september: lisa’s mooncake biscuits

It’s that time of year again – mid-Autumn festival time, aka mooncake festival! I always get excited when I walk into an Asian grocery store and see boxes and boxes of mooncakes for sale. Mmmm, I don’t mind admitting that I love mooncake. Not the new, fancy flavour mooncakes, just the traditional lotus paste mooncakes, either plain or with 1 egg. And please, no nuts, not added flavourings or variations.

mooncake in mini cages

Image credit – Swinging By (http://swingingby.blogspot.com.au)

I can’t remember a year without at least tasting some mooncake, but what I also remember as a kid, was the little mooncake biscuits that my parents used to get us. Perhaps when I was younger, I didn’t like the lotus paste, but I know that I loved the mooncake biscuits. They used to come in colourful little plastic baskets that we could carry around like handbags.

When mooncake festival time comes around, and I’m walking through the stalls and stalls of mooncake sellers in Chinatown, I’m always on the lookout for these old school mooncake biscuits. I’ve searched high and low for them, and am always disappointed not to find them. There are pig shaped ones with bean paste inside, but no plain ones at all.

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So this year, I decided to make my own. Basically it’s just the dough leftover from making mooncakes, baked into a cookie shape. From memory, I recall fish shapes, but as I didn’t have an actual mooncake biscuit mould, I just used regular cookie cutters. I was given these cute Hello Kitty cutters a little while ago, so this was the perfect time to use them.

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As I was researching, all recipies I found listed an ingredient called “lye” water. It is an alkaline water solution used to cure and tenderise foods. Another use is in making preserved “1000 year old” eggs. I’d never heard of it, and again, searched many different Asian grocery stores both near my house and in Chinatown in the city, and was not able to find it anywhere. The purpose of using it seemed to be neutralise the acid in the golden syrup, give the biscuits their golden brown colour, and to give the biscuits a little rise and fluffiness. So in the end, I made a substitute using baking soda and water. They still turned out ok – I was happy with the colour and taste, so am satisfied that this was a reasonable substitute.

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When rolling out the dough, I found rolling onto plastic film made it really easy to peel the biscuits off the table and place onto the baking tray. As the dough is very soft and pliable, trying to scrape them off the table would ruin the shape. Of course, if you had a traditional mould, you could tap on the edge of the table straight onto your hand or onto the baking tray straight away.

I made these for a family brunch and they were enjoyed by young and old alike. The recipe is super easy, and bake in no time at all. For best results, bake at least a day in advance. They should not be stale, but eating on the day they are baked will have a slightly more crunchier texture than traditional mooncake biscuits have. Enjoy!

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