Maja Blanca

Maja Blanca | Pinky's PantryMaja Blanca is a traditional Filipino dessert. It’s kindof like a coconut pudding studded with kernels of corn. It sounds strange to think of coconut and corn together, but believe me this dessert is sooo good, you’ll find yourself coming back for seconds and thirds. I think Maja Blanca is traditionally topped with latik which is basically coconut milk curds. To make latik, you bring some coconut milk to a simmer and keep simmering till the oil separates from the milk solids which eventually start to fry in the oil and and turn into little brown curds. It’s a lot of work. My shredded coconut topping is way easier.

When you shop for the canned milks for this recipe, you’ll need to buy:

  • 4 cans (13.5 oz. each) coconut milk
  • 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk

From the 4 cans of coconut milk, you’ll be able to get 5 cups for the 1st Mixture, but you won’t have enough left over to make 2 cups for the 2nd Mixture. Never fear. What you’re going to do is pour the last of the coconut milk into your 2-cup measure and then add enough of the liquid drained from the whole kernel corn to make 2 cups.

Same thing with the evaporated milk. You won’t have enough in the can to make 2 cups but it’s not worth opening a whole ‘nother can when you’re just a little bit short, so pour the evaporated milk into your measuring cup and then add enough corn liquid drained from the whole kernel corn to make the 2 cups that you’ll need for the 1st Mixture. If you run out of corn liquid, go ahead and use water. It’ll be fine.

MAJA BLANCA

1st Mixture:

  • 5 cups coconut milk
  • 2 cups evaporated milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 can (14¾ oz.) cream-style corn
  • 1 can (15.25 oz.) whole kernel corn, drain and reserve the liquid

2nd Mixture:

  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  1. Grease a rectangular pyrex glass baking dish or metal baking pan with butter or margarine.
  2. Mix all the ingredients of the 1st Mixture together in a large pot.
  3. In a bowl, mix together the ingredients of the 2nd Mixture using a wire whisk until smooth.
  4. Bring 1st Mixture to a boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally.
  5. When boiling, pour the 2nd Mixture into the pot, scraping it all in with a rubber spatula, and continue to cook, stirring constantly until thick. The mixture will thicken really fast so this step is best done by two people. One person to stir the pot while the other person pours the 2nd Mixture into it.
  6. Quickly pour maja into prepared baking pan.

Toasted Sweet Coconut Topping:

  • 1 cup fresh grated coconut
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
  1. Melt butter in a frying pan.
  2. Add grated coconut and sugar and toast, stirring constantly until golden brown. Watch carefully because the coconut burns fast!
  3. Sprinkle toasted sweet coconut over maja blanca.

NOTE:  If you can’t get fresh grated coconut, you can substitute unsweetened dessicated coconut. If you can’t get unsweetened dessicated coconut, you can use sweetened dessicated coconut but cut the 1/2 cup sugar down to 2 tablespoons.

This is a big recipe so it’s great for potlucks or family gatherings. It makes enough to fill a 9×13 rectagular baking dish with enough left over to fill an 8-inch round pie plate. If you have a dish bigger than 9×13, use it.

 

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Americanized Bibingka

Americanized Bibingka | Pinky's Pantry
Living in the United States, we don’t always have easy access to Filipino food. I guess it depends on where in the U.S. you live. Unfortunately, where I live, if you want Filipino food, you need to make it yourself. There have been times when I’ve really been craving some native food from back home. This recipe was born from one of those cravings.

Filipino bibingka galapong is a native cake made of rice flour that’s cooked in a clay pot lined with banana leaves. As strange as it sounds, the sweet little cakes are dotted with pieces of quesong puti (carabao milk cheese) and wedges of itlog na maalat (salted duck eggs). Growing up, the best bibingkahan to get hot, fresh-made bibingka was a place called Ferino’s. It was started in 1938 by a man and his wife who made their bibingkas on three clay pots set on a bench. From there, the business grew till they eventually had shops all over town.

Anyway, I was craving the taste of Ferino’s bibingka one day. Since I don’t have a clay pot or banana leaves, and since we can’t get quesong puti or itlog na maalat where we live, I came up with this recipe which I called “Americanized Bibingka” because I baked it in a pyrex glass baking dish in the oven, and I substituted American ingredients for the native Filipino ingredients I couldn’t get – cream cheese for the quesong puti and dried shredded coconut for the itlog na maalat. It’s not Ferino’s, but it’s a really good substitute.

