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Thousand Layer Mooncakes

The spiral or the thousand layer mooncakes hail from the Chaoshan or Teoswa region of China. It is a pastry made of laminated dough with lard or shortening. The laminated process of the pastry gives it that spiral appearance with flaky layers. In this recipe, it is made with ghee for a slightly richer flavor and filled with purple sweet potatoes. The mooncakes can be filled with whatever filling you like, whether it is sweet or savory, traditional or not. For one batch, I made a mung bean, coconut, and pineapple filling because that’s what I had on hand. It made a great and unexpected flavor combination too.


Dough – whether it is lard, shortening or ghee, use what you prefer. They are one to one substitutes of each other. I don’t always have lard or shortening at home, but always have plenty of butter. I made ghee or clarified butter and used that in this recipe.
Oil dough – if your oil dough seems a bit too dry, add a little bit more lard or ghee. The dough should just come together and be formable. I tested this in mid-summer and on really dry days, it may require a little bit more.
Filling – when making the filling, if you boil the purple sweet potatoes, mung bean, red bean or whatever you are using and it has a higher liquid content. You’ll need to cook the filling down until it has a drier and thicker consistency so it is formable and does not have so much liquid that it will ruin the pastry. This is why I like steaming the sweet potatoes or mung beans. They don’t take on all the extra liquid and you also don’t lose the potatoes or beans in the boiled water.
Coloring – I find that the gel food coloring works best to add color. But I could see using a purple ube extract to add both color and flavor to the oil dough. Alternatively, you can color the water and add it to the water dough and it will be the opposite dough that is colored.

If you are a visual learner like me, watch the video below to see all the steps!

Thousand Layer Mooncakes

Time: 2 hours, including inactive time
Yields: 18-20 mooncakes

Oil Dough
1 ¼ cup (150g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (75g) ghee or lard or shortening
Food coloring

Water Dough
2 ¼ cup (270g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (75g) ghee or lard or shortening
5 fl oz (150ml) water
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt

Purple Sweet Potato Filling
2 lbs purple sweet potatoes or ube
½ cup (100g) sugar (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon salt

Prepare the filling.
• Wash, clean and steam the purple sweet potatoes. Add sugar and salt. Mash and mix well. If the filling is too wet, cook in a pan until as much of the liquid has cooked out and can easily form into balls.
• Let cool completely and then form into about 1-inch sized balls.

Prepare the oil dough.
• In a large bowl, sift flour. Then add lard or ghee. Start working the lard into the flour until you get coarse crumbs. Add the coloring if using. Then continue to work the dough until it just comes together.
• Form into a disc. Place in a zip top bag and let chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

Prepare the water dough.
• In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar and salt. Work in lard or ghee until you get coarse crumbs. Add water and knead well.
• Shape into a disc. Place in a zip top bag and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

After the resting and chilling time.
• Cut the oil dough into six equal pieces and form into balls.
• Cut the water dough into six equal pieces and form into balls. Then using a rolling pin, flatten and roll out into disc.
• Place the oil dough ball in the center of the water dough disc and wrap the oil dough in the water dough. Form a large ball. Repeat for all six.
• Flatten the pastry dough and roll into an oval using a rolling pin. Take one edge on the long side of the oval and roll in like making a pirouline.

• Flatten and roll out again into a long rectangle.
• Take the short end of the rectangle and roll from one end to the other. Until you get a spiral roll.

• Divide into thirds. Flatten and roll out into disc.
• Place the prepared filling ball in the center of the disc. Wrap and form into round balls.
• Repeat until you have all pastry completed.
• Bake 350F for 25-30 minutes or until the mooncakes are slightly golden and flaky.
• Serve warm or at room temperature.
• Store in airtight container at room temperature for about 5 days or freeze for up to a month. Let thaw at room temperature.

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