Oh no, this is going to be one of those recipes involving a long-winded story about crisp autumn mornings, isn’t it? It won’t be too long of a story, but yes, let’s talk about fall. There isn’t much to celebrate in the world right now, so I’m holding onto the vignettes of joy that are close to my heart. As a child, my favorite holiday was the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated in East Asian tradition in honor of the mid-autumn harvest, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. In China, where my family is from, you are supposed to eat mooncakes, which are beautiful pastries filled with a dense filling, like sweetened lotus paste or red bean, while gazing at the moon and drinking tea. Idyllic, yes?
I didn’t do that as a kid. I mean, I ate mooncakes. But I ate them in giant bites, often as a snack after school, unable to wait for the full moon. They’re very sugary, calorific, and filling—perfect for a kid getting ready for a riveting afternoon of watching their crush sign onto AIM.
The Mid-Autumn Festival derives its origin from moon worship, which is associated with the harvest, with family, and with women. According to legend, there once were 10 suns in the sky that made life unbearable for inhabitants on Earth. The archer Yi shot down all but one of the suns, and as a reward, he was given the elixir for immortality by the gods. But his wife, Chang’e, drank it herself. Some versions say it was to maintain her beauty. Some versions say it was to prevent her husband from becoming a tyrant after he was crowned king. Some say it’s because the household dog went into her room and licked up the remains of the elixir, chasing after her. In any case, she fled to the moon. In the first version of the story, she chose the moon to be close to her husband. In the second version, she chose the moon to escape her husband. In the third version, she escaped to the moon, but the dog ate the moon and Chang’e as well.
In the dog version of the tale, the gods captured the dog and forced him to spit both the moon and Chang’e out. The dog was assigned to guard the gates of heaven and became known as Tiangou, which means Dog of Heaven.
Our very own chief canine officer Artemis was born during the autumn harvest, and she is named Artemis after the Greek goddess of the moon. So, it’s fitting for us to make mooncakes just for dogs, which are much healthier than mooncakes for humans (but just as pretty!). This recipe makes three mooncakes (you can see one of them in the photo above).
Ingredients for dough:
1 cup of rice flour
1/4 cup of coconut oil
1 tablespoon of honey (we use chestnut honey, which infuses the entire pastry with a nutty floral aroma)
1 tablespoon of full-fat Greek yogurt
Ingredients for filling:
1/2 cup of protein of choice (we used shredded chicken)
1/4 cup of cottage cheese
1/4 cup of sweet potato, pumpkin, or butternut squash purée
1 teaspoon of flax, chia, or hemp seeds
Ingredients for egg wash:
Heavy cream (optional)
Preheat over to 400°F/205°C.
Combine dough ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. The dough may appear a bit dry, but that’s okay, as long as you can clump it together into a ball without falling apart. Place in fridge in a covered container for about 10 minutes.
Combine filling ingredients in a bowl.
Set up the mooncake mold by choosing your cooking stamp and place it into the mold (stamp facing down). We used these, which make small round mooncakes with floral patterns. (We were able to make three mooncakes with this recipe.) Place parchment paper on sheet pan.
Take dough out of the fridge and pack the inside of the mooncake mold with the dough, covering top and sides.
Place the filling inside the mold. Don’t pack too much, as you’ll need to cover the bottom with a layer of dough, too.
Place the mold on the baking sheet. Press firmly and lift up. Voilà! Repeat until you’ve had enough, making sure there is at least two inches between each mooncake.
While mooncakes are baking, mix one egg with heavy cream (you can also just whip one egg without the cream). After 10 minutes, use a pastry brush to brush the egg wash onto the top and sides of the mooncakes, just as they are about to brown. Bake for another 10-20 minutes, until the pastries are golden brown. Let them cool.
To serve, cut one mooncake into quarters and treat your dog. Gaze at the moon together and read our favorite poem about dogs and the moon, “The Sweetness of Dogs,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver (also available in the book found in our Sit, Stay (In), Treat Yourselves box):
What do you say, Percy? I am thinking
of sitting out on the sand to watch
the moon rise. It’s full tonight.
So we go
and the moon rises, so beautiful it
makes me shudder, makes me think about
time and space, makes me take
measure of myself: one iota
pondering heaven. Thus we sit, myself
thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s
perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich
it is to love the world. Percy, meanwhile,
leans against me and gazes up
into my face. As though I were just as wonderful
as the perfect moon.