It’s the Mid-Autumn festival this coming Sunday, and we have been busy perfecting the recipe for the Suzhou style meat-filled mooncakes that are popular in Shanghai. This seasonal treat has a rock-star status in the Shanghai street food scene; people would queue for up to 12 hours just to get their hands on them and have to fight off scalpers for spaces in the queue. Here is what the scene looks like.
Suzhou mooncakes have a distinctly flaky pastry which is very different to the Cantonese style mooncakes that are prevalent here in the UK. The stuffings can be savoury, sweet or a combo of both. The most famous and popular version is this pork-filled Xian Rou Yue Bing 鲜肉月饼。
Here is what you need to make 8 mooncakes.
For the water dough:
- 100 g flour
- 30 g butter or lard
- 50 g warm water
- 5 g sugar
- 5 g salt
Mix all the ingredients well until they are combined. The warm water helps to soften the butter/lard, so you don’t need to leave it at room temperature to soften. The dough feels sticky like bread dough, so you can throw it a few times onto the work surface to help work up the gluten. It helps the dough to be elastic and allows it to be repeatedly folded and rolled out without breaking apart. Wrap the worked dough in cling film and set aside for 30 minutes.
For the oil dough:
- 100g flour
- 50g butter or lard, at room temperature
Mix the flour and butter/lard well and wrap in cling film for 30 minutes
For the stuffing:
- 200 g minced pork
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 spring onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp Shaoxing cooking wine
- 1 egg white
Mix all the ingredients and stir in one direction until the meat becomes sticky and has absorbed the liquid from the seasoning and the egg white. Refrigerate until it feels firm; not runny.
Lightly flour the work surface, and roll out the water dough into a cyclinder, and divide into 8 pieces. Do the same with the oil dough.
Then roll each into a ball, flatten the water dough ball with your palm into a disk, and place the oil dough in the middle.
Gently squeeze the water dough disk around and over the oil dough to close.
Then gently flatten the round dough balls into a flat disk and roll out into an oval. Take care not to break the water dough casing. Then roll it up like a cigar.
The ambient temperature makes a big difference to how easy it is to roll out the dough. When it is warm in the kitchen, both types of dough remain soft and you can fold and roll them without the water dough breaking up or sticking to the work surface. When the room is cooler, it’s very easy to break the water dough layer in the rolling process. So you may want to work somewhere relatively warm in the kitchen.
Once all 8 pieces are rolled up, repeat, but this time roll out the dough lengthwise, so they become a long strip. Then roll it up again into a shorter curl.
When all 8 pieces are done, now you can flatten the short curls into a disk. It will look squarish, so don’t worry. Roll it into a disk with a thicker middle and thinner edge. The bigger you can roll the disk, the easier it is to do the next step.
Put about 30g or stuffing into the centre and wrap it up using the same technique for wrapping the oil dough into the water dough; not making folds like buns. It is easier to wrap with less filling, so you may want to start with 20g of meat.
Put the wrapping side down on the tray and flatten the mooncake gently so the top is flat rather than domed.
Bake at 180C for 10 minutes, then turn them over to bake for a further 10 minutes. Finally, turn them the “right” side up and bake 5 more minutes. The sides should appear yellow and the tops golden.
Now, sit back with a hot out of the oven mooncake (or two or three), and enjoy it with a cup of tea!