I have always had a weakness for traditional Chinese pastries, particularly those filled with lotus paste or red bean paste. But I always thought they were prohibitively complicated to make, until about a year ago when I rashly agreed to make some for a photoshoot and cookbook on mooncakes. That got me learning and practising how to make a variety mooncakes for months ahead of the shoot, and I realised that while it was a lot of work, it wasn’t too hard to tackle. Especially if one was not a novice at baking.
So this weekend, instead of taking a break on Labour Day, I decided to pull out that bag of lotus paste from the fridge and make a batch of Shanghai Mooncakes. This is my favourite, as it is relatively easy to make and rather more-ish. The pastry is cookie-like, crumbly and quite light — especially with the addition of custard powder — and makes a nice complement to the rich filling inside. This goes very nicely with a pot of Chinese tea. (On a side note, I have made this mooncake with a most untraditional filling of red bean paste mixed with crumbled Reese’s chocolate peanut bar and dessicated coconut. It was very successful, if I may say so myself.) Oh, and yes, I’m aware that today is not Saturday, but better bake than never! 🙂
90g butter, softened and cubed
1 Tbsp milk
120g self raising flour
20g custard powder
Small pinch of salt
200g lotus paste (store bought)
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp water
1. Combine all the ingredients except for the lotus paste, and blitz into a dough.
2. Knead until smooth, then set aside to rest for at least 20 mins.
3. Meanwhile, divide the lotus paste into 12 equal portions and roll each into a ball. Set aside.
4. After the dough has rested, divide them into 12 equal portions as well.
5. Take one portion of dough and roll into a ball. Then roll it out into a flat disc using a rolling pin. I like to use the small Chinese rolling pin that cooks usually use to make dim sum.
6. Place one ball of lotus paste in the middle of the dough disc and wrap it up neatly, then roll between the palms of your hand until it forms a nice neat ball again.
7. Place on a tray lined with baking paper or silicone mat. Repeat until all is done.
8. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 10 mins.
9. Remove from oven, brush over with egg wash, then return it to the oven for another 10-15 mins.
10. Take it out when they are beige as they will continue to darken once out of the oven.
11. Leave to *cool for 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
*Note: It’s important you let it cool a little before handling them as the pastry is very crumbly and fragile when it is still hot.