Happy Moon festival everyone! It has been a while since my last post. Just in case you are wondering what I have been up to these days, these moon cakes are part of the reason for my delayed post. Making the moon cakes make me reminisce about the moon festivals of my childhood in Vietnam many many .... moons ago. Every year I would ask my parents for different animal shaped lanterns, and every year I ended up burning it. My brothers and I would carry these candle lighted lanterns around our backyard under the illumination of the bright, round moon and sing the kid moon festival song. The adults would sit around in the front porch enjoying the moon and the delicate moon cakes with jasmine tea. The simple tradition is part of my childhood that I would love to pass on to my boys. Although they are still too young to appreciate these scrumptious moon cakes, but I hope gradually they will get to learn and value more the traditions of our own culture.
This is my second year making and experimenting moon cakes. Toward the end of the baking process, I somewhat regretted why I started this moon cake project in the first place. These moon cakes are so labor-intensive and detail-oriented. I spent my entire day-off to make them and still couldn't get everything finished until the next day. Between baking, making dinner and watching my little son, I gotta admired myself for overcoming such a crazy day like that. By the end of the day, I could barely feel my arms and every single muscle on my body refused to cooperate. I have never been so exhausted before. It didn't help at all when I had to wake up at 5 AM the next day for work.
Although there are still a lot of rooms for improvement, but compare to last year, I did make some distinguishable progress for these moon cakes. Thanks to my friend El from Eat Lover for all the guiding and supports to make this year moon cakes possible.
The preparation process started at least several months before the actual moon cake making process. About at least 2-3 months prior to, it's important to prepare the golden syrup for the dough. The longer you let it sit, the better and softer your dough will be. Some people even let it sit for a whole year before actually using it. I made my golden syrup about 6 months and prepared my salted eggs about 2 months in advance.
Everything need to be weighted out properly and chopped up into tiny cubes for the combination filling (nhan thap cam). My combination filling includes the lotus seed and opo squash candies (mut bi), roasted water melon seeds, roasted sesame seeds, cashew nuts, Vietnamese sausage (lap xuong) and home made char siu (xa xiu). It a combination of half savory and half sweet flavors. Some other recipes even add in shark fins, dried scallops or abalones.
The dough usually consists of all-purpose flour, golden syrup, egg yolks, oil and lye water. After mixing, the dough tends to have a very wet consistency. It needs to sit for at least 30 minutes before use and needs to be kneaded with extra flour to prevent sticking. The dough is then divided into smaller portions before wrap around the filling. The usual ratio of dough versus filling is 1 to 2. Depend on the weight of the mold, the dough vs. filling ratio will be calculated based on that. For example, if a mold is for a 150g cake, then the dough should be 50g and the filling will be 100g.
Baking is very important as well, know your oven temperature is highly recommended for appropriate baking. If the heat is too high, it may cause the dough to melt and, therefore, deform the shape of the cake. The cakes are then needed to be baked in three successions of about 8-10 minutes each.
After the first bake, the cakes will be sprayed with water to help keep the dough soft and moist. In the next two bakes, the cakes will be brushed with a thin layer of egg wash to create the shiny layer for the cakes. Baked moon cakes should be rested for at least 2-3 days to give the outside cake layer a chance to absorb the moisture and oil to yield a shinier, pettier cake surface. It also helps the cakes to have a chance to be soften before consumption.
As for the snow skin moon cakes, no baking process is involved so you can save some times. The glutenous rice flour that was used to make these moon cakes is actually cooked, so all you have to do after mixing the dough is to wrap the filling inside the dough and mold it into beautiful moon cakes.
What causes time consuming is the filling making part where it could easily take up several hours to prepare. If you make mung bean or lotus paste filling, then these need to be soaked in water the night before, and boiled in water until soften. The paste is then continuously stirred with sugar and oil until no longer sticking to the cooking pan or the spatula. At this point the paste is either used as is or mixed with a combination of nuts for a crunchier texture as desired.
The dough for snow skin moon cakes (banh deo) is usually flavored with a distinguished fragrant of the grapefruit flower extract. But beware to avoid overusing of the flavor or your cake will have an overwhelming taste of the flower extract. The dough versus filling ratio for banh deo is about 1 to 1 ratio, more or less depending on how one would like to eat more dough or more filling.
All in all, making moon cakes was a very time consuming process, but once you have achieved the ultimate result of success which coming from the compliments that you received, then it's all worth it.
I did not post the recipe today because it involves way too many complicated steps of preparation. Instead I just wanted to introduce to everyone this traditional delight sweet treats that we can only indulge once a year. I hope you all enjoyed the moon festival and the moon cakes with your loved ones.