This review will better acquaint you with the origins of the festival, the traditional foods associated with it and the different ways it’s celebrated. This festival is one of many observed in China, which is home to a number of traditional celebrations.
Also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Chinese Moon Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. It’s one of the most important traditional events for the Chinese.
The Legend Behind the Fest
The Moon Festival is rooted in many different myths. Legend traces the story to a hero named Hou Yi, who lived during a time when there were 10 suns in the sky. This caused people to die, so Hou Yi shot down nine of the suns and was given an elixir by the Queen of Heaven to make him immortal. But Hou Yi didn’t drink the elixir because he wanted to remain with his wife, Chang’e (pronounced Chung-err). So, he told her to watch over the potion.
One day a student of Hou Yi tried to steal the elixir from her, and Chang’e drank it to foil his plans. Afterward, she flew to the moon, and people have prayed to her for fortune ever since. She’s presented with a variety of food offerings during the Moon Fest, and festival-goers swear that they can spot Chang’e dancing on the moon during the festival.
What Happens During the Celebration
The Moon Festival is also an occasion for family reunions When the full moon rises, families get together to watch the full moon, eat moon cakes and sing moon poems. Together, the full moon, the legend, the family gatherings and the poems recited during the event make the festival a great cultural observance. That is why the Chinese are so fond of the Moon Festival.
Although the Moon Festival is a place where families congregate, it is also considered a romantic occasion. The festival legend, after all, is about a couple, Hou Yi and Chang’e, who are madly in love and devoted to one another. Traditionally, lovers spent romantic nights at the event tasting delicious moon cake and drinking wine while watching the full moon.
The moon cake, however, isn’t just for couples. It is the traditional food consumed during the Moon Festival. The Chinese eat the moon cake at night with the full moon in the sky.
When circumstances prevent couples from getting together during the event, they pass the night by watching the moon at the same time so it seems as if they are together for the night. A great number of poems has been devoted to this romantic festival.
As the Chinese have spread out across the globe, one needn’t be in China to partake in the Moon Festival. Celebrations are held in countries that are home to large Chinese populations.
A few tips before starting your mooncakes
- You need a kitchen scale to measure all the ingredients, accurate amount really matters to the final texture and taste.
- Success mooncakes=well balanced taste+well wrapped fillings+well kept shape (including the clear pattern on surface)
- If you are using homemade paste filling, make sure your paste is dry enough. Moist fillings might cause cracks on the skin.
- Cover all the fillings and divided wrapper dough with plastic wrapper to prevent drying out.
- Do not use too much flour to dust, otherwise it influences the pattern.
- Mooncake assembling needs patience and skill. I even spoil my first one during this batch(as it is my first batch this year). But wearing plastic glovescan make the process easier. But be gentle and slow down when pushing the wrapper up.
Let’s start making the beautiful mooncakes.
Attention: The following recipe is based on 7: 3 (filling vs wrapper) for 14 moon cakes around 50g. If you want to use ratio 8:2, adjust the ingredients accordingly. And this is based on 50g moon cake shaping tool. If your egg yolk is too large, divide them into halves and wrap in two moon cakes. I am using New Moon cake decoration mold to shape my moon cakes.
Firstly all of the fillings should be prepared previously. I usually make them in the previous day. I combine lotus seed paste, mung bean paste, red bean paste, and black sesame paste this time. But it is ok if you choose only one filling.
Treat the egg yolk: If you can find fresh salted duck eggs crack the egg and then wash the egg yolk in clean water. Set aside to drain before using. If you are using packaged salted duck egg yolk, remember to sprinkle some white spirit on the surface to remove raw taste.
Measure the filling: This recipe made 14 mooncakes and 8 of them are loaded with salted egg yolk (Measure: egg yolk+paste filling=35g) and 6 of them are pure filling (30g).
Wrap the egg yolk with bean paste firstly:carefully shape into round ball and set aside. It is quite important to cover all of the ready fillings with plastic wrapper to prevent drying out.
- When the crust dough is ready, use a kitchen scale to divide them into 14 balls (each 15g).Take one portion of the wrapper, press into a round wrapper (larger is better but do not break the wrapper) and then place one filling ball in center.
- Push the wrapper from bottom to top little by little until the whole ball is completely wrapped.
- Shape into a round ball. This step can help to make the skin as even as possible. Then slightly shape the ball into an oval so you can easily place it into the mould.
- Dust your mould with flour and then shake several times to remove the extra amount of flour. Use mooncake mould to shape it.
- When the assembling process is done, coat the ball with a layer of flour. Also coat your tool please. Place the ball on your board, then carefully cover with the shaping tool, press the rod and gently remove the cake from the tool.
Preheat oven to 180 degree C (356F). Spay a very very thin layer of water on the surface of the mooncake can help to avoid cracking surfaces. But too much water will spoil the pattern on the surface. Bake for 5 minutes to firm the shape.
In a small bowl, whisked one egg yolk with 1 tablespoons of egg whites. Transfer the mooncakes out and brush a very very very thin layer of egg wash on the surface. Low the oven temperature to 170 degree C and put them back to the oven and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes. I baked around 16 minutes.
When well-baked, transfer out cooling crack to cool down completely.
Keep and Serve
When the mooncakes are out of the oven, the skin is not oily like the ones on the market. We need the last step: place in an airtight container (I am using single package as I need to ship them to my family). Wait for around 1 or 2 days for the pasty to become soft (This process is named as”回油”, meaning the process of returning the oil to the surface).After this last step, mooncakes can be kept for around 2 weeks in fridge.