Thursday, October 1, 2020

Mooncake Gender Reveal

I’m 22 weeks pregnant today!  We had the pleasure of throwing an ignition-free, socially distant gender reveal with our families over the past weekend.  With the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival coming up this week, there couldn’t have been a more fitting way to announce our baby's gender than with mooncake, which we baked ourselves with discreetly dyed filling. 




Going into having this party, I was still fearful of the possibility of this reality crumbling before my eyes.  How horrible would it be to have to announce to everyone that we lost this one too, after celebrating.  It shouldn't feel this way, but it does feel like I'd be letting expecting grandparents, aunties, and uncles down.  It was bad enough when it was only Wes who knew.  But, I'm realizing that the longer I hold this in, the more I am letting that anxiety rule my world.  Wes reminds me that all of the evidence has been in favor of this baby being alive and well.  We saw the heart beating on the ultrasound multiple times already, measurements have come back normal, we're seeing my belly grow, and I'm still slightly gagging at the thought of sautéed vegetables and poultry.  We have more reason to expect than to doubt.


The waiting will continue for just under 20 more weeks, and though we’ve been doing our best to protect all three of us and stay safe, we know that nothing is for sure.  What we've learned from the other losses is that so much is really beyond our control.  Living through these pandemic days may look uneventful, but I am constantly on edge that anything can happen.  Not just to our growing baby, but out there in our ecosystem, in our social system, in our economic system, in the world that this kid may be born into.  I've been more focused than ever on the news and anything revolving around social justice, and though I am disappointed, having the awareness is inspiring me, too.  Despite everything, our hopes are high.  I’m still learning, and I’m not afraid to face the ugly truths all around me and within me.  I’m still excited to welcome a new life into this crazy place.  These systems need love, tweaking, and rethinking.  If anything, there is no better time to raise a new generation to get that job done.

So, with a big breath of positivity and courage (just like when I shared about the miscarriages), I share this great news to lift a burden from my shoulders.  I dare to smile and put on a dress that shows my bump.  I want to bask in what happy moments this pregnancy can offer now and not deprive myself of what this special, yet brief time can offer us and our loved ones.  I knew that it would feel more real when we planned this party, made announcements, and started buying items... and that's all frightening, but it's also really fun.  Yes, I have PTSD, but I can let that go slowly and let the joy in.  I think that I finally reached that turning point at our 18-week doctor's appointment where we found out the gender of our baby.  There was something so tangible and real about everything since that day.  Soon after, I started to visibly expand in my belly!  It's beautiful, unpredictable, and it's life.  And yes, that's pink fillingit's a girl!




Our families came over for our outdoor picnic and we had prepared not only the specially dyed mooncakes, but also some lunch boxes with Japanese egg salad sandwiches and spam musubi (with avocado!).  That way, nobody had to share food or touch any communal utensils.  We bought the soft shokupan the day before from HMart's bakery and also two dozen eggs, which we used up completely!  The recipes for both were very simple.  We checked Kirbie's Cravings Blog for the egg salad recipe, and the only thing we tweaked were the soft boiled eggs in the middle of the sandwiches (9 minutes in boiling water), and we added chopped chives.  This was also our first time making spam musubi (I know, shameful), and I was possibly more nervous about those coming out right than the mooncakes!


The last time we made mooncakes was two years ago, and it was a huge learning curve.  Luckily, we were able to refer to our old blog post for notes and tips.  Still, there were things that I sort of forgot (such as not brushing on too much egg yolk wash, oops!), but we also improved upon our process by incorporating the use of a tortilla press for the dough (lol), and freezing the filling first to let it solidify more before handling it.  The first batch thankfully turned out presentable enough, so we didn't get stuck redoing them this time!  


We chose to make taro mooncakes, as the color of taro is muted enough to dye either pink or blue, and I happen to freaking love taro desserts!!  Also, the taro mooncake paste is much easier to make than lotus seed paste, which was our other consideration because its light color.  Here are the recipes that we followed.  

Taro Mooncake Filling Recipe (from MyKitchen101en)

Materials needed: kitchen scale, sieve, spatula, immersion blender or food processor, non-stick pan

Ingredients:

650 g taro (diced into 1" pieces)
230 g white sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 Tbsps glutinous rice flour
200 g water
3 1/2 Tbsps cooking oil (we used grapeseed oil)

Directions:

  1. Steam taro for 25-30 minutes, or until very soft. 
  2. Combine sugar, salt, glutinous rice flour and water. Mash steamed taro while still hot (we used an immersion blender), add in and mix until combined. Strain through a sieve to get the texture nice and uniform.  You could add more water if the paste is thick, but we did not need to.
  3. Add in the cooking oil, mix well (used a spatula).
  4. Cook over medium heat for 22-23 minutes until you have a smooth paste that is pretty much in one solid piece, much like playdough.  It was really helpful to use a spatula to stir and fold the mixture on a non-stick pan to keep it all together.
  5. Put the paste into a container and freeze it.  Return frozen paste to room temperature before using.













