Classic Mooncakes Stuffed with Sweet Red Bean Paste
Creating this traditional Chinese mooncake recipe with red bean paste may require some effort, but the end result is much more delicious (and cost-effective) when compared to store-bought mooncakes.
- FOR THE RED BEAN PASTE:
450 grams dried adzuki beans
830 milliliters water (4 cups if cooking on the stove instead of an Instant Pot)
235 milliliters vegetable oil
190 grams rock sugar (or 1 cup granulated sugar)
105-160 grams maltose
- FOR THE OPTIONAL SALTED DUCK EGG YOLKS
24 pre-cooked salted duck egg yolks (or alternatively, uncooked or pre-cooked salted duck eggs)
- FOR THE DOUGH:
250 grams golden syrup (250g = 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
120 milliliters peanut oil (or corn oil)
1 1/2 teaspoons Potassium Carbonate solution (also known as lye water, available at your Chinese grocery store)
385 grams of all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting)
- FOR THE DOUGH:
1 egg yolk
45 milliliters water
- MAKING THE RED BEAN PASTE
- Begin by rinsing the adzuki beans thoroughly and draining them. If you’re using an Instant Pot, add the drained beans along with 3½ cups of water. Seal the Instant Pot lid and select the Bean/Chili setting for 25 minutes. (For larger or less fresh beans, extend the cooking time to 30-35 minutes.) After the cooking cycle, allow the Instant Pot to sit untouched for an additional 10 minutes. Carefully release steam by turning the valve to venting (use an oven mitt to protect your hand) and then open the Instant Pot.
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, place the dried beans in a large bowl and cover them with about 2 inches (5 cm) of water. Let them soak overnight. Drain the soaked beans and transfer them to a medium-sized pot along with 4 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 40-60 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more water in ¼ cup increments if the liquid starts to dry up. Cook until the beans can be easily mashed with the back of a spoon.
- Carefully transfer the cooked beans and their liquid to a food processor, and blend until the mixture becomes very smooth. If your food processor is small, you may need to blend the paste in batches, and it’s okay to add a few drops of water if it seems too thick.
- In a thick-bottomed or nonstick pan set over medium to medium-low heat, warm ¼ cup of oil. Add the bean puree and sugar to the pan. Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula to prevent sticking or burning. Every 10 minutes, incorporate an additional ¼ cup of oil until you’ve added a total of 1 cup, ensuring the oil is well mixed into the filling before adding more.
- Finally, introduce the maltose into the mixture. The red bean paste is ready when it can maintain its shape. Allow it to cool until it’s safe to handle. If you prepare the filling ahead of time, store it in a clean, airtight container after it has completely cooled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for approximately 1 week.
- PREPARING THE SALTED DUCK EGG YOLKS (OPTIONAL):
- If you prefer convenience, you can purchase pre-made, pre-cooked salted duck egg yolks. To enhance their flavor, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350°F/175°C for 10 minutes to release their oils. Allow them to cool completely.
- Alternatively, if you opt for raw salted duck eggs, carefully separate the yolks from the whites. Gently rinse the yolks under a small stream of running water to remove any residual egg white. If you choose to bake the salted duck egg yolks, preheat your oven to 350°F/175°C.. Briefly dip each yolk in baijiu (白酒, a clear Chinese liquor) or whiskey just to coat it. Then arrange the egg yolks on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, and once they have cooled completely, they are ready to be used.
- Another option is to purchase whole cooked salted duck eggs and extract the yolks. These yolks are ready to use, and there is no need for further baking.
- MAKING THE DOUGH:
- In a mixing bowl, use a rubber spatula to thoroughly combine the golden syrup, oil, and Potassium Carbonate solution. If you’re measuring with cups, make sure to get almost every last drop of syrup and oil from the measuring cups into the bowl.
- Next, add the flour to the mixture and use the spatula to blend everything into a soft dough. Be careful not to overwork the dough; this step should take only 1-2 minutes.
- Cover the dough with an airtight container or an overturned plate. Allow it to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- ASSEMBLING THE MOONCAKES:
- While the dough is resting, get ready to assemble the mooncakes. First, weigh out twenty-four 55g portions of red bean paste filling. Using lightly oiled hands, shape each portion into a smooth ball.
