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This allergen free bakery makes mooncakes everyone can enjoy

A tray of mooncakes, which are special pastries with designs on top and a sweet filling inside, sits on a rack.
Grace Madigan
Askatu Bakery offers four flavors of mooncakes: Lotus and red bean, which are traditional, and pandan coconut and ube which are nods to Estela Martinez's Filipino heritage.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a holiday is celebrated by many Asian cultures. It is all about families coming together to celebrate the end of the harvest. It also coincides with when the moon is thought to be the biggest and brightest. One of the traditions of the festival is to share and eat mooncakes. These small round pastries are filled with pastes traditionally made from red bean and lotus seed.

Askatu Bakery is located in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle and is one of the handful of places that makes the special pastry from scratch. Estela Martinez is the owner and head baker. She explained that it's a pretty labor intensive process.

"Normally mooncakes are made with lotus seed filling and I make the lotus seed in the traditional way from the actual seed, which you have to soak overnight and then you have to break it open and take out the green plant particle inside, which is really bitter," Martinez said.

"Then you have to boil that lotus seed and then drain it, and then you have to cook it, boil it again to cook it, to make it soft. And then after that's done, you have to pure that and cook that again with oil and sugar and maltose."

Askatu also offers a pandan coconut flavor as well as an ube option which is a nod to Martinez’s Filipino heritage. On top of the mooncakes — which are usually a few inches in diameter — are designs imprinted with a stamp or a mold. At Askatu they have four different stamps for each type of mooncake.

Martinez knows the importance of mooncakes to the Mid-Autumn Festival, she grew up eating them for the holiday. They're an essential part of the celebration just like pie is to Thanksgiving or gingerbread is to Christmas.

That's why Askatu's mooncakes are so special. As an allergen-free bakery they don't use, among other things, wheat, eggs, or nuts. That means people with food sensitivities can still partake in the tradition.

"You can't have a mooncake if you're vegan, usually because the outside dough usually is made with lard. And then of course, it's going to have the egg yolk inside," Martinez explained. And unlike regular mooncakes, they brush theirs with a molasses water to get a similar shine that an egg wash normally provides.

Martinez expected she'll make a couple hundred mooncakes this year which they'll have in store and can be pre-ordered. They will be selling their mooncakes at Seattle's Chinatown-International District for the Night Market on Saturday. The mooncakes will be available through the end of the month at their store.

Grace Madigan covers arts and culture with a focus on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.