My first ever semi-professional infographic, designed with the help of easel.ly. It has a drag-and-drop interface and a nice collection of pre-made Vhemes that are easily customizable by changing the background, adding shapes, texts, objects, or even uploading your own images. If you are a Pinteresting person like me (pun intended), I’m sure you would have come across beautifully designed and well-thought infographics, which made me want to have a go at it.
Now down to mooncakes. Thirteen full moons ago (yes, there are thirteen full moon nights in a year), I made a parody of a mooncake – Buckwheat Mooncake with Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Yolk , glazed with matcha frosting. This year I wanted to create one closer to the traditional version, with lotus paste. Harbouring a horrendous sweet tooth, I have always loved lotus paste, be it in mooncakes or Chinese steamed buns – an unctuous golden brown puree dancing with notes of caramel that dissolves on your tongue into sweet nothingness.
Invert Sugars in Mooncakes: Mooncake or Golden Syrup
Traditional mooncakes may take up to one year in advance to prepare, I was astonished to learn. The sugar syrup that goes into the skin has to mature, and like wine, the longer you age it, the better. This syrup typically consists of castor sugar, water and an acid (lemon juice) boiled and reduced to a honey consistency. It is then neglected for the next 12 months as chemistry works itself. What happens during this waiting period? Sugar inversion to form invert syrup or more specifically, sucrose is hydrolysed into its constituent monomers glucose and fructose. Invert syrup has special properties – sweeter-tasting (thanks to fructose) and does not crystallise during cooking, essential to keeping pastries and the mooncake skin moist, smooth, and shiny. I wonder how many establishments actually prepare the mooncake syrup the old way. These days, it is not uncommon to use golden syrup instead, which has some of its sugar “inverted” in a similar way.
Is invert syrup bad? Glucose and fructose are sugars that are absorbed into the blood stream and raise your blood glucose level so if you are diabetic, this may not be the optimal choice. I prefer to use tree syrups such as coconut nectar, made from the sap of the coconut palm and is minimally processed compared to cane sugar (you may want to watch a YouTube video on how cane sugar is processed into sugar crystals). Coconut nectar is reported to be 10 percent fructose, and a low-glycemic sweetener (GI of 35) that is kinder on the liver, blood glucose, triglycerides, or adipose tissue in the way that higher fructose invert syrup does. Not to mention tree syrups like coconut and maple are also rich in minerals and have anti-bacterial properties. Coconut nectar is mildly sweet only with an extra depth to it. It makes a perfect sweetener in baked goods where you want the star ingredients to shine; in the case of mooncakes, the lotus seed paste.
Flours in Mooncakes: Bleached and Chlorinated Hong Kong Flour
Many mooncake recipes online called for Hong Kong flour, also known as Bun flour. After reading up on it, I was quite appalled to learn how chemically laden it is. As you might already know, refined white flours are stripped of the bran and germ layer and associated fiber and protein, leaving behind only the starchy endosperm that is milled into a nutritionally devoid flour. Further assault is done to the flour with bleaching, most often by chlorine dioxide, or oxides of nitrogen, nitrosyl, and benzoyl peroxide. An unintended byproduct of oxidation of the bleaching agent and proteins in the flour is alloxan, which is reported to induce diabetes in mice. The purpose of bleaching is to whiten the flour and to reduce the protein (gluten) content. It is typically used for baked goods with soft and light textures such as Angel Cake and Mooncake skin. Knowing how nutritionally devoid and chemically laden bleached and refined flour are, would you be open to a wholefoods version made with whole flour, specifically chickpea?
The Ugly Chickpea Mooncake
The Ugly Chickpea Mooncake is ugly and has to be ugly because the dough for the skin is fairly coarse and does not imprint well into mooncake moulds. Hence there will not be fancy shapes. The dough also bakes up to a cookie-like crumbly quality which makes it unusually and pleasantly different. The lotus paste is a shade of pale beige flecked with specks of dates and for once, the mild natural sweetness of lotus seeds takes the centrestage instead of sugar. The sweet potato nutritional yeast yolk completes the extravaganza, a savoury moreish counterpoint against the sweet lotus paste. If you do not wish to attempt the whole recipe, at least please try out the two-ingredient sweet potato nutritional yeast yolks, which makes perfect snacks or additions to salad bowls.
- 100 grams dried lotus seeds (in Singapore, you can get it from Albert Food Complex, level 3)
- 2 tablespoons reserved water from boiling lotus seeds
- 6 medjool dates
- 1 tablespoon coconut nectar
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 150 grams chickpea flour
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons coconut nectar
- 3 teaspoons ground flaxmeal
- 9 tablespoons water
- 70 grams baked sweet potato, preferably yellow (I like Honey Gold from Indonesia)
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast powder
- Soak the lotus seeds in a bowl of water overnight. As lotus seeds spoil easily, I would suggest to place the bowl in the refrigerator.
- The next day, drain the seeds in a colander. Remove the endosperm or green sprout in the center from each seed, which is bitter in taste.
- Place the lotus seeds in a large pot and fill with water to about an inch above the seeds. Bring to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1½ hours until soft.
- Once boiled, drain the seeds thoroughly in a colander, reserving the water. In a food processor, puree 200 grams of the seeds together with the dates and reserved lotus water if necessary. Once it is done it should have a crumbly and dry texture.
- Next, return the pureed lotus paste to a medium pot and add the coconut nectar. Heat on medium heat and stir to combine. This paste has a mild sweetness. If you prefer a sweeter taste add more syrup.
- Mix in the olive oil and continue to heat on low until the paste is thick and smooth.
- Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- In a small bowl. whisk together the ground flaxmeal and water. Let stand for 20 minutes to form a gel.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the chickpea flour, olive oil, coconut nectar and flax egg.
- Roll into a large ball and let it rest at least 4 hours in the refrigerator for the flavours to meld.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place a large sweet potato in the oven and bake until soft and caramelized, about 50 minutes to one hour. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Take 70 grams of the baked sweet potato and mash in a small bowl with nutritional yeast and water to a smooth golden paste.
- Roll out the sweet potato nutritional yeast into 25 grams balls.
- Roll out the lotus paste into 60 grams balls and flatten with your palm to about 4-inches wide, ⅛-inch thick.
- Place a yolk in the center of the lotus paste and wrap the yolk up. Try to get an even coverage with a rounding motion.
- Roll out the chickpea skin into 50 grams and flatten with your palm to about 6-inches wide and very thin.
- Place the lotus ball in the center of the chickpea skin and wrap the lotus ball up. Try to get an even coverage with a rounding motion.
- Gently dust the mould with flour, the tap off any excess. Press the mooncake ball into the mould to form the mooncake shape. Knock the mould to release the mooncake. Repeat with the rest. (I used a wooden mould purchased from Phoon Huat).
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the mooncakes onto the baking tray, lined with baking paper and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
- Cool and store in the refrigerator. It tastes better after one day.
Try coconut oil instead of olive oil for an exotic floral flavour.
The mooncakes taste better with age - about one to two days after baking. Enjoy them then!