This recipe makes a big pyrex dish so it’s perfect for parties or get-togethers. Don’t expect it to look anything like traditional native Filipino bibingka galapong. Just follow the recipe and you’ll get a good taste of what bibingka is like, albeit without the look. Everybody loves it, including all our American friends.

AMERICANIZED BIBINGKA GALAPONG

  • 4 cups self-rising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 box (8-oz.) cream cheese
  • ½ to 1 cup shredded, sweetened, desiccated coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the flour, eggs, sugar and water.
  3. Pour batter into a greased 9” x 13” pyrex glass baking dish.
  4. In a small saucepan, melt and stir together the butter and cream cheese. The cream cheese mixture will be separated and lumpy. It looks weird, but don’t worry. This is normal.
    Americanized Bibingka | Pinky's Pantry
  5. Pour cream cheese mixture as evenly as you can over the cake batter. Don’t worry about trying to make it perfectly even. You can’t.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove cake from oven and top with shredded coconut (as much as you want).
  8. Return cake to the oven and broil till the coconut flakes turn golden brown.

NOTE:  If you can’t get self-rising flour, you can make your own by mixing together:
                4 cups all-purpose flour
                2 Tbsp. double acting baking powder
                2 tsp. salt

Filipino Buko Pie (Young Coconut Pie)

Buko Pie | Pinky's PantryMy Dad’s family hails from a place called Bay, Laguna in the Philippines. Bay (pronounced “Bah-eh” by the locals) is one of the oldest towns in the province of Laguna. Legend has it that the Datu or Tribal Chief of the area had three beautiful daughters. When the Spanish came to convert the natives to Catholicism, the Datu’s three daughters were baptized and renamed Maria Basilisa, Maria Angela and Maria Elena. The first letters of Basilisa, Angela and Elena were put together to form the name “Bae” which over time changed to “Bay.” The district of Santo Domingo in Bay was actually named after my great-grandfather, Domingo Ordoveza, who was a wealthy landowner in the area.

I remember going to Bay as a little girl with my grandparents. We went every year during the town fiesta. There would be a huge party on the plantation with lots of people, tons of food, games, prizes, and fun. We stayed at the family homestead which I remember as a big, white house surrounded by lanzones trees. Lanzones is a small, yellow fruit native to the Philippines. I remember watching the boys climb the trees to pick the fruit for us to eat.

One of the things I also remember eating is Buko Pie. The province of Laguna with all its coconut trees is famous for its buko pie. Buko is the Filipino word for “young coconut.” As a coconut matures, the meat becomes thicker, firmer and whiter; but young coconut meat is thin, soft and almost opaque in color. That’s the coconut we use to make buko pie. The coconut shell is cut in half and the buko is scraped out with a shredding tool that produces thin strips or strings of the meat. It’s absolutely delicious. Where I live in North America, I can’t get fresh buko (or fresh coconuts for that matter) so I have to buy frozen buko from the Asian grocery stores. It’s not as good as fresh, of course, but it works fine when you’re craving a slice of nostalgia in pie form.
Buko Pie | Pinky's Pantry

FILIPINO BUKO PIE

Crust:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup cold butter, cut into pieces
  • ¼ cup cold shortening, cut into pieces
  • 5-6 tbsp. cold water
  • 1 egg, for egg wash
  1. Combine flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.
  2. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Pinch off a small clump of dough and squeeze it in your hand. If it does not hold together, sprinkle the dough with 1 tablespoon of ice water and blend with a fork. Keep adding ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture just holds together when squeezed in your hand.
  4. Divide dough into 2 balls, one slightly bigger than the other, and flatten each ball into a disk.
  5. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 2 days.

Filling:

  • 3 pkgs. (about 3 cups) frozen shredded buko, thawed and drained
  • ⅓ cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup buko juice
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  1. In a small saucepan, stir cornstarch into buko juice until completely dissolved.
  2. Stir in evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla and buko.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

