"To invite someone is to take charge of his happiness during the time he spends under your roof." - Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Princess and I always share great times together. This girl has been a wonderful friend since whoever knows when. Among my “girl” friends, she belongs to the most endangered species who knows me and can truly understand me through and through, skin side out or skin side in. We can talk anything and everything under the sun. When I say “everything under the sun”, it is like treating each other like shock absorbers as someone who smoothens the journey when the going gets rough and tough, and the rough and tough gets going, or like safety deposit boxes where we can bury our deepest secret and darkest past forever without having to doubt of being judged or betrayed. These past couple of years, I have been through a roller-coaster ride, less to say, at my deepest point in my life. I know for sure, that my shock absorber and safety deposit box has been at work in its full capacity during those times. Princess has always been there, right there with me at the toughest and the lowest spot. I love spending my holiday afternoons with Princess and her family. Their little home has become my own home when times mine was not as accommodating. We would always bond together over a glass of refreshing drink or some fresh goodies that they have specially prepared for merienda just talking and laughing at each other’s slightest flaws. No inhibition or limitation. The perks of keeping weird old friends, they would equate teasing to some sort - care, time and love. You can be flaw-some any way you want but you would always remain a friend in their eyes. Grateful to the countless merienda that we have spent many times together. For us, merienda time is quality time.
Those light meals filling the gap between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner, we, Filipinos, fondly call, merienda. Merienda, as the word suggests, is a practice that we might have inherited from our Spanish ancestors. It is a light snack, equal to either second breakfast or afternoon tea, which is usually composed of sandwiches, goodies or finger foods accompanied with choice of hot or cold beverages. In the Philippines, it is also considered a break time from the day’s long demanding work and catch up time with your colleagues and loved ones. Common Pinoy merienda fares may include sweet or savory light snacks ranging anything from pancit (rice noodles), lumpia (spring rolls), halo-halo (Filipino hodgepodge dessert) and puto, among others.
Not only popular as an item for merienda but also as accompaniment to other savory Filipino dishes such as dinuguan (pork blood stew) and stir-fry noodles, Puto or Filipino Steamed Cakes would surely snatch the limelight. It is traditionally made with galapong (rice flour) and considered as the local version of cupcakes. Using rice flour as the main ingredients is quite tedious and time consuming as it is required to soak the rice grains in water overnight to process it into batter. Nowadays, home cooks have tweaked the recipe for puto using other ingredients like all-purpose flour and cake mix while infusing them with flavors like pandan, vanilla or ube, depending on the preference. The resulting output is still very much the same as the traditional one - mildly sweet, subtle flavors and slightly dense but moist and fluffy in texture.
Puto (Steamed Flour Cake)
Yields 12 pieces of puto
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 tbsps. baking powder
- 2 cups fresh milk
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 tsp. pandan or vanilla extract (optional)
- ¼ cup softened butter (at room temperature)
- extra butter (for greasing)
- cheese, cut into strips (for toppings)
- salted eggs, thinly sliced (for toppings)
- In a mixing bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, white sugar and baking powder. Mix to combine well.
- Beat eggs in a separate bowl and then pour in the fresh milk.
- Gradually fold in the egg and milk mixture in the flour mixture and then add the butter and pandan or vanilla essence (optional). Mix until well blended.
- Grease the puto molds with butter. You can use cupcake tin pan or the individual plastic or rubber molds. Ladle the batter into the mold about three quarters full. Top with sliced cheese or salted eggs.
- Fill halfway through with water the base pot of the steamer or double boiler and bring the water to a steady simmer.
- Arrange the filled molds on the steamer basket and place above the base pot. Place a cheesecloth over the rim of the steamer to absorb the vapor and avoid the water from dripping onto the puto while steaming. Cover the steamer and steam the puto for about 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick poked at the center comes out clean.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool before removing from the molds. Serve hot or cold along with pancit or dinuguan (blood stew). Enjoy!
TIPS FROM ENZ:
- If making flavored puto, you may add food coloring depending of the flavor of the puto. Say light green for pandan and purple for ube (purple yam) flavors. Use only light and pastel colors.
- This puto recipe is also suitable for puto-pao. These are puto filled with sweet and spicy meat fillings.