Tag Archives: soak

ABC Mooncakes (less sugar, vegan, and close to being organic)

Moon festival is my favorite cultural holiday.  My mom and dad call it Chinese Valentine’s Day.  Every year we get to play with lanterns, drink tea, eat mooncakes, and listen to my parents tell us these amazing stories.  There’s a love story behind this holiday, but I can write an entire essay on this so here’s a link if you’re interested.  It’s such a powerful story to my parents that they decided to get married on this holiday, so every year we are also celebrating their anniversary.  The best part about this festival is eating mooncakes.  These delights are sold once a year in decorative tin boxes and they can range anywhere from $20-$50 for a box of four.  The reason why these are so expensive is the fact that it’s hard to make.  Also, there is an ingredient that needs to be prepared a year in advance.  Don’t fret!  I found another method around this.  For this year’s anniversary, I decided to surprise my parents with homemade mooncakes but with a classy and fit twist.  Mooncakes are not healthy.  Think donuts or heavy pastries.  What I did in my recipe was cut the sugar and oil significantly, made it vegan, and I tried to keep majority of my ingredients organic.  Also, I wanted to bring a Filipino flare to my recipe, so I made an ube (aka purple yam) mooncake.  Since the process was long I thought if it doesn’t work out I don’t want to make them again.  Mama Chiang never made mooncakes, so I had to put this to the ultimate test by sending it to Pao Pao (grandma).  I was nervous.  If anyone’s been around longer to know supreme Chinese mooncakes it’s my Pao Pao.  Guess what?  Looks like I’ll be making more of these.  It was a perfect anniversary gift.  My parents loved it!  They were surprised how an ABC (yes, my parents often stereotype me as “American Born Chinese”) is able to make this.  I experimented to make a healthier recipe, so here I present my masterful ABC Mooncakes.

By Shelly Chiang, Makes about 8 mooncakes (considering one serving of the outer dough)

Tools

Mooncake mold – I got this from Brown Cookie

Outer Cake Ingredients

(Note: I made the outer dough 3 times to use up the lotus and ube paste below.  It’s better to make it in small portions because it will make it easier for you to knead the dough.  The outer dough is what makes the mooncake.)

  • 1 cup sifted unbleached cake flour
  • 1/3 cup of golden syrup (This is the ingredient that takes a year to make, but I used Lyle’s Golden Syrup and it turned out great.  I got this from World Market)
  • ½ teaspoon of potassium carbonate (This is what makes the texture of the dough.  You can get this from the Asian Market)
  • 2 tablespoons of organic peanut oil

Outer Cake Instructions (Preparation takes 24-48 hours)

1. Sift cake flour into a large bowl.  Make a crater in the middle of the flour.

2. Pour golden syrup, potassium carbonate, and peanut oil in the crater.

3. Carefully take a rubber spatula and pour the flour from the sides into the middle of the crater.


4. Keep pouring the sides until the dough is formed.


5. Rub some flour on the cutting board and transfer the dough from the bowl.
6. Now knead the dough until its smooth.


7. Roll it into a log and wrap it with plastic wrap.  It’s difficult to form the filling in the dough within a day (texture is not there yet), so you want to place it in the fridge overnight.  For best results, leave it in the fridge for 2 days.

Lotus Paste Ingredients

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 12 oz dried lotus seeds (You can get this at the Asian Market)
  • ½ cup organic peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon organic brown rice syrup

Lotus Paste Instructions (Preparation takes 24-48 hours)

1. While you are waiting for your dough, you want to make your Lotus Paste because this takes time to make.  First, soak the dried lotus seeds.  I would say soak it over 24-48 hours for best results.


2. Now you want to remove the green root in the middle of the seeds because it’s bitter.  You may need a partner for this.  Simply pinch the seed and you’ll see the green root.  Remove and keep the halves of the seeds.


3. Place seeds in a pot and fill with water.  You want to boil the seeds on high.  Once it boils, lower the heat to medium.  Since I started in the evening, before I went to sleep I had the stove on low overnight.  You may want to start in the morning or use a crock pot.
4. Once the seeds are soft place this in a food processor.  Blend until it becomes a paste-like texture.


5. Put the paste in a non-stick pot on medium heat and mix half of the sugar and peanut oil.  You want to evenly distribute the sugar and oil, so once it’s blended you want to put the other half of sugar and oil to mix.

6. Once it’s blended mix brown syrup until smooth.
7. Put the lotus paste in a container.  Feel free to add nuts to some of the lotus paste.  I made a few nut mooncakes mixing in almonds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts as a separate filling.

Ube Paste

  • 4 purple yams
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup organic coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon organic brown syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of organic coconut milk

Ube Paste Instructions

I made this paste to create a Chinese-Filipino fusion mooncake.  My husband introduced me to Filipino ube desserts in the past and I absolutely love them, so I thought why not make this into a mooncake.

1. Peel the purple yams.

2. Cut purple yams in squares.

3. Boil purple yams on high and then to medium low heat for about one hour.
4. Blend the purple yams in a food processor until it becomes a paste-like texture.
5. Put the paste in a non-stick pot on medium heat and mix half of the sugar and coconut oil.  You want to evenly distribute the sugar and oil, so once it’s blended you want to put the other half of sugar and oil to mix.


6. Once it’s blended mix brown syrup and coconut milk until smooth.  Place the paste in a container.

Mooncake Technique – Now let’s put the two together

1. Before you start, dust your cutting board and the mooncake mold with flour.  Also, spray or oil your baking pan.
2. Use an ice cream scooper to scoop your paste.  Two small scoops should do it.  Form the filling into a compact ball and set aside.


3. Now for the outer dough.  Cut about 2 inches from your roll.

4. Flatten the dough on the palm of your hand.  If needed, flatten further with your fingertips.  The trick is to keep your hands moist, because you don’t want it to stick on your hand.