To Assemble Pie:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. Sprinkle flour on work surface and roll out the larger of the two disks into a 12-inch circle. When rolling, work from the center to the outer edges, spinning the dough occasionally to get an even round shape.
  3. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate, pressing into the bottom and up the sides.
  4. Trim off any excess dough.
  5. Place bottom crust in refrigerator while you work on second disk of dough.
  6. Roll out second disk on lightly floured work surface, spinning occasionally to get an even circle large enough to cover the pie.
  7. Take bottom crust from the refrigerator and pour filling into it spreading evenly.
  8. Place top crust over pie.
  9. Roll the edge of the top crust just underneath the edge of the bottom crust and flute the edges together all around the pie.
  10. Make an egg wash by beating 1 egg and 1 tablespoon cold water together.
  11. Brush egg wash all over top crust.
  12. Prick holes on the top crust with a fork to allow steam to escape the pie while baking. You could also cut 6 or 8 vent holes with a sharp paring knife, or cut out decorative designs with a pie crust cutter.
  13. Bake pie in oven for 35-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
  14. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

NOTE:  If you have a food processor, use it to make the pie crust. It makes it so much easier and quicker. Besides, the less you handle the dough, the more tender and flaky your crust will turn out. Just follow the directions as listed, but instead of using a pastry blender or a fork, pulse the ingredients together in the food processor.

Frozen buko comes in plastic bags like this:
Buko Pie | Pinky's Pantry

Homemade Dulce de Leche

Dulce de Leche | Pinky's PantryDulce de Leche is a South American caramel confection. It’s made by cooking sweetened condensed milk until the sugar is caramelized and the milk is thickened and brownish in color. I remember my Mom boiling an unopened can of condensed milk for what seemed like hours on the stove. Of course we all grew up hearing the horror stories and dire warnings of how you should be careful because the can could explode, but none of that ever seemed to matter. What was most important was getting a taste of that sweet, thick, and sticky treat. I remember how awfully hard it was to wait for it to be ready, and even harder to wait for it to cool! But you had to let it cool before you could open the can or the dulce would spurt out and could burn you. We would eat it by the teaspoonful, carefully eking it out and eating it ever so slowly to make it last as long as possible because Mom would never let us have more than 2 little spoonfuls of it in one day.

There are many different ways to make your own dulce de leche at home. You could do like my Mom always did and boil an unopened can of condensed milk on the stove for 2 or 3 hours. You could bake an unopened can in a water bath in the oven; or cook a can in a pressure cooker; or cook it in a slow cooker; or open a can, empty the milk into a pot and cook the milk over the stove, stirring till your arm falls off (don’t ask me how I know). Why, I’ve heard you could even make it in a microwave!

My favorite method is super easy and doesn’t involve any risk of explosion or having your arm fall off. Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean.

HOMEMADE DULCE DE LECHE

  1. Empty 1 can of sweetened condensed milk into a glass pie plate.
    Dulce de Leche | Pinky's Pantry
  2. Cover pie plate tightly with foil.
    Dulce de Leche | Pinky's Pantry
  3. Make a water bath by placing a pan larger than the pie plate into the oven and filling it with enough water to go 3/4 up the side of the pie plate.
  4. Place pie plate in center of water bath and bake at 400ºF for 1½ hours or so, adding water as needed. The longer you cook it, the darker the caramel gets.
    Dulce de Leche | Pinky's Pantry
  5. Remove foil. The edges are usually more cooked than the center so take a wire whisk and whisk everything together until it’s well-combined and smooth.
    Dulce de Leche | Pinky's Pantry
  6. Pour into a clean jar and allow to cool before using.
  7. Store dulce de leche in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Leche Flan Cake

Leche Flan Cake | Pinky's Pantry
We ate Leche Flan Cake all the time when we were growing up in the Philippines. There was a canteen near my Lolo’s (grandpa’s) office that sold it for a few cents a slice. It was always such a treat to go visit my Lolo at work because he invariably would give us some money to run down to the canteen for a slice of Leche Flan Cake. Looking back, I think it was probably his way of getting rid of a bunch of noisy kids so he could work in peace for a while. LOL! Either way, I always thought the cake was the best part of visiting my Lolo at his work. Now, I make my own leche flan cake and hopefully, it’s created some fond memories for my own kids to look back on, too.

Traditional leche flan cake has a thin layer of flan on top of a thick layer of cake, but my Old Goat would always ask if I could make the flan layer thicker (like I do with Chocoflan Cake). So I finally gave in and that’s why my leche flan cake doesn’t look anything like traditional Filipino leche flan cakes. I have to admit he was right though. I do like it better with a thicker layer of flan. The fam sure does, too. And so will you!

