Mid-Autumn Festival in China.
A time for family re-union, reflected in the perfect completeness of the full moon.
We took a class to learn how to make moon cakes to celebrate the festival as friends.
We were invited into a cute apartment where the teacher holds the workshops and she seemed very intrigued by such a group, quizzing us about our different nationalities and occupations for a while before we could get started.
The recipe was one of the most exact I had ever come across, each of us being watched closely to make sure we were adding the ingredients down to the exact 0.1 gram. A difficult adjustment to make from my usual hap-hazard cooking style. How to make mooncakes? Well, there are a variety of options for the filling- the usual favourites being ground nuts or purple taro. The outer pastry is made of flour, sweet potato flour, syrup, oil and glucose.
We divided the dough into 13 exactly equal pieces which we rolled into balls then did the same to the filling. It was so exact there was not even a spare crumb!
The dough needs to be flattened into a circle to cover the filling all around evenly. Much rolling and re-rolling was needed.
After that we chose a mould and pressed the dough down on the table to stamp out the shape and the pattern ontop. Patterns are usually traditional messages of good-luck, but our teacher had some simpler ones that we liked and even Mickey Mouse ones (!). It was hard to get the right degree of pressure needed to make a good pattern without completely flattening the thing. Luckily it can just be re-rolled and pressed again if just such flat cakes occur.
The pan is then put on the heat, no oil needed as we dusted the base of the cakes with flour. Ideally they should be baked in the oven but as this is a rare thing to find in a Chinese kitchen, the hob served just as well.
We were treated to a beautiful tea ceremony while we waited for them to cook.
After they were done and cooled, we were given cute little boxes to present them in as gifts.
So proud of our little creations!
As it was not possible to have a family re-union at this mid-autumn festival, I shared my moon cakes with my friends and followed the advice of my chinese teacher: when you miss your family, gaze up at the full moon and know they are doing the same.