5. Place the filling in the center of your outer dough and carefully wrap the filling with your fingertips.


6. Dust the filled dough.


7. Carefully place your filled dough in your mooncake mold.  Then use your fingers to evenly press your dough around the mold.


8. Now gently press the mooncake out of the mold.


9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
10. Bake mooncakes for 10 minutes.


11. In the meantime, melt some vegan Earth Balance Butter.
12. Take the mooncakes out and brush them with melted vegan butter.
13. Bake mooncakes for another 10 minutes.
14. Ideally the mooncakes should be consumed in 24-48 hours.
15. Enjoy your mooncakes with jasmine tea.  My favorite brand is Pearl Queen of Jasmine Tea.

DIY Mooncake Packaging

I wrapped my cakes in pretty red tissue paper and raffia ribbon to make it more decorative.  Then I placed my mooncakes in the tin boxes I saved from the last year’s moon festival.  It was a perfect way to package my parent’s anniversary gift.

My Super Duper Foods

There are a couple foods that I eat religiously to give me super powers.  Well, super powers as in energy and strength. I feel like Mario when he gets invincible powers from a starman.  So what are superfoods?  Superfood is really a marketing term used for describing foods that are high in nutrients to give you superior health benefits.  Here are a few super duper foods that help me stay classy and fit:

KALE – Remember when Popeye eats a can of spinach he gets ginormous arms that are too big for his body.  First off, you won’t get a lot of nutrients if your veggies are in a can.  Raw is the way to go. Secondly, Kale can give you as much or more benefits than spinach.  I eat about two servings of kale 2-3 times a week.  I incorporate kale in my meals, soups, and snacks.  Kale chips are delicious, so replace those bags of potato chips and Doritos with kale chips.  Kids love them!  I can tell you I eat a big bowl of raw kale a day before a race.  No pasta for me.  With kale, I feel 100 times lighter but it still gives me the stamina I need for a race.  If you’re looking to build calcium Kale can give you more per calorie than milk.  As for iron, it gives you more per calorie than beef.  Kale is the new beef.  It’s also an anti-inflammatory food that fights against inflammatory-related issues such as arthritis, asthma, and autoimmune diseases.  I can rave on and on about kale, but this infographic says it all.

GOJI BERRIES – Growing up, Mama Chiang used to make me a nice bowl of soup with goji berries.  Sometimes she’ll make desserts or drinks with goji berries.  As a child I was told this is good for your vision and it keeps you looking young.  Well, fast forward a couple years later, I found out that it does a lot more.  Goji berries are packed with vitamins, protein with 18 amino acids, and antioxidants.  I love sprinkling these berries over salads and oatmeal.  I especially love to eat these by itself as a snack.  You’ll find that it curbs your appetite, gives you energy, and keeps your mind sharp (definitely brain food).

QUINOA – I heard that this is “God’s gift to vegans” and I totally agree.  Quinoa is a fantastic source of protein with 8 essential amino acids and it’s gluten-free.  This is definitely the type of grain you want to incorporate in your diet.  I’m slowly getting my parents to replace white rice with quinoa.  It’s versatile, so you can make just about anything with quinoa.  You can make stuffed red peppers, quinoa crackers, breakfast quinoa porridge, or throw quinoa into your salads.  The possibilities are endless.

CHIA SEEDS – Chia Seeds are tiny black seeds that are grown from a flowering plant known as Salvia hispanica.  One tablespoon of these seeds punches in a good amount of Omega-3.  For vegetarians that don’t eat fish chia seeds will give you the Omega-3 oil that you need for your body.  Athletes – chia seeds can hydrate your body longer and provides the protein that you need for intense workouts.  Simply soak the chia seeds in water and it becomes a gel like the image below.  The gel allows your body to absorb carbohydrates to slowly covert them into simple sugars, so it controls your blood sugar.  They make you feel fuller because they absorb 10 times their weight of water.  It doesn’t have any flavor, so I love to sprinkle these over my salads and soups.  I particularly like to coat my bananas with chia seeds.  There are plenty of dessert recipes that incorporate chia seeds such as pudding or baked goods.

HEMP – There are three types of hemp that I like – hemp milk, hemp seeds, and hemp oil.  It works just like Chia Seeds providing you plenty of protein with essential amino acids, calcium, and Omega-3.  It curbs your appetite, it prevents inflammation, and it’s good for your skin.  It has a nutty taste, so I love sprinkling hemp seeds in fruit such as bananas and kiwis.  They are good in breakfast bars and oatmeal.  I found blending hemp milk with smoothies help me recover faster after intense workouts.  Instead of using too much olive oil I use hemp oil for cooking and salads.

KOMBUCHA – When I was younger, I found these odd-looking jars in the basement.  From time to time, my grandpa would drink these for breakfast.  I thought it was one of his strange Chinese medicinal drinks.  I found out it was Kombucha.  Kombucha is a fermentation of a sweetened tea with cultures such as good bacteria and yeast.  This is actually known to detoxify your body, increase your immunity, alkaline your PH, and increase your metabolism.  It’s full of probiotics to help you with digestion.  Vegans – since you’re not getting probiotics from yogurt you can sure get it from Kombucha.  I love the Synergy Drinks.  My favorite flavors are Strawberry Serenity and Multi-Green.  This is a great replacement for soda and coffee.  I have soda once in a blue moon, but if you are a heavy soda drinker this is 100 times better for you.  As for coffee, it gives you the pick-me-upper you need in the morning. Amazingly this also curbs my appetite, so I tend to have a swig of this closer to 4 pm when I get hungry.

These items are found in Whole Foods, your local organic market, and Amazon.  Try it out!  I hope you feel the super duper benefits I do with these superfoods.