Wednesday, August 28, 2019
The mooncakes I grew up eating were the golden, baked kind--usually filled with red bean or lotus seed paste and sometimes even a salted egg yolk inside. It's so ubiquitous that iOS has an emoji for them (while there still isn't an emoji for waffles??). They were good, but oh so heavy and dense; it was hard to eat more than a few tiny slices. Luckily, a few different kinds have popped up since I was a child like the swirly, flaky Taiwanese version I made a few years ago. Even more recently, I've been seeing snowskin mooncakes where the skin is made with glutinous rice flour resulting in a soft, translucent skin.
I did some research on how to make them, and it looks like there's a hard way with a lot of ingredients and steps and an easy way with just a few ingredients and no steaming involved. I already know how difficult it can be to work with mochi, so I went with the easy way by following the directions from Kirbie's Cravings and Tiny Urban Kitchen.
The first step is either sourcing roasted glutinous rice flour or making your own. Since I already had some flour at home, I tried dry roasting it in my wok. It's not hard to do, but it does take a little patience and a lot of stirring because you get that first wisp of smoke. Then you sift it together with powdered sugar before rubbing in a fat like shortening. I've tried using coconut oil and butter and both tasted great, but since butter has a slightly higher melting point, it's easier to work with.
The hardest part for me was figuring out how much liquid to add to make the dough. If you don't add enough it'll be too crumbly to work with, and if you add too much, it'll be too sticky. I found the hard way that if you overdo it with the liquid, you can add in some more powdered sugar to bring it back to the right consistency.
Then there's the matter of the filling. I knew I didn't want to go with the traditional heavy fillings and wanted to come up with something that might be more accessible for the American pantry and palate. It had to be something pliable enough to mold, firm enough to keep its shape, wouldn't need additional cooking, and hopefully stable at room temperature. I considered a cheesecake type filling or cookie dough before I thought of an even better idea: cake truffles! You may know them as cake balls or cake pops, but it's what you get when you mix cake crumbs with frosting or another binder, roll them up and cover with chocolate or candy melt.
It's incredibly easy to make and there's a million different variations. I made some to bring to a friend's birthday party, and since she loves watermelon, I baked a strawberry box mix cake, mixed it with some frosting and mini-chocolate chips, and wrapped it with pandan flavored snowskin so it looked like a watermelon. I also make some with non-dyed snowskin and Funfetti cake inside for a birthday cake mooncake. My favorite version so far has been using the chocolate chip-passion fruit cake truffle from All About Cake and wrapping it with a snowskin made with passion fruit pulp instead of water.
Snowskin Cake Truffle Mooncakes
makes about 35 mooncakes using a 50 g mooncake mold
For the cake truffle filling:
9"x13" cake, baked and cooled
Mix-ins like mini-chocolate chips or sprinkles (optional)
Binder, like frosting or fruit juice
Use your hands to crumble the cake into crumbs. Add your mix-in, if using, and toss to combine. Add your binder, a little at a time, until you can squeeze the mixture and it holds its shape. Use a cookie dough scoop to form about 35 balls.
For the snowskin:
250 grams sweet glutinous rice flour
225 grams powdered sugar, plus more for rolling
75 grams butter or coconut oil
125 grams water or other liquid like fruit juice
Food coloring and/or flavor extract, optional
In a large skillet or wok, dry roast the rice flour over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it starts to smoke and change color. Allow to cool to room temperature, then sift together with the powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Add the butter or coconut oil and then rub it into the dry mixture until well combined. If using the food coloring and/or flavor extract, add to the water. Add half of the liquid to the bowl and mix together. Gradually add more of the liquid until the mixture is soft and pliable but not tacky. It's a fine line between a crumbly and sticky texture so go slowly.
Pinch off about a walnut size lump of the mixture and roll out into a thin disc on a surface dusted with powdered sugar. Wrap the snowskin around one of the cake balls. If there is extra snowskin after wrapping the cake ball, pinch it off and return it to the rest of the mixture. If you need more, pinch off a bit from the mixture and patch up the hole. Place the wrapped cake ball on the counter, seal side down, and make sure it will fit into the mooncake mold. If it is too wide, use your hands to gently shape it narrower and taller. Use a 50 g mooncake mold to press it into shape and release. Repeat with the rest of the snowskin dough and cake balls. You can store the mooncakes in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days or 1-2 weeks in the freezer. Let thaw before serving.
Previously: Mochi Waffles