Welcome to pastryresource.com! Thank you for checking in. I’ve had my site up for a while, so this is as good a time as ever to start posting some thoughts and share some insight into my experiences as a pastry chef. My posts will cover a variety of topics (I have many interests) and will no doubt include my favorite dessert recipes, and a few how-to pastry techniques and methods. I won’t be able to resist adding savory recipes because I love to cook, too!
My first post is just in time for the Mid-Autumn Festival on September 19th. The festival, also known as the Harvest Festival or Moon Festival, is a traditional Chinese celebration that dates back over 3,000 years. The festival follows the Chinese lunar calendar and falls on the 15th day of the eighth month, coinciding with the moon when it is at its fullest. The moon symbolizes prosperity and represents family reunion, which is why families get together during the holiday to celebrate.
Historically, many Chinese stories are associated with the Moon Festival. In one, the moon was worshipped to ensure a bountiful harvest for the coming year. Families offered fruits and cakes to the moon as they celebrated while dancing and eating round pastries called mooncakes. In another story, during the Mongol-ruled Yuan Dynasty (way before Twitter!), the Han people hid messages inside mooncakes to gather support for an uprising on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
In the most popular story, according to Chinese mythology, 10 suns rose in the sky one year. The hero, Houyi, shot down nine of them and saved the people. He was rewarded the elixir of immortality. Not wanting to leave his wife Chang’e, he gave the secret elixir to her for safekeeping. On the 15th of August, knowing of the elixir, Houyi’s apprentice tried to steal it. Chang’e refused to give it to him and drank it herself. She became immortal and flew up into the sky. In order to remain close to her husband, she chose to live on the moon. When Houyi learned of this, he offered sacrifices to Chang’e of her favorite fruits and cakes. Others followed suit in sympathy.
Today, the festival is a time for family gatherings. Mooncakes are an important part of the celebration. They are given to friends, family, and business associates in beautifully packaged boxes or tins. Traditional cakes have a variety of fillings such as lotus paste, bean paste, or five seeds. Salted duck egg yolks are often added to symbolize the moon. The skins are traditionally very thin, baked pastry doughs. Each region in China has its own style. The same goes for Taiwan and Vietnam. Most people have a favorite brand and variety. I am partial to Wing Wah’s lotus with one yolk variety made in Hong Kong. Delicious!
Younger generations enjoy more modern fillings: green tea, chocolate, or coffee, to name a few. These may be wrapped in traditional skins or in colorful, unbaked “snow skins.” Believe it or not, Starbucks, Haagen-Dazs, and Godiva all have their own versions of mooncakes. Hmmm…