BREADS play a very important role in Philippine culinary history. This is because each province, each region in the country has its own local breads. There are so many different kinds of heirloom breads in the country that, if you put them together, you’d have a feast. Unfortunately, some of them are slowly fading away into oblivion because people do not make them anymore. People of older generations had this habit of keeping the recipes of their kitchen “masterpieces,” including breads, a secret, and so the recipes got buried along with them when they passed on to the next life. With others, it was a matter of failing to standardize the recipes, relying heavily instead on “tantiya” (“more or less,” according to look and feel during the actual preparation of the recipe).
Ever the reliable and creative chef that he is, Chef Gene Gonzalez (restaurateur, culinary educator and best-selling cookbook author) decided to immortalize all these heirloom breads that we have, standardize their recipes, and share them in a cookbook called Philippine Breads. Published by Anvil Publishing Inc., Philippine Breads was recently launched at the Center for Asian Culinary Studies (CACS), the culinary school that Chef Gene founded and runs. And, just like it always was whenever there’s a special occasion to celebrate, Chef Gene, his chef-instructors and their students prepared quite a feast of breads using recipes from the book—with accompanying spreads, dips and bites to boot.
One interestingly named bread on the bread buffet was Pan de Hangin, which, according to Chef Gene, was a joke among bread buyers because this particular type of bread had very light texture and density, much like air. True enough, the Pan de Hangin was light and airy, the kind you would definitely not mind eating a lot of because it’s, well, yes, light and airy.
There’s also the Triangulos. They are, as their name suggests, shaped like elongated triangles, and are puffy and airy in the middle, but when you bite into them, they’re crispy on the outside. With a neutral taste, they go well with jams and marmalades as well as savory spreads and pates.
Pan de Putok is something more familiar to most Filipinos today. It’s an everyday bread, slightly hard and chewy, with a crack or “putok” on top. This is where the bread got its name.
Then there’s the Bunuelos, which are more like biscuits cooked the old-fashioned way because there are small, uneven bubbled-up pockets everywhere on their elongated oval body. They’re fried to a crisp, and the best way to enjoy them is to dip them in a cup of hot chocolate and bite away.
Pan de Sal de Antigua is also a curiously named bread on the bread buffet. It derives its name from the fact that they are made using an antiquated recipe of a crustier and less sweet version of the modern Pan de Sal.
Chef Gene also had guests taste more complicated bread recipes that are just as rooted in Philippine culinary history, such as Ensaimada Pampangueña, which is the Kapampangan version of the rich and buttery sweet bread. It’s loaded with egg, butter, queso de bola and regular cheese, and is a treat to eat, although a bit difficult to make since it involves at least three ‘paalsa’ (rising or proofing) periods. This recipe has been handed down to Chef Gene through generations of the Gonzalez clan.
Not to be missed is the Cinnamon Mango Bread. It’s actually a roll of sweet dough with a sweet filling made with dried mangoes, butter, sugar and cinnamon. Fresh from the oven, with its delicious, hunger-inducing aroma wafting in the air, you slice it and enjoy it.
Probably the heaviest variety of bread that was on the table during the book launch was Tropical Fruitcake. Unlike the regular fruitcake, which is almost always baked into a loaf, this was of a round cake shape, although it can also be baked in a square pan without any problem. Loaded with familiar flavors, it bursts with the goodness of pineapple, banana, coconut, dried mangoes and jackfruit.
To formally launch the cookbook, Anvil Publishing Inc.’s general manager Karina Bolasco gave her welcome remarks, followed by the author’s son, Chef Gino Gonzalez, who was tasked to introduce his father. With his own little daughter Lucia standing beside him and cheerfully playing around as he spoke, Chef Gino proudly called his father “the Jedi” of the local culinary world. Everyone loved how little Lucia, with her naughty smile but well-behaved demeanor, also took to the ‘stage’ and stood happily beside her grandfather as he spoke about the book.
Present during the book launch were Chef Gene’s family, including daughter Giannina Gonzalez and daughter-in-law China Cojuangco Gonzalez; his Café Ysabel and CACS family, including Chefs Toto Erfe, Junjun de Guzman, Ellen Rivera, Ria Aplasca and Francis Roman; Masflex’s Hiren Mirchandani, with whom Chef Gene collaborates on a professional knife line and baking line under the Masflex-Kitchen Pro brand; Chef Gene’s Anvil Publishing Inc. family, with Gwenn Galvez joining Karina Bolasco; as well as chefs and culinary minds that he has worked with, such as the San Miguel Pure Foods Culinary Center (represented by Chef Rene Ruz, who specializes in baking and pastry), The Maya Kitchen (with test kitchen head ‘Tita’ Rory Subida personally in attendance), Chefs Roland and Jackie Laudico, and a host of other special guests.
Philippine Breads features more than 60 recipes of everyday breads, modern day breads, rich breads, specialty breads, biscuits, cookies and snacks. It is available in all National Book Store and Powerbooks branches at Php220 per copy. You can also shop online for it at www.anvilpublishing.com.