Mooncake Dough
 (from Omnivore's Cookbook)

Yields: ~8 small mooncakes

Materials needed: kitchen scale, sifter

Ingredients:

56 grams golden syrup (can order from Amazon, it's hard to find!)
1/2 teaspoon lye water (kansui)
20 grams vegetable oil (some people use peanut oil)
1/8 teaspoon salt, and a pinch for the egg wash
100 grams cake flour, and extra to dust the mooncake dough (for matcha mooncakes: 97 grams cake flour, and 3 grams matcha powder)
1 large egg yolk (for the egg wash)

Instructions:
  1. Combine golden syrup and kansui in a large bowl. Mix with a spatula until emulsified.
  2. Add vegetable oil and mix again until evenly blended. They will still appear separated, but try to mix as evenly as possible.
  3. Sift cake flour into the bowl. Gently fold the dough with a motion of scraping from bottom to top, like you are folding a cake dough. Do not stir the dough in a circular motion. It will toughen the dough.
  4. When the flour is fully combined, shape the dough into a ball. The dough should be soft and a bit sticky but still hold its shape. Slowly add more flour if the dough is too difficult to handle. Gently knead the dough a few times with hands with a folding motion. Seal with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Gently knead the dough a few more times and place it back in the plastic wrap. Let rest for another 20 to 30 minutes. Then the dough will be ready to use.




Assembling the Mooncakes (from Omnivore's Cookbook)
(note: these measurements are for mini mooncakes)

Materials needed: kitchen scale, parchment paper, rolling pin or tortilla press, mooncake molds, cake flour for dusting
  1. Divide the hardened filling into 28 grams per portion (if planning on putting in an egg yolk, make it 22 grams). Shape each portion into a small ball using your hands.
  2. Place mooncake filling balls in the fridge. Give the balls some time to harden, about 15 minutes.
  3. Work on the mooncakes one at a time. Scoop 22 grams of dough, roll it into a ball, and place between two pieces of parchment paper. Press it into a flat disc by using the rolling pin or tortilla press.
  4. Place the taro filling ball in the center of the dough sheet. Carefully wrap the dough around the filling. Spread the dough until it seals the filling in completely. Try to wrap the filling in a thin, even layer of dough. If you find the dough on some spots is too thick, pull off the dough and smooth the surface.
  5. Dust both hands and the dough with a bit of cake flour. Roll the dough between hands so the surface will be dusted evenly.
  6. Slide the plastic pattern disc into the mooncake mold, pattern side down. Sometimes you need to twist the handle a bit to make the pattern disc slide to the end.
  7. Carefully place the mooncake into the mold. If you find it difficult to do without scraping off dough, you can gently roll the mooncake to fit into the mold.
  8. Place the mold on the parchment and press the handle until you cannot move it any further. Pull the handle up and release the mooncake.
  9. Carefully hold the bottom of the mooncake without squeezing it, and remove the pattern disc.
  10. When finished, place in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to let them harden a little bit after all of that fumbling!









Baking the Mooncakes (from Omnivore's Cookbook)

Materials needed: oven, baking tray, spray bottle, egg yolk, brush, flat airtight containers for storage
  1. Preheat oven to 360 degrees F (180 C). 
  2. Place mooncakes on a big metal baking tray, 1 inch (2cm) apart. Spray a thin layer of water onto the mooncakes to prevent the dough from cracking. 
  3. Beat the egg yolk with a pinch of salt in a small bowl. 
  4. Bake on the middle rack for 8 to 9 minutes, until the dough toughens and the edges of the mooncakes start to turn golden. 
  5. Remove the mooncakes from the oven. Brush a thin layer of egg wash on the surface of the mooncakes. Only brush the top surfaces, not the vertical surfaces. If you accidentally brush too much egg wash and it fills up the pattern, use a small brush to clean the gaps and remove excess egg wash. 
  6. Place mooncakes back in the oven and continue baking until the egg wash turns golden brown, about 8 minutes. 
  7. Let mooncakes cool in the tray before removing.  Use a spatula to gently push mooncakes to detach them from the baking tray. Transfer to a plate to cool completely. 
  8. Store mooncakes in an airtight container. The mooncakes can be served after 24 hours, and they will look and taste better after 3 days. 





When we cut one open two days later before the guests arrived, we gaspedit was perfect!  And the taste was good, too.  I was worried that it would taste too sweet because the uncooked filling was sweet, but it mellowed out.  The texture was velvety and rich.  We couldn't wait for everyone to take a bite!





Everyone who participated (both in person and virtually!) was asked to take a wild guess.  Bets were all over the place.  It was funny for us to hear people's reasoning, especially my grandmother, who immediately touched my belly and proclaimed that the shape was indicative of a boy.  My mom thought that it was a boy because my earrings were blue and Wes was wearing a blue shirt.  Stephen's family hoped for a girl because they strongly believe that daughters are much easier to start off with than sons.  My dad agreed with that point.  Wes' dad, on the other hand, wanted us to have a boy because he wanted to see Wes pass on his many skills to a little man.  Wes' mom thought it would be a girl, though.  Margaret thought that it would be a boy, and Andrew thought that it would be the opposite of whatever she said.  Same with my brother and his girlfriend.  And Stacy was pretty confident that it would be a "little fei jai," — fat boy in Cantonese (her nickname for Wes).  









I broke open a mooncake in front of the computer screen for our virtual participants while everybody else took a bite.  I liked how we had little mooncakes for each person, so that everyone could find out for themselves.  Wes took pictures of the reactions, so funny!!












With each passing day, we’re more hopeful and more driven to make this world a better place for our daughter.  We will do what we can, while also remembering that change starts in the home.  We sure hope that we will be good parents, but for now we're enjoying possibly our last few months together as a couple, too.








"Throw away the idea that healing is forgetting.  The actual result is no longer reacting to old triggers with the same intensity as before.  The memories are still there, but they do not have the same power over your mind." — Yung Pueblo

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