I was taking shots of the moon cakes for this post and was late collecting my son from his sport; when I arrived, he said to me, "Mum, do you love me?" Seeing my stunned face, he added, with a grin, "I was the last to be picked up!"
Somehow I felt that another post about the full moon was in order ... because of that remark about the Chinese excellence in astrology, or not! The Chinese lunar calendar was formalized thousands years ago. Recently I have learned a big word from my husband - to recalibrate. Something that is as old as the Chinese lunar calendar may be in need of some sort of recalibration! In recent years a few friends of mine and I have found that the moon is fuller the next day after the Moon Festival. I know nothing about astrology. What I have just said may well be taken as an excuse to eat more moon cakes!
I came to my favourite Taiwanese grocery store in "Little Taipei" in Brisbane looking for good moon cakes to buy. I was chatting with a lady there and I found out that she is the boss's wife. I asked her which are the good ones to buy. She asked me, "Are they for you, or for giving away as a present?" - the latter means moon cakes with good looking packaging and wrapping but may not be of the best quality, while the former means good quality and good tasting moon cakes for own consumption. She pointed at those she got for herself. I could not pass by a lead like that.
Assorted moon cakes from "Little Taipei" in Brisbane - lotus paste on the top left, red bean paste (very dark brown color) in the centre, and savory ham & nuts to the top right
And below are the "moons" - salted duck egg yolks.
These have been the traditional flavours since I was a little kid. In recent times there have been new flavours being developed because of the affluence in consumers and the popular new flavours have been chocolate and other tastes under the Western influences. Because I was in no mood for the troubles in making the moon cakes, I decided I would try incorporating a very traditional moon cake ingredient - red beans - into my sourdough. This is a can of the cooked red beans that I used (made in Japan):
In addition to the Red Bean Sourdough, I made Cocoa Cranberry Sourdough Rolls. So, here below is the goodies I made for the Moon Festival for my kids and myself, quite a Western concoction:
My formula for the Red Bean Sourdough
- 240 g starter @ 75% hydration
- 240 g bread flour
- 157 g water
- 170 g cooked red beans from the can above (45% of total flour) * see step 5 below
- 7 g salt
- Extra rice flour for dusting
Total dough weight 810 grams and total dough hydration (approx.) 69%
- Mix all ingredients by hand
- Autolyse 40 minutes
- Mix in the red beans by way of stretch & folds (this serves as the 1st set of S & F's; I did close to 100 strokes)
- After 30 minutes, perform the 2nd set of S & F's
- After another 30 minutes, perform the 3rd set of S & F's (* At this point my dough still felt very extensible, no strength whatsoever. I decided something was wrong - I went and checked the can of red beans for its composition and found that its sugar was 38%! This meant the sugar level in my dough was 17% flour. When sugar is more than 12 - 15% of flour, it is best to add it in stages or starter may have difficulty performing. It's too late now so I proceeded as normal.)
- After another 30 minutes, do the 4th set of S & F's
- After another 30 minutes, pre-shape the dough to a tight ball (I had to use a lot of flour on the work bench as the dough was extremely slack and sticky.)
- Rest 15 minutes and shape it to a boule and place it in rice flour dusted basket
- Proof for one hour in room temperature then place it in the refrigerator for overnight retarding (I did 10 hours.) Note: By the tiime I put the dough into the fridge, it had hardly risen. Fortunately, after 10 hours of retardation, the dough had risen nicely, more than doubled.
- Next morning, just before baking, stencil any way you like, score, then bake with steam at 230 C for 35 minutes
It is strange that for that much sugar this sourdough actually does not taste sweet. It tastes quite sour (I would say, slightly less than medium strength sourness), and therefore I felt no guilt at all to have a slice of this with a handsome topping of extra red beans from the can! Yum (to a Chinese).
My formula for Cocoa Cranberry Sourdough Rolls
- 350 g starter @ 75% hydration
- 350 g bread flour
- 60 g cocoa powder
- 240 g water
- 30 ml or 2 tbsp oil
- For cranberries: 80 g dried cranberries + 60 g Kirsch + 20 g sugar, soak for as long as you can, up to a couple of weeks, in the refrigerator
- 12 g salt
Total dough weight 1.2 kg (to be divided into 8 pieces of 150 grams each) and total dough hydration (approx. ) 75%
- Bulk fermentation 3 hours with 4 sets of stretch & folds
- Proofing one hour
- Retardation 10 hours
- Bake with steam @ 220 C for 25 minutes (I baked 4 pieces at a time while the other 4 resting in the refrigerator)
This Cocoa Cranberry Sourdough Roll is really lovely to have. So far I have found the cocoa powder (and for that matter, chocolate) very easy to work into a sourdough. The crust is very crispy.
I asked my daughter if people would find so many pictures in one post nauseating. She said without hesitation, "No, people would just think you are a lunatic." My daughter is one who cannot tell a lie (what you see is what you get).
There had been a big patch of dark cloud hanging over the north-eastern side of the sky, determinant not to let me see the moon tonight. As I was signing off this post, I went to my balcony to have one last look, and there it was - brighter and fuller than last night! And here it is - the last photo of this post: