My friend Maricel’s New Year “Round Things”

No squares for the New Year, unless you happen to be in New York City’s Times Square…gotta be or gotta have lots and lots of “round things” for good luck!  Well, I love a prosperous New Year and I’d always wear blouse or dress with polka dots lol!  My friend Maricel called me up from Canada and begged me (and how can I say NO to her, she’d always make me believe I make the best kakanins in Chicago…definitely not true, but I’ve been making her native sweets for years, for the record!) to make her some “round sweets” to celebrate the New Year.



SAPIN-SAPIN (Layered Rice Cake)










Happy New Year to All!  And I’m not yet sure about my New Year’s Resolutions…more of some things…less of many things.


Breadwinners and Bread Makers

When certified breadwinners start “making dough”, to me that is “winning”.    Life (work, daily chores, TV, web-browsing,etc) has become mundane for most of us and after a while, even the whole experience of  simply picking out and buying “so-so, poor quality” store-bought baked goods can become so routine that instant food enjoyment and satisfaction disappears fast.  We beg for some changes, we no longer enjoy just taking the modern conveniences of life for granted, we now like to try new things.  So when three ladies arranged for a 7AM baking workshop (a first for me to be so up early giving baking demos instead of enjoying my cup of freshly-brewed coffee and freshly-baked cinnamon rolls), I didn’t even have to think twice before agreeing.   The inspiration of making breads from scratch was enough to get them through a full 8- hours night duty before proceeding to my place.   Estrelle San Gabriel, Lily Tigas and Rosalina Villarama appeared all excited to “roll up sleeves” for a Full Participation/Hands-on Course on Making Ensaimadas (Cheese-topped Sweet Brioche), Sapin-sapin (Steamed Rice Cake), Ube (Purple) Chiffon Cake and Hopia.  Except for Lily who already bakes special pandesal for her family regularly, Lina and Lily were bread baking newbies.

So what makes a good ensaimada?  Light, moist, buttery-rich, cheesy soft pillows of “cloud 9” lusciousness.   Hizon, Mary Grace, Malolos, Muhlach and Mrs. Cunanan are among the more successful ensaimada makers in the Philippines and have one common denominator: fluffy-soft.  It is important then that ensaimada dough remains a sticky-wet dough.  Estrelle, Lily and Lina soon realized making ensaimadas was very much labor intensive, but there was no stopping them from slapping, picking up and handling the dough because the end result was well worth the effort.   In Ensaimada course, students also learn proofing the dough, shaping into coils, and application of simple ensaimada icing.

Sapin-sapin or purple, yellow and white layers and flavors of steamed rice cakes if not done right would be: bland, too soft and sticky making it difficult to slice and worst of all, too hard to swallow.   Real cooked ube is stirred into the purple/violet layer.  In Sapin-sapin course, students also learn to reduce the usual 1 ½ hours usual steaming time to less than 30 minutes.

We never say no to a serving of moist, airy and delightful filled and iced Ube Chiffon Cake at weddings or birthday parties.  But baking newbies always find baking a chiffon cake too challenging and would rather stick to “cream-it, pour-it, bake-it” buttercakes instead.  So Estrelle, Lily and Lina paid close attention to reminders of not underbeating egg whites , proper folding of all ingredients and not greasing the baking pans, among other things, to ensure baking a successful chiffon cake.   In Chiffon Cakes course, a “not-too-sweet”  and the only buttercream frosting recipe you’ll ever need is also demonstrated.

Bean-filled pastry or hopia involves 2 types of dough: water and oil dough to achieve that flaky texture.  Lina enjoyed the easy way of enveloping the sweet tender mung-bean filling with the hopia crusts that she could see herself busy making hopia for next holiday’s gift-giving.  In hopia course, a more flavorful mung-bean filling recipe is provided.

All Yule photos and goodie giveaways

My Yuletide season is always full of sweet “palatable” memories. Not always fun, sometimes stressful enough, but all in all, nothing can compare to making foods, mostly “native treats or kakanins” that are sure to satisfy your diners or blow your recipients (customers) away. This year’s baking creations (without preservatives or extenders or “daya”) were simply the best that I thought at one point I caught Santa giving me a “wink”. No leftovers, and I really cleaned up my kitchen pantry; my stockpile of flour, sugar, nuts, etc. were at its lowest I need a trip to Sam’s club to get my pantry in “good shape” again.


My bibingka royale gets a nice “makeover” courtesy of my handy blow torch; there was no need to broil and sometimes end up burning top of my bibingka.

The Chicken Empanadas were enjoying a “blistering” fry in canola oil, making them a crunchy treat all night long.  Crust and filling all done from scratch.

I made this tall Chocolate-Mango Chiffon Cake for a special Christmas dinner with my Glenn’s family.  The chocolate swirls in the cake slices were awesome.  And I just love airy, light and not-too-sweet chiffon cakes. (Recipe in separate post.)

There will always be ham involved and my sister-in-law always enjoy the pineapple-flavorings.   Buy an inexpensive spiral-cut cooked ham and in hours, transform it into a “mouth-watering” beauty.  Just 2 main ingredients: crushed pineapple with the juice and brown sugar.  Note:  A must-have tool for this ham — meat thermometer.  Here’s a photo of the ham before baking.

And why not bake some hawaiian sweet rolls (also with pineapple flavoring) to pair with tender slices of ham, yumm!  Recipe included in my cookbook, leave me a comment if you’d like to own one or 2.  Special pricing for my wonderful readers, indeed.

‘Nang Isabel Jardeleza requests for Christmas get-together party:  sapin-sapin (layered steamed rice cake), sans rival (crunchy meringue layers with buttercream).  And the girls went gaga after bites of my sans rival (they requested for one more for the NY party, now what can I say!)

And then an order for my “better-than-storebought” siopao or steamed pork buns.  Someone in Virginia is enjoying these “you-can-eat-the-dough” siopao.  And the folks in Virginia want cuchinta too next time around.

And more orders for my cuchinta (steamed rice cake rounds), coconut macaroons, bibingka royale and chicken empanadas.

Each year at the studio, we celebrate New Year with a pink brunch, and always my “centerpiece” cake is nicely dressed in pink.  It’s a mango chiffon cake.

And bites after bites of my “cute” meringue swirls, so festive, so tempting, so yummy.  (Recipe in separate post.)

and the surprise of ’em all, Stained Glass No-bake Cheesecake emerged the winner.  No leftovers whatsoever.  Recipe requests followed, everybody wants to make ’em, devour ’em (can’t blame ’em, really).  Recipe will be in a separate post.

All yumm…did I make you all hungry?