smooth fillings and a vermilion duck yolk inside. This year, I decided to try my hand at making my own. It turns out that they're wonderful homemade, and not nearly as hard as I expected. Here's how.

for the filling:

1 cup dried lotus seeds or red beans 2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar (to taste) pinch salt (optional) 6 tbsp coconut oil (or other solid fat of your choice, i.e. lard or shortening)

1. Soak the seeds or beans overnight in plenty of water. If using lotus seeds, split the seeds open after soaking and remove the green germ from the seeds. 2. Boil for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until fork-tender. Lotus seeds may take longer -- up to 2 1/2 or 3 hours.

3. Combine cooked seeds or beans with sugar in a food processor.

4. Blend until smooth and about the consistency of hummus.

5. Transfer to a saucepan and add the coconut oil. Over medium heat, cook the filling until it thickens and turns glossy.

6. Chill the filling while you make the dough. Ideally, it should be fully chilled and firm by the time you're ready to make the mooncakes. A firmer filling is easier to work with.

for the dough:

1/4 cup golden syrup (e.g. Lyle's) 1/2 tsp alkaline water (kansui) 2 tbsp vegetable oil 1/2 cup flour 1/2 cup cake flour

1. Whisk together syrup, alkaline water, and oil until blended. 2. Add in the two flours and use a wooden spoon to stir until it forms a pebbly dough.

3. Gather the mixture together and knead very gently, just until it comes together to one mass. Cover tightly and let rest for 45 minutes to an hour.

to form

1. Divide the filling into 12 equal pieces and shape each into a ball, about 2 to 2 1/2 tbsp in volume (33-34g in weight).

2. Pinch off about a tablespoon of wrapper dough and roll it into a circle about 3-4 inches in diameter.

3. Fold the wrapper up around the filling. It likely will not cover the whole ball at once.

4. Gently push and press the wrapper dough, holding the ball securely in your palm, until the wrapper covers the ball.

You can finish by rolling the ball gently between your palms to evenly distribute the wrapper.

Getting the relatively thin wrapper to cover the filling can be tricky. Keeping the filling cold and firm will help. Alternatively, you can use an extra small piece of wrapper dough to patch a hole, or just roll out two smaller pieces of wrapper dough and use them on either end of the ball of filling, which should seal it easily.

5. Place the sealed ball in the mooncake mold.

6. Place the mold upright on a solid surface and press down firmly on the plunger.

7. Lift the mold and press again on the plunger to push the finished cake out.

to bake

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk an egg with a splash of milk. Remove the moon cakes, leaving the oven on, and let cool for about 10 minutes. Brush the egg wash on the tops only, then bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown on top and fragrant.

3. Finally, let cool completely, then store in an airtight container for 2 days to "release oil." The skins will become shiny, soft, and supple.

then enjoy!

for the full recipe, visit http://tworedbowls.com

happy mid-autumn festival!