When autumn comes, the Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival follows shortly. And with that comes, mooncakes! This year it is October 1st.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated in a variety of Asian countries like Japan and Vietnam with different meanings. In China, the festival celebrates and old legend of a Chang’e and when she ascended to the Moon. I found differing accounts of why she became the moon spirit. Some say it was to prevent a robber from obtaining the elixir of life and others say it was to escape her merciless husband. I don’t know which one was true, I don’t know anyone that was there when it happened.
The Mid-Autumn Festival started as a time to give offerings to the moon and has now evolved into the Chinese equivalent of Thanksgiving. The roundness of the full moon symbolizes the gathering of a complete, loving family, tuanyuan. It is no wonder how mooncakes with their round shape and symbolism of the moon have become a staple of this festival.
For those who are new to mooncakes, they are rich, buttery pastries with a dense, sweet filling making them ideal for sharing with the family. Common fillings for mooncakes are salted duck egg, lotus paste, and red bean paste. Some of these fillings also have a symbolism, like egg yolk filling represents luck.
You can find mooncakes at many Chinese and Asian markets, sometimes even as early as August. You could also find them in many bakeries. With the pandemic lockdown, you can even order them online. Or better yet, you can make these cakes, which are super simple and delicious to make.
Mooncakes use an elaborate mold making them beautiful to look at. You can easily order a mooncake mold or many on Amazon very cheaply. Or you can be like me and make do with what you have. I use the ring and a stencil from my mom’s cookie press to shape the mooncake. You can also simply shape the mooncakes with your hands.
For the traditional fillings of lotus and red bean, you may need to venture to an Asian market. However, mooncakes are evolving with the times with new fillings. I decided to an American twist and make a peanut butter chocolate filling. Something that many homes are likely to have.
Here is my recipe for a simple peanut butter chocolate mooncake. It’s a simple recipe using common ingredients you can find at nearly any grocery store. I use honey in this dish which gives it a strong honey flavor but feel free to use maple syrup, agave or even corn syrup.
You can make these mooncakes ahead of time and then bake them as you see or eat with the family. Mooncakes are known to be a love it or hate it dish, but this peanut butter filling is bound to convert anyone into a mooncake fan.
For the adventurous baker.
You can try and make a traditional mooncake, but you may need ingredients like lye and lotus seed. I used this recipe from Food 52 as a guide. It is a great recipe for trying out a lotus past filling.
Since mooncakes are so diverse, you can try any filling you want. I thought of experimenting with tahini and black sesame seed or trying a savory filling with a soy sauce, tofu, and green onion filling. The possibilities are endless.
- 2 tbsp of peanut butter
- 2 tbsp of powdered sugar
- 20 g of chocolate chips
- 1 and ½ cup of flour
- 1/3 cup of honey
- 2 tsp of baking soda
- 3 tbsp of oil or melted butter
- 1 egg
- In a bowl, whisk together the honey, baking soda, and oil into an emulsion.
- Then gradually mix in the flour into the emulsion. This will create a crumbly dough.
- Knead the dough until a smooth ball. It is likely to still be crumbly like cookie dough can be. Then let rest covered for 30-45 minutes on the counter, not the fridge. This lets the flour absorb all the liquid.
- In another bowl, mix together the peanut butter and powdered sugar. Gradually add the powder sugar to prevent lumps.
- Once the dough as rested, roll the dough into ping pong size spheres.
- Take the peanut butter and roll it out into large marble size pieces about 1 cm in diameter.
- Make a dent in the peanut butter sphere and add a couple of chocolate chips. Then, cover the chocolate chips with the sides of the peanut butter sphere.
- Take a ball of dough and form it into a cup shape. Then insert the peanut butter ball with the chocolate into the dentation and cover with the dough and roll into a ball as smooth as you can. You can use an extra bit of dough to help cover the hole.
- Next, you can place the dough with peanut butter into a mooncake mold, filling it out as much as you can before removing from the mold. If you use a large mooncake mold, you will need a large dough ball with more peanut butter filling.
I used the ring and stencil from a cookie press. I pressed the ring with the stencil on top of the dough ball to have a pattern appear.
- Then, place the mooncakes in the fridge to chill for at least 20 minutes. This will help keep the design shape.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- When the oven is preheated, whisk 1 egg. Then brush the mooncakes with the egg and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Once done, remove from the oven and let cool. Once completely cool, enjoy the mooncakes with your family or store in an airtight container for later.