FILIPINO LECHE FLAN CAKE

For the Caramel Sauce:

  • 2 cups white sugar
  1. Pour sugar into 9×13-inch metal baking pan and set on stove over low heat.
  2. Cook sugar until it melts and begins to turn caramel colored.
  3. Tilt pan so caramel coats the bottom evenly. Use oven mitts! The pan will be hot!
  4. Set aside to cool. The caramel will harden and could crack as it cools. Don’t worry. This is normal.

For the Leche Flan:

  • 2 whole eggs
  • 4 egg yolks (save the whites for another use)
  • 2 cans evaporated milk
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  1. In a bowl whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, evaporated milk, condensed milk, sugar, and vanilla.
  2. Pour the mixture over the cooled caramel in the baking pan.

For the Cake:

  • 1½ cups cake flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup oil
  • 4 egg yolks (save the whites to make meringue)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  1. Sift together cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Make a well in the center.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the milk, oil, egg yolks, and vanilla.
  4. Pour the milk mixture into the well of dry ingredients and whisk until combined.
  5. Set batter aside and make meringue.

For the Meringue:

  • 4 egg whites
  • ½ tsp. cream of tartar
  • ½ cup sugar
  1. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high until frothy.
  2. Decrease speed to medium and gradually add the sugar.
  3. Continue beating on medium until eggs whites are glossy and form stiff peaks.
  4. Take a third of the meringue and carefully fold it into the cake batter to lighten it.
  5. Fold the rest of the meringue into the cake batter until no more white streaks remain.
  6. Pour batter slowly over the leche flan mixture in baking pan.

To Bake:

  1. Place baño maria (water bath) inside oven. You can use a large roasting pan for this.
  2. Fill with enough water to come at least halfway up sides of baking pan.
  3. Turn oven on and preheat to 325ºF.
  4. When oven is ready, carefully lower baking pan with batter into hot water in baño maria.
  5. Close oven door and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center.
  6. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool completely; then chill in refrigerator overnight.
  7. Run a knife along the sides of the cake to loosen it from the pan.
  8. Turn cake out onto serving platter with a rim to catch any caramel sauce that might drip.

Filipino Pork Barbecue

Filipino Pork Barbecue | Pinky's Pantry
It’s No. 1’s birthday tomorrow. To celebrate, we’re having a Filipino dinner. I’m making Filipino pork barbecue among other things. Pork barbecue is a favorite party food in the Philippines and is often the first thing to disappear from the table. It’s also a popular street food and you can always find barbecued pork, chicken or innards being sold on city street corners. Filipinos prefer their barbecue a little on the sweet side and it is often served with a spicy vinegar dipping sauce made by stirring finely chopped chili peppers, onions, garlic, salt and pepper into a bottle of white vinegar.

I learned to make the original recipe for pork barbecue from Mrs. Carrion, my 7th grade cooking teacher at the Assumption Convent where I went to school. I can still hear her trying to impress upon a bunch of young girls the importance of cleaning up as you work. Since then I’ve modified her original recipe, making changes and additions to suit my own taste. And yes, I do clean up as I work. That part of making this hasn’t changed.

FILIPINO PORK BARBECUE

  • 3 lbs. boneless pork butt or shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch thick chunks
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup Mafran or Jufran banana ketchup
  • 1/2 cup 7-Up
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
  • juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1 whole head garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce (optional)
  1. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Marinate the pork overnight.
  3. While the pork marinates, soak bamboo skewers in water overnight. This helps to keep them from burning on the grill.
  4. Skewer the marinated pork onto the soaked bamboo sticks.
  5. In a small bowl make a mixture of 2 parts Mafran ketchup to 1 part of the marinade mixture for brushing over the pork while grilling (i.e. 1 cup Mafran + 1/2 cup marinade).
  6. Grill pork until done, brushing with Mafran mixture while grilling.

NOTE:  Nowadays, you can purchase Mother’s Best or Mama Sita’s Barbecue Marinade in Filipino or Asian grocery stores. I think both brands are very good and make a quick and easy marinade when you don’t have time to gather and measure out all the ingredients for the traditional recipe. You’ll have to try both brands yourself to decide if you like one better than the other. They both taste delicious to me so I usually just pick up whichever one is on sale at the time I’m at the store.

QUICK AND EASY MARINADE:

  • 2 cups Mama Sita’s or Mother’s Best barbecue marinade
  • 1 cup 7-Up
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and crushed

Follow the steps above, including making the 2:1 Mafran/marinade mixture to brush over the pork while grilling.

