These little cookie-like cakes are a beautiful nutty balance between sweet and savoury, and they’re adorable. They’re quite easy and fast to make, so you can have them to celebrate Mid Autumn festival (aka moon festival) or just eat all year around. Which I did – recipe and taste-testing obligations, you know (yum yum). Anyway, I’m happy to share these with you now, along with some moon festival info later, like how they were used in an uprising! The festival is on September 10th this year, so there’s time for you to get mooncake moulds like these, if needed, or make them without for ‘rustic’ cookies. The pastry is a divine combination of golden syrup, flour and neutral vegetable oil. Using baking powder instead of the traditional alkaline water works fine. I also made a batch with plain gluten free flour, adding a little xantham gum to make workable pastry. The filling is roasted pistachios, pure maple syrup (instead of honey, so they can be vegan) and coconut oil. To make them ‘totally’ vegan just brush with maple syrup instead of egg wash when baking. Even those of us who usually eat dairy or animal products can incorporate vegan options in our diet, right? And if you’re looking for easy recipes, well using the moulds is a lot simpler than you’d imagine. Before you know it, you’ll have a collection of charmingly addictive pistachio mooncakes to nibble on happily, as mum and me can attest to. 🙂
They’re so yummy but also satisfying, with just one or two really hitting the spot! Do make some …!
The vegan ones
Brushing with maple syrup instead of egg wash means vegan mooncakes come out a bit paler but they’re just as tasty, of course, since the ingredients are exactly the same.
Those had quite a bit of filling as I used the bigger 100g moulds. You can play around with the ratio of pastry to filling to suit your tastes. They’re all yummy, but I do prefer the ratio in the smaller final cookie-like prototypes below (glossy with egg wash). Both the filling and pastry have such lovely flavours.
THE RECIPE – makes 10 medium-small mooncakes
- Make 1 or 2 days before eating (for baked pastry crust to soften).
- Pastry and filling: 10 mins each to make but pastry rests 1 hour.
- Shaping: 20-30 mins
- Baking: 19-25 mins
- Mooncake moulds (optional) – these are the moulds I bought (see also process photos below) and are very easy to use. For this recipe you could get a simpler set with just the smaller 50g round ones. There are also lovely traditional wooden moulds but I’d worry about the mooncakes getting stuck, eek.
- Digital weighing scale – always a good idea, and useful for measuring equal balls of pastry or pistachio to get equally sized mooncakes 🙂
- 150g/1 and 1/5 cups plain flour
- small pinch fine sea salt
- 80g/4 tbsp golden syrup (like Lyle’s) – can be replaced with pure maple syrup, but causes a difference in flavour. Also, add a little less at first as it’s more liquid than golden syrup
- 55g/1/4 cup grapeseed oil, or some other neutral vegetable oil like canola
- 1/8 tsp baking powder + 1 tsp water
- 100g/3/4 cup + 1 tbsp shelled pistachios (roasted) – can be replaced with walnuts, but I recommend pistachios
- 40g/2 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 12g/scant 1 tbsp pure coconut oil (melt if needed then let it cool but remain liquid)
- 5g/1 and 1/2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch, like Maizena)
- scant 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, to taste (less if your pistachios are salted)
- 1-2 tbsp pure maple syrup or a little beaten egg wash
Preparation: line large baking tray with baking paper; if you like, watch this snowy custard mooncake youtube video for a visual of shaping mooncakes (start at 10:37 minutes) – it gives extra tips.
- Pastry. Whisk together flour and salt in large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk baking powder in the water to dissolve. Add this to the flour, along with golden syrup and oil. Mix with rubber spatula then knead lightly to make smooth slightly greasy ball. Don’t overwork by mixing or kneading more than a few minutes – overworked pastry bakes tough. Place in reusable plastic wallet (or wrap in plastic film). Allow to rest at room temperature about 1 hour.
