It turns out durian snowskin mooncakes are not at all hard to make, and since I’m home in Oregon visiting the family, I’m making sure the Trick-or-Treaters visiting my parent’s house this Halloween will be in for a slightly scary surprise: Durian in the guise of cute pumpkin treats (insert witch cackle).
Mooncakes sound dainty, mysterious, and hard to make. A few weeks ago it was the Mid-Autumn Festival in Malaysia and Singapore, and my Facebook feed was clogged with these pretty little pastries stuffed with Musang King or D24. Jealous much? Yes.
Mooncakes are a Chinese sweet roll or dumpling that is stuffed with something gooey and delicious. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, people give them to each other as gifts. How exactly mooncakes came to be an autumn thing is up to debate (anything from moon worship to mongol rebellions), but it’s generally agreed that the tradition of giving mooncakes to friends and family is at least 3,500 years old.
Originally, the cakes were stuffed with lotus paste and salted duck eggs for luck, but as the Chinese diaspora hit Southeast Asia the cakes were often stuffed with local favorites, like — you guessed it — durian.
These days, mooncakes can be stuffed with anything — taro, green tea ice cream, chocolate — but are usually placed into molds with the Chinese symbol indicating the filling. These molds make the cakes look beautiful and delicate, almost lacy. I have a feeling Queen Victoria wouldn’t have minded mooncakes with her tea and crumpets.
Mine, however, did not come out looking dainty and Oriental-Victorian. I couldn’t find any traditional mooncake molds in Oregon, and while I could have ordered them on Amazon.com they cost between $5-12, which could be spent on more frozen durian from our local Asian grocer.
I’d rather have more durian, thanks.
But my little cakes — a little lumpy, a little wrinkled from the saran-wrap — still tasted great. And they reminded me of something…
They looked like little green pumpkins! So I whipped up another batch, this time using orange coloration.
It’s a perfect synergy of dessert-oriented, autumnal festivals. And, I realized that if I had tried to give away these my mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival, few people in Oregon would have understood why I was forcing durian-filled sweets on them.
On Halloween, however, giving away treats totally makes sense. Ready the victims!
My recipe is both vegan and gluten-free and uses glutinous rice flour (which does not actually contain gluten). I also made 100% raw durian mooncakes, which my family actually preferred. I guess almond and durian is a match made in heaven.
For the coloration I used kale juice and carrot juice, but you can also use conventional dyes if you don’t feel like powering up the juicer for a few tablespoons of colored liquid. I took a pinch of the kale-dough to make stems for my orange mooncake “pumpkins.”
Durian Snowskin Mooncakes Recipe
Yield: 7 durian-stuffed mooncakes
Time: 1.5 hours (account for baking the rice flour and freezing the durian flesh)
- 1 cup glutinous rice flour (cooked)
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp vegan butter or coconut oil
- 6 tbsp carrot juice or green juice (or water)
- Food dye if you’re not using juice
- Extra credit: almond or vanilla extract
- One fresh or frozen durian OR durian jam (lempok, guan, etc)
There are two steps to making snowskin mooncakes. You can do them separately or at the same time, depending on how long you can tolerate being in the kitchen.
If your package of glutinous rice flour doesn’t say “fried” on it, you need to cook it. Otherwise it will taste chalky and squeak between your teeth. Trust me on this one.
- Spread one cup evenly across a baking pan.
- Place pan in oven at 350 F.
- Every 10-15 minutes stir the flour so it won’t burn. Stir the flour three times, or about an hour of cooking.
- The rice flour will turn a yellow color.
- While the flour is cooking, take apart your durian. Try really hard not to devour it all because you need it for the recipe.
- Remove the seeds and weird fibrous bits (if you’re using frozen durian, like me). Mash the durian with a fork until its smooth.
- Line an ice-cube tray or mini-muffin tray with clear plastic wrap and spoon in your durian.
- Place in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
Step 2 (in 7 sub-steps)
1. Unceremoniously dump the cooked glutinous rice flour into a mixing bowl, being careful not to inhale the inevitable clouds of white dust. Add the powdered sugar and butter/coconut oil and stir.
2. One tablespoon at a time, add the carrot juice/geens juice OR water. The key here is not to let the mixture get too wet.
6. Wrap the ball in plastic-wrap, and then press into a cylinder shaped object, like a muffin-tin or a measuring cup. I used a 1/2 cup measuring cup. This made my cakes shaped like fat, wrinkly mushroom caps.
7. Decorate as evilly as you please and place in the refrigerator or freezer to harden up. Or if you can’t wait, eat one now. Just don’t give away the “scary” surprise!
Given all the hoopla right now in the American media about durian (especially the latest Buzzfeed video), I’m curious how the trick-or-treaters will react to these durian mooncakes. Will the videos make them feel more open to trying it? Or more disgusted? Does hiding the durian inside something familiar help? We shall see…