Friday, September 10, 2010

Everything Chinese: Huat Kueh

This week saw the arrival of the Chinese 8th month. And in comes the brochures and advertisements for mooncakes as the Mid-autumn festival is just round the corner. I am never a fan of mooncakes because they are utterly sweet and calorie bursting. But I cannot resist the temptation of making them. I had in mind durian mooncakes as that is the only type of mooncake I will eat, but looks like durians are out of season now. I resort to cooking my own red bean paste, with less sugar and less oil.

While waiting for the red bean paste to cook, I made a batch of Huat Kueh or Fatt Ko. This was upon my mum's request as she likes Huat Kueh. I used to like it when I was young, but for some reason, I haven't eaten it for many years. Huat Kueh to most people is just a food offering during prayers, but my mum and grandma actually like to eat it.
There are many variations n the recipes and some tricks to make it "huat" or "smile". I just took the most simple recipe as I don't want to go through the trouble and end up with failed kueh.

The recipe only requires sugar, water, cake flour, rice flour and baking powder. I used black sugar to add flavour to the cake. I steamed the first batch in paper souffle cups and the cakes did huat, albeit not very well. I used aluminium foil cups for the second batch and the cakes did not huat at all. I wonder if it was because of the material of the cups or due to me filling the cups with too much batter. Either way, the cakes were very sweet and dense. Although it tastes like normal Huat Kueh, the texture needs to be improved.

Finally after 3 hours, the red bean paste was ready. I boiled the beans for 2 hours and spent 1 hour trying to separate the paste from the skin and cooking the paste. It sure was tiring. Now I know why many people would rather buy ready-made ones. I intended to make 2 types of mooncakes: the snow-skin type and the teochew styled flaky type. The flaky type is surprisingly easy to make. Unlike puff pastry, this Chinese styled flaky pastry uses shortening to make a water dough and a oil dough. The oil dough is then wrapped in the water dough and the dough repeatedly folded. Since both are dough, and shortening doen't melt, there is no problem of butter melting or breaking away into chunks like in puff pastry.

This is the first time I am wrapping mooncakes. I had some difficulty here, with the dough tearing. But I still managed to wrap it successfully. I expected the layers to be more prominent after baking, but nevertheless, the pastry is still flaky. The filling is a tad too dry as the amount of oil added into the paste is quite little.

Next up is the snow skin mooncakes. Making the skin dough is simple but wrapping up is a problem. And the bigger problem is molding the cakes: the cakes keep sticking to the mold. I have no choice but to dust the cakes with flour. But the flour makes the cakes look grainy and rough.
And after all these, the biggest problem is: how do I get rid of the mooncakes now?

Update (18/9/10): I tried the same stuff again. This time round, I added much more oil to the red bean paste. Although the paste is able to hold it's shape after refrigeration (i.e. it did not crumble after slicing the mooncake), it is still too dry. I cannot imagine the amount of oil added into the fillings in commercial mooncakes.

I tried Huat Kueh again using another recipe. This time round, it is not as dense and not as sweet. My mum gave this a thumbs up!

Ingredients (makes 3 small kuehs):
200 ml water
100 ml dark brown sugar
150 g cake flour
30 g rice flour
2 tsp baking powder

  1. Boil water and sugar until sugar dissolves.
  2. Prepare steamer.
  3. Sift cake flour, rice flour and baking powder together.
  4. Combine sugar syrup with dry ingredients.
  5. Spoon into paper cups and steam on high heat for 20 mins.
Adapted from Cheat Eat's Huat Kueh.

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