Regency Moon Cakes

12/12/2013

 
An intriguing message on our Facebook page earlier this year provided the impetus for this recipe.

The communication read:


Dear The Historian and the Chef,
Do you think there would be a Regency moon cake floating around somewhere?
Best wishes,
Moon cake lover


Although fairly cryptic, we assumed the reference was to something resembling the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival moon cakes.  These are cakes so popular that the festival is commonly known as the Mooncake Festival.  Was it possible that, along with their passion for Chinese tea, the Georgians also adopted moon cakes?  Alas, despite Mishka's best efforts, we have been unable to discover any reference to moon cakes in the British Regency period, let alone a contemporary recipe.  So we have devised an anachronistic one of our own.

To give our recipe a period feel, we decided that Mr Darcy and Miss Bennet and their contemporaries would have eaten moon cakes in the style of petit fours or sweetmeats. Consequently, ours are much smaller than the traditional oriental moon cake.  We have also substituted butter for oil and a marzipan filling instead of lotus seed paste.   For a quintessentially English Regency taste, we added gin and rose petals.

Ingredients

Pastry:
200g + plain flour
120g golden syrup
70g unsalted butter

Filling:
100g ground almonds
70g rose petal jam
1 tbl gin or brandy (optional)
1 egg
food colouring (optional)

Glaze:
1 egg

2 tsp golden syrup
4 tsp hot water
icing sugar to dust (optional)

Makes 24 small moon cakes

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Begin by pre-heating your oven to 180 degrees Celcius.

Heat the butter and golden syrup briefly - the butter doesn't have to melt, it just needs to be on the verge of doing so - and place them in a large bowl, preferably of your stand mixer.  Sift in the 200g of flour and mix using the paddle attachment.  Once combined, add a little more flour so that it is the right consistency for baking and knead briefly into a roll.  Set aside in the fridge.

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Next, prepare your filling by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl.  If you are concerned about raw egg, heat it in a saucepan.  Add two or three drops of food colouring - we recommend red - if you prefer.

The rose petal jam can be substituted with any delicate fragrant jam, such as rose hip or quince jelly, but if you have access to roses it is easy to make. Simply boil up a couple of handfuls of petals with at least a cup of sugar and a minimal amount of water and add a squeeze of lemon juice after the petals become translucent. You can remove the petals with a slatted spoon (and eat them like lollies) or leave them in if you don't mind a chewy jam.

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Roll out the dough on a floured bench and cut out rounds 7-8 cm in diameter.

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Place a teaspoon of the filling on each round.  We used a mini muffin tin to assist in the process, but this isn't necessary.

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Squeeze the edges of dough together, pushing gently into the tin, before turning out onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Glaze with beaten egg.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.  While the moon cakes are baking, mix the golden syrup with hot water.  As soon as you take the cakes out of the oven, brush them with the syrup.
The moon cakes can be served as is or dusted with icing sugar.  If you are feeling particularly creative, they could be topped with marzipan or sugar decorations.  The red berries and green leaves of holly would transform them into a unique Christmas nibble.

If you want to retain the Regency feel, we recommend accompanying them with a Chinese tea, such as Oolong or a Green Tea.  (Remember, Indian tea did not reach England until the 1830s!)  If you happen to have a period cake basket to serve them in, all the better!
 


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