A Recipe for Suzhou-style Mooncake Kolaches

We always make a point to eat soup dumplings when we visit NYC—each time trying a new place. On our last visit to the city we were recommended Shanghai You Garden in Flushing, and that’s where we discovered mooncakes. I’ve since learned that these Cantonese-style sweet pastries are popular around the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated throughout Asia. However this was not the style of mooncake we had. Instead, we had the Suzhou-style mooncake, still stamped with edible red ink, but with a savory pork filling. After my first bite, I wished I skipped the soup dumplings and opted for a pile of mooncakes. I also had an idea.

Take the mooncake filling, and put it into my favorite kolache* bread. After a few attempts I perfected the bread/filling ratio, and the mooncake kolache (moonkolache?) was born.

Here are the recipes for both the mooncake pork filling and Kolache bread, courtesy of Betty Liu and The Homesick Texan, respectively. I still have plans to try the traditional flaky dough, but for now this combo is a dinner staple.

Savory Mooncake Filling (doubled from original)
Combine ingredients and roll into 12 balls

1 lb. lean ground pork
4 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon dashi powder (optional)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 dashes white pepper
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine

Kolache Dough Recipe
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
3/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt

To make the dough, in a large bowl, combine yeast, warm milk, sugar, and one cup of flour. Cover and let it rise until doubled in size.

Beat together the eggs, 1/2 cup of melted butter (reserve 1/4 cup for brushing on the pastry), and salt. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture and blend.

Stir in about 2 more cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time. The dough should be soft and moist. Knead dough for about 10 minutes on floured surface. Don’t worry, it’s a joy to knead as the dough is smooth and highly malleable. Put dough in a greased bowl and let rise covered until doubled in size—about an hour.

After dough has risen, punch it down and pull off egg-sized pieces. In your hands, roll pieces into balls and then flatten to about 3 inches in diameter. Brush with half the remaining melted butter. Place flattened pieces on a greased cookie sheet, cover and let rise again for another half-hour.

After the second rising of the dough, with your finger gently make an indention in the center of the dough … (the recipe going forward is slightly adapted) and place a pork ball. Wrap and seal the dough around the ball being careful not to crush the dough too much.

Bake in an oven at 375° F  until internal temperature reaches 165° and the bread is lightly browned. This occurs somewhere between 12-15 minutes depending on your oven. Watch them carefully!

*Kolaches are a sweet Czech pastry. In Texas (or at least Southeast Texas) the word has come to describe the sausage and cheese breakfast pastry we gorge ourselves with on weekends, alongside donuts of course. If you want to get technical, the proper word for these is klobasnek (plural: klobasniki).