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Piggy Mooncakes for Mid-Autumn Festival (Banh Trung Thu / Banh Nuong)

Mid-Autumn Festival (Tet Trung Thu) is just around the corner and I have mooncakes on the brain.  For those not familiar with mooncakes, they are the baked delicacy for the Mid-Autumn Festival.  These delicious cakes come in a variety of different shapes and sizes but what they have in common are rich, dense fillings wrapped in a thin, tender pastry dough stamped with intricate patterns and then baked to a lovely honey color.  You can’t miss these around this time of the year because they are everywhere.  Because they are time-consuming to make and require special molds or stamps, most people find it convenient to just buy them.  The truth is mooncakes are really easy to make and much more rewarding to give to family and friends when they are homemade.

This year instead of making the traditional mooncakes, I decided to do something different and fun and make my mooncakes into the shape of pigs.  These cute little piggy mooncakes are pretty easy to make provided you have a little bit of patience and some time.  What I really loved about making these is that no two piggy looks the same.  When you’re done you’ll have a plateful of adorable little pigs staring back at you and they will make you smile.  They’re almost too cute to eat!

Notes on the Recipe, Tips and Tricks

If you don’t like peanut oil or have allergies, substitute with a mild-tasting vegetable oil like soybean or canola.

Instead of making the syrup from scratch–very time consuming and difficult to get right, I use a breakfast syrup with molasses.  Any variety will work provided it’s nice and thick.  I also like Lyle’s Golden Syrupwhich is meant for baking and cooking.  It has a really nice distinct flavor.

You can vary the filling.  This recipe uses lotus seed but you can use mung bean (see my Shortcut for Cooking Mung Bean), red bean, taro root, etc.  Boil the filling until soft (as I show in the video), add sugar and puree.  Then, cook the filling in a pan until a soft dough forms and roll into balls.  From here, the recipe is the same.

Lotus seeds are generally very hard once dried.  If you have the time, I would recommend soaking for an hour or so before cooking.  Also, if you see any green stems in your lotus seeds, be sure to discard them.  These stem are really bitter and will ruin the filling.

When wrapping the dough around the filling ball, if you get air bubbles, pop them with a toothpick and then smooth out the dough.  If you leave the air pockets, your pigs will have bubbly lopsided faces once they’re baked.

I use beans for the eyes because they don’t melt.  I’ve tried chocolates and other candies and they all melted so my pigs looked like they were crying.  The beans hold-up really well in the oven, are the right size and easy enough to find at any store.  If you have small enough fingers, you can try using sesame seeds for the eyes.

When you pop the cakes into the oven for the last time at 425 degrees, bake for no more than 5-6 minutes.  It may seem like they’re not brown enough but they are.  Resist the urge to bake them longer because they will burn.  The ears and nose brown up quickly and you don’t want to burn them after all of your efforts.  The cakes will continue browning after you’ve removed them from the oven.

The mooncakes are not to be eaten right away.  If you can’t resist and must have one immediately, you’ll notice the cake is crusty and crunchy–this is not the intended texture.  Instead, store the cakes in an air-tight container for at least a day to allow them to soften so they are more cake-like.  So resist the urge to devour these delicious mooncakes.  Store them for a day and you’ll be amazed at how soft and moist they are the next day.

After a day or two refrigerate the cakes.  You can warm them up in the microwave by cooking on Low for 30 seconds.

Don’t forget to remove the eyes before eating or you’ll crack a tooth.  They are decorative only and not meant to be eaten. 🙂

Watch the video below for instructions.

Ingredients

for the Filling
1 cup dried lotus seeds (approximately 5 oz)
1 Tbsp baking soda
1/2 cup sugar (adjust to your taste)
1 tsp vanilla sugar
1 Tbsp peanut oil

for the Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cake flour
1/3 cup syrup
2 Tbsp peanut oil
1 egg yolk

for Rolling the Cakes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

for the Piggies Eyes
24 black or red beans

for the Egg Wash
1 egg yolk
1 tsp water
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Directions

Rinse lotus seeds with cool water several times until water is clear.  Remove any discolored seeds and debris.  Add lotus seeds into a large pot along with the baking soda.  Fill pot halfway with water.   Cover pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, remove lid and stir together.  Skim off the foam from the top and discard.  Cover and simmer over Low heat for 25-30 minutes or until seeds are soft.  (You should be able to easily smash a seed between your thumb and forefinger.)

Scoop out cooked lotus seeds using a slotted spoon being careful not to transfer the liquid and place in a medium bowl.  Add sugar and vanilla sugar and combine well.  Use a food processor or blender to puree the lotus seeds until they are smooth and creamy.

Spoon filling into a pan.  Add the peanut oil to the filling.   Cook the pureed lotus seed over Low heat stirring constantly.  Initially the filling is soft, wet and spreadable.  After 5-7 minutes the filling dries out and starts to pull away from the pan.  After another 3-4 minutes the filling sticks together resembling a dough.  (Total cooking time is approximately 10 minutes.)  Remove from the heat and allow to cool until it can be handled.  Roll into 12-1 oz size balls.  Cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.

Sift together the all-purpose flour and cake flour.  In a small bowl or cup add the syrup, peanut oil and egg yolk.  Mix together until evenly blended.  Make a well in the flour and  pour in the syrup mixture.  Using a fork, combine the flour and syrup mixture together by stirring in circles from the edge of the bowl to the center.  Continue stirring until all the dry flour is worked into the dough.  After a minute or so, a soft dough forms.  Gently knead the dough a few times with your hands.  Don’t overwork the dough.  Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line a tray with a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mator parchment paper.

Sift the remaining 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour.  (This is used to roll the cakes.)

Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and knead the dough gently for 1-2 minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap so the dough doesn’t dry out.

Using a rolling pin, flatten 1/2 oz of dough into 3-inch circle.  Place a filling ball in the center and then gently work the dough around the filling covering it completely.  Pinch the dough together to seal the edges.  Roll between your palms until smooth.   Use a toothpick to make a few holes on the underside of the cake to allow the steam to escape when baking.

Use a small spoon to make indentations for the eyes.  Drop in the beans for the piggy’s eyes.  Take a small amount of dough and roll into an oval shape to make the pig’s nose and position just below the eyes.  Take pea-sized amounts of dough and form into triangles for the ears.  Affix the ears to the pig’s head.  Gently flatten the ears against the piggy’s head.  Use a round toothpick to make 2 nostrils for the pig.

Make 6 pigs at a time.  Remove any bubbling in the dough by pricking with a toothpick.  Use a small pastry brush to brush off any excess flour.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.

To make the egg wash, combine the egg yolk, water and sesame oil.  Stir and then strain the mixture.  Set aside for now.

Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Spritz each cake with water.  Brush the egg wash on each pig coating it evenly.

Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Return the cakes to oven and bake for another 5-6 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Store in an air-tight container.  Enjoy the following day.

Yields:  12 cakes

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