Monday, September 8, 2014

Foodie Diary: Moon Cakes~

Ignoring the shameful fact that I have not been updating my blog as I really should (I even went to the gym more than a few times since my last post!), the food related posts on this blog has really been lacking, which is in no way an accurate reflection of what is actually going on in real life.  I have been trying quite a few new recipes recently, and I've only neglected to write about my culinary escapade is because although they are new recipes to me, they really aren't anything to write home about.

I recently upgraded my computer (finally) to Mavericks for the sole reason so that I can download Microsoft's Onenote.  It's essentially a digital notebook but the layout is quite amazing and very user friendly.  Thus I've started a recipe notebook and it's been growing quite robustly.

But anyway, today is the Mid-Autumn Festival, a Chinese holiday that falls on the lunar 8/15, a day that supposedly has the brightly full moon.  It's sort of like the Thanksgiving in America, a time when people get together with their families and to cherish the company of each other.

Another important tradition is to eat the moon cake.  It's an extremely sweet pastry filled typically with things like red bean paste, lotus paste filled with salted duck egg yoke, and weird things like nuts and even seaweed.  Personally I never really liked moon cakes, for I dislike any desserts that are overtly sweet.  But I like traditions and I like to try and make these things myself.  One of the few advantages of living in the middle of nowhere is that you have the motivation to make all the things you want to eat yourself.  Hey, it's more fun than doing experiments in the lab.

So at some point a few weeks ago I was inspired to make snow-skined moon cake, which is a more recently invention that involves very translucent crust made of sweet rice flour and fun, non-traditional filling that can involve fruit, chocolate, and even ice cream.  I somehow got into my head that it would be easier to make than traditional moon cake, but I was probably more interested in the non-traditional fillings.  I really don't like red bean paste or lotus paste.  My teeth are hurting just thinking about them...

Finding the ingredients proved to be a challenge that involved translations, wikipedia-ing, and endless search in the local supermarket.  I don't have easy access to an Asian market but our local store is more like a whole foods in that they like to carry weird stuff.  In the end I found everything I needed, or their appropriate substitute.

I first made the snow-skinned moon cake with green tea flavored crust and mango filling.  I don't have a pot for steaming so I followed a microwave recipe and although I followed everything to the letter the crust never came out to be what I expected.  The dough is very sticky, and the moon cakes don't look right if I add enough flour to make it unsticky.  In the end they came out not looking like the moon cakes they should look but rather like a bun with a very thick base.  They didn't look very nice since the green color made them look moldy.  But they tasted quite nice.

Normal people who make their own moon cakes usually all own their own mold so the finished products have all kinds of patterns on them.  I ended up ordering a set from Amazon but I don't think it's going to arrive till the end of the month (by then any spirit of the holiday will be long gone).  So for now all of my moon cakes take the shape of a fat disk.  I should've made my next set of moon cakes as squares but I had a brain fart when making them so they are also round.

I was unhappy with my unsuccessful experiment with the snow-skinned moon cakes (if you see a commercially available product you will see how much I have failed), so I turned to try the more traditional kind.  The recipe I got from a friend called for custard fillings mixed with crushed salted duck egg yolks, but since they pack enough cholesterol to kill a small army, and can really be found anywhere near here, I decided to use shredded coconut instead.  Because of the unsweetened but also unsalted coconut my fillings came out to be too sweet, and I forgot to add the egg when making my crust (which I suspect made the product look so pale, but overall I was quite happy with this next experiment.

The color scheme was quite unfortunate since both the coconut filling and the crust turned out to be very white.  But they tasted great (confirmed by every friend who was too polite to refuse free food), a tad too sweet but falls normally within moon cake standards.  There is a small party on Wednesday for a friend who is going back to China and I think I will make another batch.  This time I'm thinking of making the filling a bit different and more colorful by substituting some flour with cooked purple yams.  We'll see how things turn out.

中秋快乐 everyone~~