Have You Ever Tried a Mooncake?
It’s mooncake season at The Peninsula Chicago. If you’ve never had one, mooncakes are a Chinese pastry made by wrapping a shortbread-like dough around a rich filling made from sweetened condensed milk, red bean or lotus seed paste and eggs. They’re made once a year to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival, and The Peninsula (known for its upscale Chinese restaurant, Shanghai Terrace), is one of the best places to try them in Chicago. They’re only available late August through early September and time-consuming to make, so, naturally, they’re also expensive: A beautiful box of eight is $88. I got the chance to make one with chef Elmo Han yesterday: It involves placing the double-wrapped dough into a wooden paddle. You hit the paddle once on each side (giving it some muscle!), then flip it upside down to pop out a perfectly shaped mooncake, complete with a Chinese character imprint on top that symbolizes longevity. While mooncakes are traditionally enjoyed with tea, I’m nibbling on one with my coffee.