September has always been my favorite month. Besides it is the month, where my birthday falls, it carries one of my favorite Chinese festival: the Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋节 (Zhōng Qiū Jié).
One main reason for me to like the Mid-Autumn Festival is the cozy vibe to celebrate this day. Imagine sitting under a starry sky with your beloved family, sipping a cup of hot tea (or a glass of wine if you wish), snacking on some flavorful mooncake and listening to the legend of ChangE ascending to the moon (嫦娥奔月). This was my first memory of the Mid-Autumn Festival! No exciting firework noise, no visiting door to door to send wishes, etc. Just sitting down with family and talk over great food. I remembered it so clearly, and I’ve loved and cherished it so much. Since then mooncake has become an important festival food to me.
I had seldom made mooncake at home while living in China, as there was easy access to many kinds of mooncake on the market. However since moved to Italy, homemade mooncake has been almost the only option to have this festival food.
The one type of mooncake I preferred is the Suzhou style puff pastry mooncake with meat filling. Differently from the Canton style mooncake, who has a caky skin, the Suzhou style mooncake’s outer wrap is fluffy crumbly pastry. In order to make the puffy skin, it requires a stretchy dough that is capable to hold the filling and the layers inside. Sounds familiar, right? It is the same concept to make the Chinese Scallion Pancakes, or to make it even more familiar the French Croissant.
Rather than using the butter, the Suzhou mooncake calls for lard, the pork fat. Of course you can replace it with vegetable oil to make a veggie version, but the traditional recipe is in favor to the animal fat, and it gives a better puffy result.
I am thrilled to find the ready-to-use lard in the local store, which in Italian is called Strutto! The strutto (pig lard) is an odorless white paste. When heated, it melts and gives a mild odor but not invasive at all. It is popularly used in many Italian bread making, such as piadina, schiacciata, focaccia, etc.
As a major ingredient in the Suzhou mooncake preparation, the strutto is used in both dough and the flour oil mixture. When mixed with the flour, it adds moisture and gives a bouncy texture to the dough, which is perfect for our mooncake puff surface. At the same time when it is used to make the flour oil mixture, it will have a consistent softness as the dough, which makes it easy to be embedded into the layers. And this is key to success in our mooncake production.
By wrapping the flour oil mixture into the dough, then repeatedly folding it, we can create multiple layers inside the paste. At the end we put the meat filling into the paste and fold it the same way as folding the dumpling, we manage to have a puff pastry with savory meat filling inside.
– Flour (Farina grano tenero tipo 00) 220g
– Sugar 15g
– Salt 1 teaspoon
– Water 95g
– Strutto (Lard) 45g
FLOUR OIL MIXTURE
– Flour 110g
– Strutto 40g
– Corn oil 5g
– Minced pork 300g
– Scallion (chopped) x1
– Soy sauce 5 tablespoons
– Oyster sauce 1 tablespoon
– Rice wine/ Sake 1 tablespoon
– Ginger powder (or freshly grated ginger) 1 teaspoon
– Five spice powder 1 teaspoon
– Sichuan pepper powder 1 teaspoon
– Corn oil 2 tablespoon (adjustable)
1. Mix all the ingredients together to form a dough. Rest it 15 minutes.
2. Knead it to have a smooth texture. The dough shall be bouncy.
3. Cover it with plastic wrap or kitchen towel and leave it for use later.
FLOUR OIL MIXTURE
1. Mix the flour and strutto and rub them in order to combine evenly.
2. Add in the corn oil to hold the mixture together. Cover with plastic wrap.
1. Mix all the ingredients, except for the corn oil.
2. Add in the corn oil little by little into the seasoned meat to give it a sticky texture.
If it is the filling for dumplings, I would use water instead of oil. However since it is a pastry, which is cooked in oven, I would prefer to avoid too much liquid in the filling in order to avoid wetting the outer paste.
1. Divide the dough into 16 small pieces. Knead each piece into round ball shape. Do the same to the flour oil mixture.
2. Take one ball (dough) and flatten it using your palm or a rolling pin. Wrap one portion of flour oil mixture into it. Do this to all pieces to have 16 bigger balls.
3. Work in sequence by taking the first prepared ball, roll it into flat oval shape, fold twice (as shown in the photo). Do the same from the first to the 16th.
4. Take the first folded paste, roll it and fold twice as previous step. Repeat it to all the 16 paste. At this point we’ve created 9 layers inside the paste.
5. Roll the first paste to a flat round wrap, take a portion of meat filling and close it like folding a dumpling. Do this to all the pieces.
6. Place all the raw mooncakes on a baking tray, with the folds side facing down. Preheat the oven to 180C.
7. Brush a thin layer of egg wash (egg yolk and water mixture) on top of the mooncake and drizzle some sesames.
8. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown.
You could eat while it’s freshly out of the oven. Or you could cool them overnight and eat the next day. In that case the animal fat inside moisten the outer paste while resting, making it softer. In my opinion it is much better both the taste and the texture.
If you are like me: living in a foreign country and constantly looking for local ingredients to make your home dishes, don’t forget to check on the international food fair TUTTOFOOD MILANO 2021!
TUTTOFOOD is an international B2B trade show dedicated to food & beverage industry, which is held every two years. In the up-coming edition, worldwide food vendors will again get together and showcase the innovative ideas on food and taste. More than ten categories of exhibitors will be presented covering dairy, meat, pasta, grocery, wine, sweet, healthy/ vegetarian, and foreign food, etc.
I am honored to be named one of the ambassadors for the 2021 edition, and will attend this event in the coming May! Follow me on Instagram @chopsticksalborgo, as well as hashtags #Addingvaluetotaste #tuttofood2021 #tuttofoodworldcommunity to discover more interesting content from other food bloggers. You may as well find inspirations and possibly Italian ingredients to help you remake your long-time-missed home dishes!