- Rinse lotus seeds and soak in a bowl of water until softened, at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Split each seed in half and remove the small bitter sprout/germ in the center. (Note: Some dried seed packets will have already done this for you - the ones I got had been pretty thorough. There had been only a handful of seeds in which I found the germ still inside. I went through all of the seeds for the sake of thoroughness, but it's not clear to me that the few that still remained would have made that much difference.)
- In a large pot on the stove, cover lotus seeds completely with water and bring to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer until tender, adding water if necessary to keep seeds covered (about 1.5 hours).
- Reserve 1 cup of the lotus-seed cooking water. Drain the seeds and set aside to cool (if you wish to speed up the process, put the pot they're in into an ice bath). Transfer seeds to a food processor or blender. Process to a smooth paste (adding a splash of the reserved lotus-seed cooking water when necessary). Optionally, for a finer texture, press the paste through a fine sieve.
- In a non-stick pan, combine lotus-seed paste and oil and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until oil is incorporated. Add the 1/2 cup of sugar and stir until incorporated. Taste, and add more sugar if you wish, one tablespoon at a time. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
I browsed a good half dozen sites on how to make lotus seed paste and tried to adapt a balance between convenience and tastiness. As much as I would love to have "traditional" or "most flavorful", a complex recipe usually means it never gets made, and I like my lotus seed-flavor way too much to miss out on a chance of having it in homemade mooncakes.
Part of the reason I started baking was because I like my goodies to be less obviously sweet - I want to taste the flavor, not just the sugar. So most of these recipes will have the sugar dialed down, and I avoid anything that uses corn syrup like the plague.