Chef Time!

Chef Time!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fly Me To The Mooncakes!

“The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to”.
Carl Sandburg

“The moon of a bright silver, which dazzles by its shining, illumines a world which surely is no longer ours; for it resembles in nothing what may be seen in other lands”.
Pierre Loti

For centuries, people have been fascinated by the moon, whether it's romantic overtures, songs, or mental illnesses. We associate the moon in many ways.
The late great Frank Sinatra sang "fly Me To The Moon", as one of the best romantic songs of all time. 

Recently, a friend who resides in Hong Kong, sent me some really delicious looking pictures of a popular Chinese pastry called Moon cakes.
During the months of August and September, the Chinese celebrate the lunar festival by sharing these little pastries with friends and family.
I had the opportunity back in 1980, during one of my many travels while employed with Hilton to witness the festivities and to taste these delicate pastries. Such wonderful memories.
So I thought I would share with you, the pictures that were sent to me and give you a simple recipe for making your own mooncakes all year.

As you can see above, this is what they use to form the cakes before baking. Since I didn't have one for myself to use (at times I wished I did), I used a tart pan instead. In the wooden mooncake molds, there are symbols for harmony, friendships and many other types of representing symbols to choose from.

Don't the look delicious? 

Chinese Moon Cake

1 ½ c. flour                
¼ c. instant nonfat dry milk                
1 tsp. baking powder                
1/8 tsp. salt                
¼ c. brown sugar                
1 large egg                
½ stick (¼ cup) butter or margarine                

Mix together:
1 c. coconut flakes
1 c. finely chopped walnuts    
1 c. finely chopped dates
1 c. lotus nut paste or red bean paste    
2 tbsp. softened butter              

1 egg yolk
½ tsp. sesame oil

Grind dry milk in a blender or food processor to make the granules into a finer powder. Place flour, dry milk, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Beat egg with sugar until sugar is dissolved. Gradually add egg mixture and butter to the dry ingredients. Mix well with 2 knives or pastry blender to get dry dough similar to pie dough. Roll out the dough to about 1/16 inch thickness. Cut a piece of dough large enough to line the bottom and sides of the moon cake mold (or a tart pan). Gently press into place. Spread and press filling over dough, leaving enough room at the top for a layer of crust. Cut another piece of dough to cover the filling; gently press into place. Remove excess dough and return it to the bowl. Firmly but gently press all over the cake to get a good impression and smooth surface (this will be the bottom). Holding the mold, cake facing down, in one hand, give it a whack against a hard edge (such as the table edge or the center divider of the sink,) catching the cake with the other hand as it is released from the mold. Place cake on baking sheet. Repeat until all cakes are made. Brush tops and sides with yolk mixture. Bake at 350 in the center of the oven until the bottom is golden brown, 18-22 minutes. Turn heat dial to broil. Open oven door partially and watch the cake tops turn brown, about 30 seconds or so. As soon as the tops have acquired the desired brown color, remove cakes from oven and transfer to racks to cool. Store in container at room temperature or refrigerate or freeze for longer period. Moon cakes are rich; cut into slices before serving.   Variations: There is an endless variety of moon cakes. Cakes can be filled with lotus nut paste, red bean paste, any sweet filling having a somewhat thick consistency.

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