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I can never predict what ideas my overactive Vata latch onto. But for the very recent moment (yesterday till today), I’ve become quite intrigued in making these local pastries. Maybe it’s because there have been people posting recipes using vegetable oil rather than the traditionally used lard, butter or *shudder* shortening, that makes these pastries seem like they’re pretty much do-able if I had the time. Maybe it’s also because of the Beh Teh So my aunt gave me recently that caught my attention with its baked and crispy, flaky pastry without an excess of oiliness that we associate with eating them.

Or maybe it’s just a very early anticipation of the Mooncake Festival which I never am prepared beforehand, only realising at the peak of everyone else’s mooncake eating, I actually would’ve wanted to try making vegan mooncakes for myself and everyone else (they are also bloody expensive and overpriced so adding to attractiveness of M.I.Y).

Regardless, can I say I’m pretty chuffed at how these Mooncake pastries turned out?! Pleased as punch I am alright, just look at those crispy, flaky things especially the ones with the brown glaze.

Firstly, let me say I’m confused as to what these should be called because the usual mooncakes do not have pastry skins and even if they do, like the Teochew ones, they do not look like this. I feel more compelled to call them tau sar pia instead since they look more similar in terms of look and pastry, though these are a lot bigger and use red bean paste as the filling instead of savory mung beans.

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Secondly, the vegan glaze which I improvised myself off a recipe I saw in Divine Vegan Desserts seems to produce very good results! Since egg washes are completely out of the question for vegan baked goods like bread buns and pies, I thought I would have to content with anemic looking baked goods as the norm. But look at the color I managed to get with that glaze! I’ll tell you the secret to getting this nice brown, baked surface WITHOUT the eggs. Just carry on reading to find out 😉

Preparing the Dough and Filling
I followed Vivian Pang’s recipe for ‘Flaky Flower Mooncake‘ (see how the name confuses me as to the identity of these tau sar pia lookalikes?)

red bean filling, oil dough and water dough

Clockwise from left – red bean paste, oil dough and water dough.

Just a quick rundown of how these are made:

First prepare your filling. Beside red bean paste, you could also do lotus paste, black sesame-red bean paste, mung bean paste or pretty much anything you could make into a paste! How’s about chestnut or pumpkin or yam filling? Go wild provided you know what you like and you know what you’re doing. Mine is a simple recipe I cooked up using the pressure cooker without the addition of oil – heart healthy!

Next prepare the oil and water dough by mixing the ingredients up as per the recipe.

Making the Pastry Layers
What comes next is pretty much this: wrap oil dough with water dough. Flatten and roll out into an oval. Roll up swiss roll style till you get a cigar. Then flatten it out again lengthwise and roll up again into a cigar. This is how layers are created, not unlike the repetitive rolling out and folding over process in croissant-making. Except this has got to be easier, less expensive, less time intensive and most importantly vegan!

Once you’re done with the second cigar, you flatten the dough one last time, place your red bean filling in the middle and enclose, pinching and sealing the tops. Voila!

As a first-timer, let me warn you of the potential problems you may encounter especially if you follow this recipe. The water dough can be too dry and difficult to seal since mine had problems with the edges sticking together. Also because of the dryness, it became stiff and didn’t stretch well resulting in my layers tearing! It was an alarming sight with parts of the thin layers flaking off when I tried to wrap the filling since the dough was thin and delicate from stretching at that stage.

No matter, since the results were still good, but after comparing with other similar recipes which use oil and water dough, Vivian’s recipe uses much less oil and I think that may be the reason I found my dough rather hard and non-stretchy. So use more oil for the water dough if you think you need it. Since the oil dough will be wrapped inside the water dough, I don’t think its texture is too critical. Just for reference, my oil dough was like the texture of wet sand which crumbles easily though comes together when crushed with a fist.

Wrap the Filling, Garnish, Glaze and Bake!

I hope my pictures don’t make it look too deceptively easy. As I mentioned, the biggest problem I had was working with the dough which was stiff and dry to begin with and only became stiffer and stiffer as more layers were made.

When it came to wrapping the red bean paste, the dough was so stiff I literally had to put my weight into flattening them, only to have some of the top layers peeling or flaking off! I tried to be as delicate and patient as possible but I’m glad despite all that it still turned out well in the end!

Remember to place the sealed ends at the bottom and top with your favorite seeds or nuts for an elegant garnish. Wet the tops first slightly so they stick and bung ’em into a preheated 190 degC oven for about 20 minutes.

For the vegan pastry/tart/bread/bun glaze, here’s what you do:

First finish - vegan pastry glaze

Second finish - no vegan glaze and black sesame topping

Simply taking a small amount of besan or chickpea flour and create a slurry with some water. Then, paint onto the tops of whatever it is you’re baking! So easy and animal free well-baked tops! This idea came from Divine Vegan Desserts, a book I totally recommend for its wonderful, innovative and delicious recipes. (Also check out the Cinnamon Apple muffins I made from the book. ) The Mini Peach Pies in it calls for this chickpea flour glaze which I thought was a great idea but totally forgot to try until now.

As you can see it works great! Compared to the ones without the glaze, the glazed pastries look absolutely mouth-watering. Definitely more inviting and tasty-looking with their brown crackly tops 🙂

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They look just like tau sar pia in appearance but with red bean fillings.

Now what’s left is finding out how they turned out on the inside…

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The Verdict
The pastry was indeed flaky and crispy, definitely not tough at all and the texture was like eating crispy rather than soft tau sar pia. It wasn’t dry either so I am pretty satisfied! Take a closer look at the flaky layers in the pictures below…

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The skin turned out really thick, definitely because they ended up being shaped as balls rather than the pretty flowers which I blame on the dough’s stiffness. Chef 101: Always blame your tools and materials 🙂 I would add more oil if I do make these again making sure the dough is a lot softer.

Also although I made minor alterations such as using Atta flour rather than plain, all-purpose and EVOO in the water dough, to my delight, neither the flour nor the oil influenced the taste or flakiness. Next time I will definitely be more bold and use 100% EVOO or other beneficial oils like coconut oil or cocoa butter for more decadence and will also consider using whole wheat pastry flour. I did consider that the atta flour might require more water or oil compared to plain, all purpose flour, but I won’t know till you make it and tell me too!

Once again, here’s the comparison between glazed and non-glazed pastry. Also, to show you how much trouble I had wrapping the fillings, I’ve turned the bottom up the last one. The dough was so dry and hardly stuck together so improvised by scrunching up and promptly hiding them at the bottom. What you won’t see can’t hurt you ;P

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They were great and pretty straightforward to make nonetheless and I would recommend those who want to have some fun re-creating these local favorites a try at making them! If you do, let me know how yours turn out!

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