A Full Moon, Homesickness and the Perfect Tea Time Cookie
|As China prepares for the biggest festival of the year, I find myself a little homesick. The Lunar New Year is all about being with your family, your loved ones. Even though this is my first Lunar New Year, the realization the my loved ones are an ocean away pulls at my heart and mists my eyes.
I also struggled with homesickness during the Mid-Autumn Festival, another festival with friends and family at its center. I struggled with the internal war of being so far from home until a friend pulled me away from the food, games and people. We stood at the window and she spoke to me in a combination of broken English and Chinese.
Allow me to summarize for you. She told me of a legend of two lovers. One is trapped on the Moon and the other is trapped on Earth. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, a flock of birds form a bridge, allowing the lovers to meet and spend one night together. She said “Think of the Moon as being a modern bridge for you now. You may be on the other side of the world, but you and your loved ones can always look at the moon. You may be far apart but the moon brings your hearts close.”
It was a wonderful and mesmerizing way to ease my homesickness. She hadn’t scolded me, told me to make myself busy or that it would go away. She reminded me that it is okay to be homesick and miss things from home. As I am suffering from a new bout of homesickness, I thought it would be fun to make something that reminded me of home and I wanted to share it with you. Especially if you consider the fact that today is the full moon.
The thing that reminds me so much of home is shortbread. It also happens to be the perfect tea time cookie! I remember when my mother would make shortbread when I was little. She has these beautiful shortbread pans that are made from brown clay. Some of them are elegant and dainty while others are cute or silly. One of my favorites had a lace like pattern and I also really like the pig with wings. I remember when my mother would make shortbread, I would pull out all the little dishes that belonged to my tea set and we would have to together. Why don’t you join my mother and me for some scrumptious shortbread and tea? I would love for you to join us!
Beat together the butter, sugar, and vanilla, then beat in the flour. The mixture may seem a little dry at first; keep beating till it comes together. If it absolutely won’t come together, dribble in up to 1 tablespoon of water, until it does. This is a stiff dough. Divide the dough in half, and press each half into one of the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with your fingers, or with a mini rolling pin. Use a fork to prick the dough all over; this allows any steam to escape, and prevents the shortbread from bubbling as it bakes. You can prick the dough in a random pattern, but it looks nicer pricked with some kind of symmetry. Bake the shortbread until it’s a light golden color, about 35 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and immediately turn the shortbread out onto a clean work surface. Using a sharp knife cut the shortbread into pieces. (Do this while the shortbread is still warm; if you wait until it’s cool, it won’t cut easily.) Transfer the shortbread wedges to a rack to cool. Enjoy!
Note: If you don’t have powdered sugar on hand, you can use the same amount of sugar as listed above and a tablespoon of cornstarch. It will work just fine. In fact, that is what I had to do!