This week’s Parsha is the last of the four ‘special’ Shabbatot — HaChodesh (the month.) This special Torah reading takes place on the Shabbat immediately preceding Rosh Chodesh Nissan and deals with Pesach; the Passover offering, bitter herbs, and matza. It begins however, with the first commandment that the Israelites receive together as a people – the mitzvah of sanctifying the new moon. We are instructed to structure time according to the lunar calendar.
Shemot 12:2 This month shall be for you the head [beginning] of months. It shall be to you the first of the months of the year.
According to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, since time was the very first creation in Bereishit (Genesis), sanctifying time is the first commandment that Israel receives from God. The Hebrew word Chodesh has the same root as Chadash – new. A month is a new beginning and represents an opportunity. According to the Sfat Emet, the verse can be interpreted as the start of ‘newness.’ The moon practically disappears, but than reappears in full strength. Each month is an opportunity of renewal; of faith, love, and redemption. And we are almost beginning the new month that brings us the ultimate redemptive experience (Passover).
Here is a dessert for Parshat Ha Chodesh – Chinese Mooncakes.
In the process of doing this recipe I had great help from the lovely Allaya Fleischer. She’s a kosher foodie and saved me from disaster when I started working on the mooncakes. After all, what do I know about glutenous rice flour?
did learn, after placing a call to the COR, that rice flour does not need a hechsher. Allaya‘s confirmed that Star K also holds that way. This flour is standard fare at Asian supermarkets and cost only a dollar for a small bag.
I have to warn you: this recipe is not for the faint of heart. This was my first attempt and I found it time-consuming and frankly, I’m not thrilled with the results. I’m going to try it again later today and see if I can simplify the process and get a better result.
The first thing you need to do is turn the glutinous rice flour (also known as ‘sweet rice flour’) into ‘fried’ glutinous rice flour. (Known also as Gao Fen or Kau fen or Koh Fun, if you want to google it.)
Here are some methods for cooking the flour, which include steaming or baking. I did the steaming method by placing the flour in a metal bowl which sat in a pot of steaming water for half an hour. This was followed by microwaving the flour for a couple of minutes, mixing the flour every fifty seconds, or so. The flour will remain dry but becomes hot and ‘cooked.’
- 3/4 cup fried glutinous rice flour
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- 1/4 – 1/3 cup shortening (EDIT: this is way too much. Use only 1 – 2 tablespoons of shortening only)
- 1/2 cup water (approximately) (EDIT: start with 1/4 cup of water)
- food colouring
- 1. Sift the fried glutinous flour and icing sugar and green tea powder into a mixing bowl.
- 2. Add shortening into the flour mixture and mix.
- 3. Gradually add in cold water a little at a time until a soft dough forms.
- 4. Let sit for 20 minutes before using.
Red Bean Paste:
- 2/3 cups red adjuki beans
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Put beans in a pot and soak for 12 – 24 hours.
- Bring beans to a boil and then let simmer for 10 minutes.
- Drain water.
- Add 4 cups of water to the beans and boil until soft. (Approximately an hour.)
- Drain the water.
- Add sugar and salt and cook on a low heat until the ingredients thicken to a paste.
- Remove from heat and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
To assemble the mooncakes, roll a ball of bean past and surround with a rolled out piece of dough. Place in a mould (can powder it with fried glutinous rice flour) and tap out.
EDIT: I’m making them again and experimenting with baking the glutinous rice flour. I baked it at 400 for 30 minutes and the rice turned brown which made it difficult to colour. Also, the inside of my kitchen turned white and it honestly felt like my main floor had transformed into an asbestos-removal operation. It was actually hard to breathe. For my third attempt, I’ll bake it at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. I’m also wondering if 1/4 cup of Crisco is a bit too much. I’ll let you know!
EDITED AGAIN: Here’s the final product. Not the easiest dough to work with and the taste is somewhat…exotic. But it’s still a fun dish for Parshat HaChodesh.