- Pistachio filling. Meanwhile, in a food processor or barmix processor, pulse pistachios until roughly chopped. Add maple syrup, coconut oil, cornflour and salt then pulse a few seconds more to combine. Mixture will be rough and crumbly but should come together (little pieces of pistachio are necessary for the texture – don’t overprocess to a greasy paste). Roll 10 pistachio paste balls (about 14g each) and 10 pastry balls (about 25g each).
- Preheat oven to 160ºC/320ºF (fan/convection oven) or 180ºC/355ºF (static oven). Flatten pastry ball in palm of hands to make round big enough to wrap upwards and around pistachio ball.
- Completely wrap pistachio ball and seal by pinching with fingers or rolling between your two palms. Then, if not using a mould, press lightly to make thick cookie.
- If using mooncake mould, lightly flour inside of mould (or pastry ball). Note: I like using smaller 50g square moulds.
- Place ball gently in mould.
- Place on baking tray and gently push down handle with thumb, looping the index and middle finger under the two sticking out parts of the cross below. Press until you feel you’ve shaped the mooncake but not completely squashed it! Wait several seconds or more then gently release and raise so the shaped mooncake plops (drops) out onto the tray. Practice will help you see how much time and pressure is ideal for imprinting and shaping.
- Bake in preheated oven 9 to 10 minutes until pastry has dried a bit and set. Take out of oven and brush with beaten egg or maple syrup. Bake further 10-12 minutes until golden brown (pale golden if using maple syrup). Note: baking a little before brushing with egg or syrup prevents the pattern on the pastry getting blurred. This process is flexible – if you prefer to have more golden mooncakes you could delicately brush with egg or syrup earlier.
Unfortunately, you’re now supposed to wait before eating them!!! Aargh.
Eating and storing
These mooncakes can get a little hard once out of the oven. It’s recommended you store them in an airtight container (I use hermetically sealed glass mason jars) and wait a day or two so the mooncake pastry gets a softer crumbly consistency. But feel free to try them any time you like. They keep really well up to 5 to 6 days in an airtight container. They also freeze well (in reusable plastic wallets or film) – defrost around 4 hours at room temperature before eating. Yum yum.
A little moon festival history for you
Also known as the Mid-Autumn festival, this is a really important 3,000 year-old traditional holiday in Chinese culture. It’s celebrated in China, with similar festivals taking place throughout Asia, including Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Mid-Autumn Festival is on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, when Chinese believe the moon is at its fullest and brightest. It also coincides with harvest time in the middle of Autumn. For more info see Wikipedia here.
Historically, mooncakes have been pretty important. There was a ‘mooncake uprising’ during the Late Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD) when resistance groups sought to overthrow their cruel ruler. They decided to insert notes in mooncakes sent out to fellow resistance forces, to secretly spread the message ‘Uprising on the 15th night of 8th lunar month’. In this way they were able to unite and fight together – the uprising succeeded! Impressive, huh? I assume they ate the mooncakes (and burnt the secret messages) … way tastier than Whatsapp.
You can read more about the history at the Travel China Guide website here. At the bottom of the article there are links to info about types of mooncakes too, like this one about the most popular fillings! I have fond memories of the red bean paste filling with a salted egg yolk inside, representing the moon; although quite rich, it’s interestingly savoury, tasty and visually spot-on.
Nowadays, around the whole festival period, mooncakes are commonly not only eaten but also presented as gifts. In recent years, mooncakes have become more and more luxuriously packaged, pricey and elaborate, with the creation of new fillings and gimmicks. Just look at some of these mooncake creations! Wow!
A simple nutty mooncake
Ok, not saying this to self-promote (which I’m very bad at, lol) but these maple syrup pistachio mooncakes really are my favourite ever. The nutty slightly crunchy filling and great salty-to-sweet balance are just amazing. Plus they’re pretty inexpensive, they’re a bit healthier (even optionally vegan or gluten-free) and you know what’s in them. Would you like one? 😉
Very nice of you to drop by dear reader! Sorry it’s been so long since the last post. Will now wish you a very happy moon festival, with some happy baking and eating! 🙂 Lili x