Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Moon Festival, is a Chinese holiday which falls on September 22, 2010 this year.

During this holiday, it is tradition to eat mooncakes. If you've been to a chinese supermarket lately, you've probably seen the large display of these little desserts, which are usually tucked inside elaborately decorated boxes (I always keep the boxes to store stuff.)

Last year, I went a little overboard on buying mooncakes, so this year, I decided to keep it simple. Since mooncakes are not very healthy and a bit on the pricey side, I limited myself to a single mooncake. Normally, I buy a box, invite people over and we cut the cakes and serve it with tea. The problem is, I seem to be the only person who really enjoys mooncakes and then I end up eating way too many.

In many parts of Asia, this holiday is celebrated with lantern decorations, a lot of food, dragon dancing, etc. The mooncakes offerings have also gotten more elaborate and expensive through the years. I've seen several asian blogs that showcase the intricate mooncake designs that come out each year. Unfortunately, I have not seen them in the US. In the US, I've only seen the traditional golden brown mooncakes.

There are many myths and legends surrounding the Moon Festival. Almost all of the tales end with a person being up on the moon. It is said that on the day of Moon Festival, the moon is especially big and bright, and so people often search to see if they can see this person who lives in the moon. I remember searching in vain when I was a little girl.

Mooncakes traditionally have a round shape. They are golden brown in color. The outside is a thin layer of skin, and it is mainly made up of filling. The most traditional fillings are red bean or lotus paste.  The most expensive mooncakes are usually white lotus paste with a double egg yolk in the middle.

Mooncakes are very sweet and are traditionally served with hot tea. I've always thought it is ironic that the mooncake is a chinese dessert. Coming from a chinese family, my parents are always complaining of desserts being too sweet or too rich. Most chinese desserts are very light and not that sweet. Chinese cakes are usually like chiffon cakes, and the breads are also lighter and airier. Chinese people also are very health conscious.  They eat a variety of herbs and ingredients because of the health and medicinal benefits.

And yet the mooncake seems to represent all the things that chinese people don't like in food. It's extremely sweet (most people can only eat it in small quantities) and extremely unhealthy. My mom is constantly warning me not too eat too many.

You can read more about the different Moon Festival myths here.  You can see my post from last year here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream

Molly Moon
917 E Pine St
Seattle, WA 98122

I love checking out homemade ice cream shops. The interest started a few years ago. During a trip to Taiwan, we stopped for ice cream and I was amazed at all the flavors offered. It put Baskin Robbin's to shame. After that I became obsessed with trying new ice cream flavors. I soon discovered that homemade ice cream shops were my best bet for trying a lot of unique ice cream flavors.

So on my trip to Seattle, Molly Moon's Creamery was a must stop.  For a while, Molly Moon's was serving ice cream for breakfast, but by the time I got to Seattle, this was no longer the case. Too bad.

We went to Molly Moon's and were surprised at the long line that awaited us. Despite the chilly weather, quite a few people were waiting for ice cream. And despite all the nice seats inside, most of the Seattleites chose to eat their ice cream out in the cold.

I took one look at the menu and was pleased to see flavors I'd never tried before. Some that caught my attention: cucumber sorbet, sweet basil and balsamic strawberry.

In the end I settled for sweet basil and honey lavender. Each scoop was huge. I thought it was interesting that two scoops was $5, but a pint is only 50 cents more.

I was surprised at how creamy the ice cream was. Creaminess is something that is sometimes sacrificed with homemade ice cream shops.  But Molly Moon's offered some of the creamiest ice cream I've ever tasted. I couldn't believe it was homemade.

I thought the flavors were a bit mild. I couldn't really taste the basil that much in my sweet basil, but it tasted good.

BF opted for vanilla bean and theo chocolate. He likes the classics. We had our ice creams on freshly baked waffle cones. Yum.

If Molly Moon's was around in San Diego, I'd definitely take home some pints.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chocolate Bread

A yeast chocolate bread. My first yeast bread. I'm pretty excited.

A while ago I bought Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The idea of being able to easily make fresh bread is so appealing. I read the book, marked some recipes, bought some supplies, and then did nothing…

Even though the book simplifies the bread making process, I still kept putting it off. Then I saw The Nesting Project's post on chocolate bread and realized it was a recipe from the book. This inspired me to open my book and make the recipe.

Unlike some of the more traditional breads in the book that I wanted to make, this one doesn't require a pizza stone, steam, etc.

The dough was simple to mix together. I stuck the ingredients in my food processor to mix it all together. Then I stuck it in the fridge and baked it the next day. I didn't need to knead the bread, but I did have to let the bread sit for an hour and forty minutes before baking.

The bread was pretty chocolatey, yet still maintained the texture of bread rather than something like cake. The bread called for finely chopped chocolate, but I decided to try using chocolate chips.

I wish I had used a bit more dough or used a smaller loaf pan to get a higher loaf. I used the recipe in my book, but it is actually printed on their site as well, along with step by step photos. I wish I had looked at the website before making the bread. I'll probably do that for my next attempt.

I know I normally post the recipes I use, but the directions for this one are a bit longer. And I think the step by step photos are helpful, so I'm just going to link to the recipe. You can find the recipe here.

Hopefully I won't be lazy and will try some other recipes from this book soon.