The Autumn Moon Festival
The festival is the second largest holiday in China
Friday, August 24, 2007
East-Meets-West Moon Cakes
1¼ cup of packed light brown sugar
¾ cup of peanut butter
1 stick of butter
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1¾ cup of flour
¾ teaspoon of baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream together brown sugar, peanut butter, vanilla extract and butter. Beat in egg.
In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture. Knead dough into a log and place in freezer for 20 minutes.
To form a moon cake, roll a piece of dough out on a lightly floured board, creating a 4-inch circle, about ½ inch thick. Place 1 teaspoon raspberry jam in the center of the dough circle. Fold in the sides of dough to completely enclose the filling; press edges to seal.
Lightly flour the inside of the moon cake mold. Press the dough circle on the mold and flatten dough into the shape of the mold. Bang the downside end of the mold lightly to dislodge the moon cake.
Place moon cakes on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until just lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.
Finally, grab a lantern (or flashlight) and head outdoors to enjoy your moon cakes under the moonlit sky.
Under the bright, round moon—a symbol of family unity—families come together for a bountiful meal, then gaze at the moon and eat moon cakes, round pastries imprinted with the Chinese symbol for longevity or harmony.
The legend of the mystical lady on the moon, Chang-Er, surrounds the festival, which falls on Sept. 25, the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar.
According to legend, Chang-Er grew up in the luxury of the heavens, where all the gods, goddesses and fairies lived, and as a young girl, served as a lady-in-waiting at the Jade Emperor’s palace. One day she accidentally broke a precious porcelain jar and was banished to Earth. There she fell in love with a handsome young archer, Hou Yi.
One day, the villagers woke up to a dawn of 10 suns, which quickly began to blaze the Earth. When Hou Yi shot down nine of the 10 suns, saving humanity, the Queen Mother of the West awarded him the elixir of life, a magical potion that granted immortality.
Too curious, Chang-Er sneaked a sip of the elixir and suddenly found herself floating slowly up to the moon where she has remained ever since with only a bunny to keep her company.
According to folklore, moon cakes played an important role during the Yuan dynasty (A.D. 1280-1368), when China was ruled by the Mongolian emperor. A Han Chinese rebel leader, Liu Fu Tong, ordered the making of special cakes during the annual Autumn Moon Festival and hid a secret message in each cake detailing a plan of attack. On the night of the festival, the rebel leader and his supporters attacked and overthrew the Mongolian-ruled government, ushering in the Ming dynasty.
This recipe for moon cakes has replaced the traditional lotus paste filling with raspberry jam, surrounded by a peanut buttery crust. Moon cake molds are available online at www.wokshop.com or at Woks ‘N’ Things (in Chicago’s Chinatown, 2234 S. Wentworth Ave., Chicago). You can also use a muffin tin: before placing the moon cakes to bake, use a toothpick to poke in a dotted floral design on the top of each individual cake.