It was nothing short of beautiful divine timing for us to be back in Singapore this September which happened to coincide with the annual local festivities of the mid-autumn festival (also known as ‘Mooncake Festival’) celebrated by the ethnic Chinese community all throughout Asia with bursts of colour, feasting and merry-making.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is timed every year on the 15th day of the eight month of the Chinese lunar calendar, most significantly on the night of the ‘full moon’ from early September to early October.
Besides the Chinese New Year, I can’t think of another more culturally significant holiday that would be so crucial in marking the ethnic heritage and cultural traditions of someone of Chinese descent. Historically it celebrates the harvest of crops, a time for social and family reunions to share thanksgiving traditions for one’s bountiful harvest.
In celebrating the abundance of blessing and provision, the more noteworthy aspects of the mid-autumn festival would involve feasting on delectable mooncakes and the night viewing of colourful lit lanterns in myriads of designs, which makes the whole event rather sentimental for me personally.
I recall from my own memorable childhood in Singapore—those mooncake festival night street parades where I had been one of those gleeful children exploring the shadowy and dimly lit alleys and five foot ways alongside other excited kids armed with our traditional candle-lit lanterns. We cast our rainbow tinted lights up and down the streets as the colourful glowing hues from our lit lanterns bounced off the walls and shadows as we wove in and out of the darkness chanting in childlike voices and giggles.
My parents bought me a new one every year, not out of how much they doted on me, but probably because of the nature of how delicate those lanterns were, which meant I tended to set mine on fire quite often! They came in wonderful shapes of animals or insects like roosters and butterflies or even licensed characters like Ultra-Man or Superman. In the old days, our rustic lanterns were constructed crudely out of thin gauge wire and coloured cellophane hand-painted painstakingly by traditional craftsmen. The most fun bit was perhaps having the legitimacy granted by our parents on that one particular night each year, on Mooncake Festival, to ‘play with fire’ as our lanterns were lit using only tiny candles, unlike the much safer LED lanterns that are sold today. On our trip to Singapore, I managed to have the best of both worlds, really–by getting the lantern seller at Chinatown in Singapore to adapt two traditional cellophane lanterns into LED-powered versions for my two wombats.
So indeed it’s with much love that I’m marking this very special occasion this Mid-Autumn Festival by hand- making some of my favourite snowskin mooncakes as well as sharing with you my handmade mid-autumn festival greeting cards.
The following is my recipe for Green Tea Pandan Snowskin Mooncakes (Black Bean Paste Filling). I cannot think of a better combination of two of my favourite flavours—green tea and pandan. As for the filling, feel free to use any other flavours of your preference, such as lotus paste or red bean paste.
I simply wanted to experiment with the wonderful dark contrast of the sweetened black beans as opposed using the more predictable red bean paste. I was very pleased with how they had turned out, although another unconventional experiment I made this time was not using the traditional mooncake mould!
Hopefully these mini snowskin mooncakes in the shape of little baby heads won’t be mistaken for a Halloween dessert, ha. I know that would have been a complete disaster as those who know me would know I’m the last person to advocate Halloween in any shape or form. Back to my green tea pandan snowskin mooncakes, I call them my mini ‘moon fairies’.
I haven’t tried the alternative method of making snowskin mooncakes by steaming the dough beforehand, so I’m unable to make a comparison between the two. However at this point in time, my family seems to prefer the ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ texture of these ‘no cook’ mooncakes better.
Please feel free to experiment for yourself and I would love to hear any feedback from you!
Meanwhile, Happy Mid-Autumn Festival. Light up your life with colour, and don’t forget to be at peace and harmony with one another as we celebrate providence, provenance and prosperity with an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude towards the one who blesses us.
*170g Glutinous Rice flour & Tapioca flour instant mix (sifted)
150g pure icing sugar (sifted)
30g vegetable shortening
iced water about 30-60g (ready in a small cup to mix gradually)
3 tsp matcha powder
1 tsp pandan essence
150g sweetened black bean paste(available in a tinned can)
some extra rice flour & tapioca flour instant mix (about 70g or more)
*referred to as the ‘flour’ in the following recipe
Sift all the flours and pure icing sugar, including the matcha powder last.
Using your fingers, rub the shortening into the sifted powders till dry mixture gets to a ‘breadcrumb-like’ texture.
Make a well in the centre of your mixing bowl and very slowly and carefully, add a little tiny bit of iced water like a TB at the most at first. Add the pandan essence and start mixing everything together into a soft dough. Do not add too much water or it can get too mushy. The finished dough should be pliable and dry to the touch but rather soft. Add more of the flour to your palms to coat the dough if any part of the surface is still rather shiny.
Roll the dough using your palms, into a small ball. Sprinkle some flour onto your work top. Using a non-stick small rolling pin, flatten the dough on your work top, then place a small ball of black bean paste filling onto the centre of the flattened circle of dough.
Cover the filling completely with the dough gathered up and using your palms, gently rub and shape into a ball again.
Place the balled dough into your mooncake mould and dust the top with more flour, pressing gently to adhere to the mould.
Knock or punch out your snowskin mooncake on your worktop. Use greaseproof baking paper as a base to prevent the mooncake sticking to any surface.
Store chilled before serving.