Bisquick Puto (Copycat Filipino Steamed Rice Cakes)

Puto | Pinky's Pantry

Nothing triggers more memories of past Christmases for me than the sight of a dish piled high with puto. When I was a little girl, I used to walk to church with my Yaya (Nanny) at 5:00 every morning to attend the Misa de Gallo (Mass of the Rooster), so called because they’re held at dawn when the rooster crows. The Misa de Gallo is a 9-day Catholic novena mass which starts on the 16th of December and runs through the 24th. After mass, you went outside the church to find various stalls with vendors selling all kinds of native Filipino foods that you could buy for breakfast and which you either ate there while chatting with your neighbors or brought home to share with your family. Puto was one of the delicacies always being sold.

The little steamed rice cakes were traditionally made with rice flour, but nowadays it seems as though more and more people are using regular all-purpose flour to make them. Whatever kind of flour you use, the little cakes have one thing in common — they are steamed, not baked. Before rice flour became so readily available in our local grocery stores, I learned to make this “cheating” recipe which uses Bisquick baking mix. Now that rice flour is so easily obtained, I still find myself reaching for the box of Bisquick! It may not be quite traditional in flavor, but it makes a delicious puto and is wonderfully easy to whip together.

BIQUICK PUTO

  • 2 cups Bisquick mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
  • fresh grated coconut (optional)
  1. In a medium bowl, stir all the ingredients together until smooth.
  2. Fill a large wok with about an inch of water and bring to a boil.
  3. Once water is boiling, lower heat to maintain a steady simmer.
  4. Fill mini-muffin pan about 2/3 full with batter.
  5. Place muffin pan into wok so the 4 corners touch the sides of the wok and the bottom of the muffin pan is floating above but not touching the water.
  6. Cover with lid and steam for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Lift lid off, taking care that water condensed inside lid does not run down onto the puto.
  8. Using tongs, carefully lift muffin pan out of wok and allow to cool for a few minutes before removing puto from pan.
  9. Serve with grated coconut, if desired.

Filipino Menudo

Filipino Menudo | Pinky's Pantry
Menudo is a dish of latin origins. Its Filipino roots probably stem from the Spanish who colonized the country in the 1500’s. Menudo is extremely popular in Mexico where the dish is traditionally prepared with tripe and is believed to be a cure for hangovers. We don’t make it with tripe in the Philippines, nor have I ever heard of anyone eating it to combat a hangover, however, the dish is just as popular on the islands as it is in Mexico. Many fiestas and holiday gatherings include a platter of Menudo on the table.

My family loves Menudo. In fact, it’s probably No. 1’s second favorite dish next to Mechado (which is a very similar stew except made with beef). We always serve Menudo with hot, white rice which provides the perfect backdrop to absorb every bit of the flavorful sauce. The tender morsels of pork and vegetables swimming in a rich, tomato-based gravy can be very addicting. It’s hard not to go back for seconds!

Yet for all its deliciously complex, slow-braised flavor, the dish is surprisingly easy to prepare. You can substitute Prego Sauce for the tomato sauce if you like which I usually do when I’m making a large amount for a party simply because Prego Sauce comes in those gigantic jars. You could also make this in a slow cooker. Just put all your ingredients in the crock pot and turn it on low for 6-8 hours.  Yum!

FILIPINO MENUDO

  • 3-4 lbs. fatty or well-marbled boneless pork (shoulder, butt, etc.)
  • 5 carrots, peeled
  • 6 potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 large can (28 ozs.) tomato sauce or Prego Sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 1 large red or green bell pepper
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Cut the pork into ½-inch cubes.
  2. Dice the carrots, potatoes and bell pepper into ½-inch cubes.
  3. In a large pot, fry the onions and garlic until soft but not brown.
  4. Add the pork, carrots, tomato sauce, water, and diced tomatoes (with the juice).
  5. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the pork and carrots are tender. If you think the dish is too dry, add more tomato sauce till the sauce reaches the consistency you like.
  6. Add the potatoes and bell pepper and continue simmering until the potatoes are soft.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

NOTE:  The traditional Filipino recipe also calls for the addition of 1-2 lbs. of cubed pork liver, 1 can of garbanzo beans and 3/4 cup of raisins. I omit these ingredients because my kids don’t like them in Menudo, but you can certainly add them if you want to go the more traditional route.