Freelance graphic designer Cherie Lye is working extra hard, making mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival on Sept 15.
The bubbly 34-year-old says: “I enjoy coming up with creative flavours of snowskin mooncakes that are not usually sold in shops.”
New on her menu this year are chendol snowskin mooncakes filled with store-bought chendol paste – pandan and coconut flavoured lotus paste – to which she adds red beans, attap seed pieces and pieces of gula melaka. The skin of the mooncake, which is patterned with yellow and white swirls, is infused with gula melaka syrup.
To ensure that the skin stays soft and pliable and does not harden when chilled, she adds clear soft drinks such as 7-Up to the dough batter, instead of water. This is a tip she picked up from baking websites.
Besides chendol snowskin mooncake, she has also made mooncakes in flavours such as blueberry, passionfruit, red wine and cranberry and lychee martini, as well as those in the shape of cartoon characters, such as Baymax, a superhero robot character in the Marvel Comics series.
Ms Lye started making mooncakes five years ago with her then boyfriend, now husband, a 35-year-old software engineer. It was an “interesting couple activity”, beyond dining out and watching movies.
“We both love mooncakes. He can eat a whole regularsized baked lotus paste mooncake at one go.”
She adds in jest: “He is also happy that I am making mooncakes as it helps him save money.”
Her interest in baking intensified two years ago when she wanted to bake a cake for her daughter’s first birthday party. Using two toaster ovens in their rented apartment, she managed to make a butter cake, which was frosted with lychee cream.
“It was challenging as the temperature in the toaster ovens could not be controlled so I had to check on the cakes constantly,” she says. “My husband commented that if I could bake cakes in toaster ovens, I would do even better with a proper oven.”
So when the couple moved into their three-room flat in Bedok two years ago, they installed a convection oven in the kitchen.
Recently, she began making cupcakes, macarons and character-themed confections such as bread rolls that are fashioned after Gudetama, a popular Japanese cartoon egg character. All these are done in a bid to get her two-year-old daughter, a picky eater, to try new food.
The bakes also make their way into the breakfast boxes that she packs for her husband. They include bear-shaped toast and Hello Kitty-shaped mooncakes.
Asked how her husband is taking to these breakfast boxes, she says with a laugh: “I wonder what his colleagues think when they look at his breakfast, but he has no choice as long as I am packing them.”
5 Tbs red beans 100ml water
2 tsp sugar
7 attap seeds, patted dry and diced into 1cm cubes
360g store-bought chendol mooncake paste from Kwong Cheong Thye, 61 Lorong 27 Geylang
4 Tbs gula melaka, cut into 0.5cm pieces
For white-coloured dough
45g fried glutinous rice flour, from baking supplies shop
5g wheat starch
20g icing sugar
60g to 100g clear soft drink, such as 7-Up, chilled
For gula melaka dough
30g gula melaka, cut into 0.5cm pieces
45g fried glutinous rice flour
5g wheat starch
20g icing sugar
20g to 60g clear soft drink, chilled
1. Place the red beans and water in a pot set over medium heat. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 25 minutes until the beans soften. Stir in sugar just before the end of the simmer. Drain and let it cool for 20 minutes. Pat the beans dry with kitchen towels.
2. In a mixing bowl, mix the cooked red beans and diced attap seeds with the chendol mooncake paste well with hands.
3. Roll the mooncake paste into 30g balls. Make a slight dent in the centre of each ball and place one tsp of gula melaka in it. Roll the paste so that the gula melaka is covered. Repeat with the rest of the mooncake paste and gula melaka. Place the balls on a plate, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
4. To make the white-coloured snowskin dough, sift the glutinous rice flour and wheat starch into a mixing bowl. Add icing sugar and mix well, and rub shortening into the flour mixture till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
5. Pour the chilled soft drink into the batter in two equal portions, mixing the contents with hands after each addition, until they come together in a ball. Set aside.
6. To make the gula melaka dough, dissolve the 30g of gula melaka in the water in a pan set over low heat.
7. In another mixing bowl, sift glutinous rice flour and wheat starch. Add icing sugar and 5 Tbs of the gula melaka syrup and mix well. Rub shortening into flour mixture till mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
8. Pour the chilled soft drink into the batter in two equal portions, mixing with hands after each addition until it forms a ball.
9. Wrap both balls of dough in cling wrap separately and chill for about 30 minutes.
10. Remove the balls of dough and mooncake filling from the refrigerator. Divide each ball of dough into two even portions and roll out each portion on a flat surface until it is about 10cm long (below). Sprinkle some fried glutinous rice flour on the four pieces of dough to keep them from sticking.
11. Alternate a piece of white dough with a piece of gula melaka dough piece on a flat surface, and place the four pieces of dough close together.
12. Cut a 20g cross-section of the four pieces of dough. On a flat surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out till it is about 8cm in diameter.
13. Place a ball of mooncake filling in the centre of the dough and wrap it around the filling (above). Ensure that the filling is completely covered by the dough and shape it into a ball.
14. Dust mooncake mould that is 4cm tall and 5cm wide with fried glutinous rice flour. Press the filled dough ball into it gently, making sure the surface of the dough that is in contact with the patterned-face of the mould is smooth. Stop when the dough skin is level with the top of the mould.
15. Gently press the plunger of the mooncake mould downwards to remove the mooncake from the mould. Repeat for the other mooncakes.
16. Store the mooncakes in an air-tight container and refrigerate for two to three hours before serving.
Makes 12 to 15 mini mooncakes
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 04, 2016, with the headline ‘Chendol snowskin delight’.