Today is the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, which to me means mooncakes! Most of my life, when I thought of a mooncake, I pictured a heavy, rich pastry filled with red bean or lotus seed paste and maybe a salted egg yolk inside. They're good, but you can only eat a couple of bites before it gets to be too much. Then I discovered Taiwan's version: light, flaky layers of pastry wrapped around sweetened taro root paste. Not only are they delicious, they're really gorgeous!
I never imagined they'd be something I could make at home, but then I came across a few recipes and just had to try. Some of the recipes use unsalted butter or shortening in the dough and/or taro paste, but I personally like the subtle coconut flavor you get from using coconut oil so I used that instead. Note: This took way longer than I thought it would take to make. I made the taro paste the day before, and it still took me over 3 hours to make the mooncakes the day of.
For the taro paste:
2 lb. taro root
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
For the white dough:
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons coconut oil
Water For the purple dough:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons oil
Purple food coloring
Peel and cube the taro. Steam for about 30-40 minutes until the taro is fork tender. Use a ricer or mash the taro into a paste. Mix with the the salt, sugar, and coconut oil. Set aside to cool.
Sift together the flour, powdered sugar, and salt for the white dough in a medium bowl. Add the coconut oil and 1/4 cup of water. Stir and add more water if necessary, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. Knead for a few minutes until smooth.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt for the purple dough. Add the oil and a few drops of purple food coloring. Add more food coloring as necessary to get a pale but noticeably purple dough. (I used a gel food coloring, and for some reason it never really spread very well throughout the dough and mostly stayed in little specks.) This dough will look and act more like wet sand than pastry dough.
Divide both doughs into 10 pieces and refrigerate for about 20 minutes to rest and chill slightly.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Roll one of the balls of white dough into a rough circle and wrap it around a ball of the purple dough, sealing it completely. Roll the combined dough into a long oval and then roll it up into a spiral. With the seam on the bottom, rotate the dough 90 degrees and roll out again into a long rectangle. Roll the rectangle up into a spiral again and slice in half. You'll now have two pieces of dough with beautiful spirals showing on the cut sides.
Place the cut side down and flatten the dough with your hands. Roll out into a rough circle. It's okay if the layers tear a little through this whole process. Take a spoonful of the taro paste and place it in the center of the dough. Gently pull the dough upward and around the paste to seal it inside. Don't worry if the edges don't seal all the way; the dough doesn't stick to itself very easily. Flip the ball over and gently reshape so that the spiral is centered on top and the bottom is slightly flattened.
Place on a Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before eating.