How to make mooncakes

A step by step guide to baking the traditional mid-autumn treat

While most modern mooncakes are mass-production factory products, there are a few kitchens still handmaking these traditional autumn sweets. Chef Zhao Jinpeng, 28, at the new JE Shanghai Science Hall, a dining and events space in the historic Nanchang Lu building, learned the Imperial-style supi (crispy pastry) mooncake recipe from master chef Wang Xifu, who hails from a family of legendary cooks, including a grandfather who was a royal chef in the Forbidden City. While the boom in mooncake sales has seen everyone from Häagen-Dazs to Starbucks put their own spin on the traditional treat, supi mooncakes originated in the Qing dynasty and have a flaky, layered white pastry enveloping savoury or sweet fillings.

The entire process of shaping and baking supi mooncakes takes around four hours. The ingredients are simple: flour, butter, lard, milk powder, sugar, green bean powder and rose petal paste. Two types of dough are used to create the flaky layers; both are made with low gluten flour and lard but only one has the addition of ice water. Unlike the heavy, oily and cloyingly sugary mooncakes you typically receive, these fresh mooncakes are lightly flavoured and only mildly sweet.

Chef Zhao’s mooncakes are 428RMB/box of eight; 380RMB/box of six and available from JE Shanghai Science Hall, 47 Nanchang Lu, near Yandang Lu, Huangpu district (3126 8801). Open 9am-11pm daily. Shaanxi Nan Lu. 黄浦区南昌路 47号上海科学会堂1号楼 , 近雁荡路
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For the filling: Whip the butter and add the green bean powder, sugar and milk powder.

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Knead the mixture with your hands to form a smooth mass.

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For each mooncake, take 5g of rose petal paste and form a ball around it with 30g of green bean paste. Set aside your filling balls.

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Roll out both types of dough and place one on top of the other, folding and refolding to create at least nine layers of the two doughs.

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Roll into one long strip and you should see folds in the ends of the dough.

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Cut the layered dough into small rectangles and quickly wrap in plastic or a damp cloth to prevent drying out. For each mooncake, take one rectangle and roll it into a larger smooth piece.

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Take a ball of green bean filling and centre it on a dough piece, then use both hands to curl and squeeze the dough to envelope the entire ball, pinching the top.

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Set the ball on the counter and gently flatten using the palm of the hand. Turn over so the seam side is down and the mooncake is ready to bake.

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Bake in 170C oven for 13-14 minutes, turning the tray halfway through to bake evenly.

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Remove and let cool before eating. These fresh mooncakes last around one week; they taste best when reheated briefly in the oven or microwave.

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