- For those using salted duck egg yolks, create a deep well in the center of each ball of filling and gently insert the yolk. Alternatively, shape the filling into a flat disc, place the yolk in the center, and encase it with the paste. Re-form the red bean paste into a ball, and repeat this process for the remaining ingredients. Seal them tightly and store them in the refrigerator until you’re prepared to assemble the mooncakes.
- Once the dough has completed its resting period, divide it into twenty-four pieces, each weighing approximately 28-30g. Set aside one smaller dough ball for mending purposes. Shape each piece into a ball and store them in a covered container in the fridge. You’ll work with a couple of dough balls at a time.
- Now, let’s prepare the mooncake mold. If your mold comes with four pattern plates, attach one plate to the mold and secure it in place. Dust the inside of the mold generously with flour, making sure to shake off any excess. Repeat this step before pressing each mooncake to prevent any sticking.
- Take one dough ball, lightly dust it with flour, and roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a 4-inch/10cm round.Utilize a slender, flat spatula to raise the dough and position it over a portion of the filling. . Carefully press out any air bubbles around the filling.
- Turn the dough opening side up and gradually press the edges together to seal the opening, ensuring the dough is evenly distributed around the filling. While the dough may crack easily, it’s also easy to smooth out or patch with an extra scrap of dough. The main aim here is to enclose the dough around the filling without trapping air inside. Roll the assembled mooncake between your palms to create a smooth ball.
- Gently sprinkle some extra flour over the assembled ball. Place it on a lightly floured work surface, then press the mooncake mold onto the ball until the mold’s base makes contact with the work surface. Firmly press down on the spring until you feel some resistance. Lift the mold and gently release the mooncake from it.
- If any dough gets stuck in the mold or if you notice areas where the filling is visible through the dough, use a small piece of the scrap or mending dough to patch those spots. Clean the mold (a toothpick can be handy for this) and generously dust it with flour again. Gently press all sides of the mooncake to slightly reduce its size, allowing it to fit back into the mold for reshaping. If sticking issues persist, use more flour for dusting.
- As you complete each mooncake, place them on a baking sheet, ensuring they are spaced about 1 inch (2.5cm) apart. Repeat these steps until all the mooncakes are assembled, noting that their size will not change during baking.
- BAKE THE MOONCAKES:
- Preheat your oven to 325°F/160°C as you near the end of assembling the mooncakes. Just before baking, lightly mist the mooncakes with a food-grade spray bottle (if available) filled with water. Alternatively, dip your fingers in a bowl of water and flick the water droplets onto the mooncakes a couple of times. This step helps prevent the dough from cracking.
- Immediately place the mooncakes in the preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes (remember to set a timer!). While they are baking, prepare the egg wash by whisking together the egg yolk and 3 tablespoons of water.
- After the initial 5 minutes of baking, remove the mooncakes from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 300°F/150°C. Very lightly brush each mooncake with the egg wash, preferably using a natural bristle pastry brush. Be cautious not to allow the egg wash to pool in the crevices of the mooncakes. Place them back in the oven and bake for an extra 15 minutes.
- When the mooncakes first come out of the oven, the dough may appear somewhat dry, unlike the typical oily appearance of commercially packaged mooncakes. This is normal. Allow them to cool completely, and then store the cooled mooncakes in an airtight container for 1-2 days. Over time, the exterior will develop the glossy sheen you recognize!
This is a traditional Chinese mooncake recipe featuring a delectable red bean paste filling. Although making mooncakes requires time and effort, the homemade ones boast a much richer flavor compared to store-bought alternatives (and are also more cost-effective!).
We prepare our own mooncakes annually for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Give this recipe a try, and it might just become a cherished yearly tradition! There are numerous mooncake varieties available, so what sets this apart as a classic mooncake recipe? Well, these mooncakes epitomize what many Chinese Americans envision when they think of mooncakes: a tender, golden-brown pastry intricately designed and enveloping a sweet filling. Today, we’re crafting one of the most beloved fillings: red bean. Another favored mooncake filling is lotus seed paste, especially popular among Cantonese individuals and featured in our inaugural mooncake recipe. There are also mooncakes with sweet or savory fillings, like our ham and nut mooncakes, and entirely savory versions like Shanghainese Xian Rou Yue Bing. More recently, modern “snow skin” mooncakes, featuring a mochi-like outer layer, have gained popularity and can be prepared in various colors. We have recipes for all these variations, but this year, we’ve opted to return to the basics with this classic mooncake featuring a red bean filling.