A freelance scriptwriter who loves baking shares her recipe for a delicious, traditional moon cake
Nearly everyone who bakes moon cakes at home for the Mid-Autumn Festival, like Thien Thu, a freelance scriptwriter, does so because it is not just cheaper and safer but also such a thrill.
For Vietnamese, what makes the festival possibly the best childhood memory is the moon cake. The awesome treat, which gets its name from the full moon, has a distinctive appearance: a golden-brown crust wrapping a smooth, dense filling made of a slew of different ingredients with a savory duck yolk nestling in the center. Thu said though all kinds of moon cakes are available in the market, she worries about their hygiene and so makes them at home.
“It is not very difficult but also not as easy as making a pie. The first step is making sugar syrup with sugar and water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to simmer, do not stir. Add lime juice and lye water and simmer for 15 minutes. When the syrup is thick enough, turn off the heat, let it cool and store in a jar. “The best time for making sugar syrup is at least 3 weeks before baking, but the longer the better,” Thu said.
Beside the basic baking tools, some specialty items like a mold are needed. Thu said a wooden mold is perfect but too expensive and so she uses a plastic one. She gave Thanh Nien the recipe for traditional thap cam (varied) moon cakes.
200g brown sugar syrup
300g flour (wheat flour)
50ml vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2. Filling (assorted nuts)
100g of the following:
- White sesame
- Watermelon seeds
- Cashew nuts
- Sugared ginger
- Sugared kumquat
- Sugared lotus seeds
- Sugared melon
- Fresh sausage (lạp xưởng)
- 5 fresh lime leaves
- Salted egg yolks (soak in mixture of white wine and ginger for around 5 minutes, steam 10-15 minutes before use)
3. Sauce for filling
100g sugar syrup
20ml Mai Que Lo wine
10ml sesame oil
Mix the ingredients for the filling as well as the dough. They were earlier dry-fried on medium low heat and stirred constantly before the cooked glutinous rice flavor and corn syrup were added gradually until the filling became sticky enough.
Make the filling into small cubes after adding a salted egg yolk in the middle of each, and cover them well. Spread enough dough to wrap the filling, place the mixture in the mold that has been coated with oil (coconut oil can be used for great flavor). Press firmly and then take it out of the mold.
Set the oven at 200-210 degree for around 5 minutes before grilling the cakes. Don’t forget to add oil before grilling and set the grill again for 5 minutes. Take them out quickly, spray a little water on the cakes and wait for 5 minutes. Then spread a thin layer of egg yolk on top and grill again for 5 minutes at the same temperature. When they [cakes] turn yellow brown, your mission is accomplished. You can take it out and clean up the mess.
After making cubes from the filling, let them “rest” for around 30 minutes before packing them in the dough. It needs time for all the ingredients in the filling to get along well with each other.
It takes the moon cakes, especially the top, around three days to turn from hard to soft enough for eating. However, if you put too much oil in the filling, or the dough is too wet, the cover will be soft as butter.
Grilled moon cakes of any kind taste best for 10-14 days.