Monday, October 5, 2009

Moon cakes (and Blogger finally has jump breaks!)

So a couple of nights ago (Saturday, October 3rd, to be exact), was the Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie). It's an excuse to eat delicious moon cakes! Just kidding. (But it's definitely a bonus!) The Mid-Autumn Festival is on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar, which generally falls on a day late September/early October, when the moon is all it fullest and roundest.

Hopefully some of you had a chance to enjoy the full moon... I did! I walked down the pier near my apartment, and had fun playing with my camera and my lenses in the sunset and watching the full moon rise.

Photograph courtesy of Mike Ross.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is usually celebrated by eating pomelo, observing the beautiful moon, eating mooncakes, lighting lanterns, and, of course, vibrant celebration! I kind of did two of the above? I saw the full moon rise, made mooncakes, and performed with my Chinese dance group (for Homecoming at Cal, but it still counts, kind of?).

Photography courtesy of Mike Ross.

As with every Chinese celebration, this one comes with its on myth/folk tale. Of course, there are many various versions of the story of the moon, but the one I'm most familiar with is the one that I used to read as a child--the public library near where I grew up had this fantastic selection of Chinese-English children's books which recounted lively stories of the Monkey King, or told how things like the moon or the parrot-shaped rock came to be in Taiwan, or why we celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival or the Dragon Boat Festival, or even told us tales warning us of our own laziness and selfishness.

Oh! Oh! So. Blogger finally added an entry cut jump breaks! Huzzah! So, finally, I'll stop hogging all your internets when you're trying to load up this silly page. So, for more about the Moon Festival and beautiful pictures of said mooncakes, click below!

The story that I'm familiar with beings with Houyi with his legendary archery skills and his wife Chang'e, two immortals in heaven. One day, the 10 sons of the Jade Emperor transformed into 10 suns, getting close to the earth, scorching the land and killing living plants, animals, and people. The Jade Emperor failed a controlling his sons, and asked Houyi for help. Houyi used his skills to shoot down nine sons, sparing the last. Unfortunately for Houyi, the Jade Emperor was unhappy with Houyi's solution, and banished Houyi and Chang'e to live as mortals on earth.

Unhappy with the loss of their immortality, Houyi went on a quest and came back with a pill. Each person needed only half a pill to regain immortality. Houyi stored the pill in a case, and when Houyi went out, Chang'e became curious, and swallowed the entire pill. Chang'e began to float into the sky, but Houyi could not bear to shoot her down, so she kept on floating until she landed on the moon, where the Jade Rabbit who manufactures elixirs keep her company.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

If anyone has any other tales of the Moond Festival or of Houyi and Chang'e, or know of any other variations of the story, share them with us!

Anyhow, enough text, and onto the mooncakes!

The recipe I used is from Yan Can Cook, except I used a can of red bean paste instead of lotus seed paste.

* 4 cups AP flour
* 1/2 cup non-fat dried milk powder
* 3 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 3 eggs
* 1 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup solid shortening, melted and cooled
* 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

1. Sift flour, milk powder, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl. (or, if you're lazy like me, just whisk it all together!) Set aside.

2.Beat eggs (I used my hand mixer) on medium-high until light and lemon colored

3. Add sugar to the eggs, and beat for 10 minutes, or until mixture falls in a thick ribbon.

Okay, who's tired of artsy photographs of beaters? I am.

4. With a spatula, mix the melted shortening into the egg-sugar mixture. Then, fold in the flour mixture.

5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for about 1 minute until smooth and satiny

6. Divide dough in half, and then into 12 equal parts. (I just weighed my dough and did math, yay!) Preheat the oven to 375F.

7. Roll out each piece into a 1/8" thick circle with a diameter of ~4 inches. Personally, I found out that it was easier to roll it into a semi-square-shaped dough with the edges a little thinner. Otherwise, the middle rises and ends up filling up most of the mooncake itself.

8. Fill each circle/square with a heaping tablespoon of red bean paste. (I found out that 1 tablespoon just wasn't enough red bean paste inside.) Fold the edges in and pinch together.

In fact, I found an easier way to make them! So, since I didn't have a mooncake mold, I decided to make little round mooncakes with no design on them. To make a prettier mooncake, I found out that I could place the rolled out dough in a muffin tin, fill it with 1.5-2 tbsp of red bean paste, and then pinch the edges together. That way, the mooncakes come out a lot prettier.

9. With a pastry brush, glaze each mooncake with the lightly beaten egg yolk.

10. Place in preheated oven (375F) for ~30 minutes, or until golden brown, like these!

They were very nommy.

The mooncake dough was very very tasty. It's definitely not like the ones that you buy from the store with the stickier thin dough, but they turned out very good. The dough becomes a little fragile with, and the last half of the batch starts to crack, so be careful. Again, rolling out the edges a little thinner made for a nicer mooncake instead of one that had a thin layer of red bean paste spread around. I definitely want to make some black sesame pastries with this same dough... :D

That's all for now. :)


  1. first picture reminds me of when ursula steals ariel's voice; second picture is amazing, not sure how you got that exposure but *envy*

    and most important: your legend is almost identical to the one i grew up with and it makes me happy =)

  2. This is late, but oh well :) This is the Mid-Autumn festival story I know:

    During the Tang Dynasty, there was an evil, greedy emperor and his kind, loving empress. The emperor was very cruel to his people, but the empress was powerless to stop him. One day, the emperor obtained 2 immortality pills from a demon, one pill for himself and one pill for his wife. The empress knew that if her husband took the pill, her people would suffer forever in the future, so she quickly swallowed both pills when the emperor wasn't looking. As a reward for saving her people from the emperor's immortal cruelty, she floated up to the moon and to this day, her image graces the full moon.


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