A certain traveler made headlines and pissed off a handful of Filipino readers when she posted I Would Rather Go Hungry Than Eat Filipino Food Again! on her blog. The article generated a lot of comebacks from displeased and apparently irritated Filipinos from all around the world. I was actually more than pissed after reading it, and I can understand why Filipinos would react the same way. Given that she was entitled to her own opinion, but her rant totally pierced through my heart and soul, especially when she said “No wonder why, in the north, the vast majority of Filipino kids and young people are overweight. This is something we have noticed straight away. People in young age are huge and it’s due to poor quality of food.”
I have been overweight all my life and I blame it on my mom’s awesome cooking and my perceived lack of success at working out, but I wouldn’t say it’s because I have been stuffing myself with “oily, fat and sugary” Filipino foods. The blogger obviously went to the wrong places while in search of “authentic” Filipino food, but she clearly blamed that they can only spend $25 a day hoping to get a piece of authenticity by going to “local” establishments. Sad to say, she wasn’t pleased. Instead, she suffered from stomach aches and dizziness after eating those foods. Poor kid.
As a full-blooded Pinay, I wouldn’t even go to those places because of the unsanitary conditions, and I know most Filipinos would agree that fares offered at these places will not compare to their mom’s or tita’s cooking. But you know what? some people in my county can only afford so much, and one of them is to have food on the table, regardless of its authenticity and taste. She clearly had those kinds of food. I just wish I could show her the way to our local bakery so she could have a go at their hot pan de sal and this buttery and soft cheese ensaymada bread.
Ensay what? Inspired by Spanish “ensaimada”, this sweet brioche is baked with butter and topped with sugar and shredded cheese. Other versions would have margarine spread on top or filled with some kind of filling like ube or cheese. They have this in every local bakery in the Philippines, and tasty enough to satisfy locals and tourists alike. Plus, they are cheap.
Just writing this post brought me back to a memory of a younger me on a lazy weekend afternoon – hungry but too tired to face the stove. I asked my parents for some money and walked out of our red gate, headed uphill to visit our local bakery. “Limang pisong ensaymada po” (Five pesos worth of ensaymadas please) and eagerly watched the tindera grab some ensaymadas under the counter and put them inside a clear plastic bag. If you are lucky, they might even give you freshly baked ones from the tray.
Back to reality and far away from home, I tried a bunch of recipes for this sweet brioche I miss so much, and I am sharing you the one that hit close to home. Hopefully my description “buttery, soft and sweet” will make you want to try it, or even just checking out a Filipino bakery you always pass by on your way home but never had a chance to check it out. Or if you live in Seattle I will be more than happy to share mine.
- 1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) of active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees F)
- 6 tablespoons white sugar, divided
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (plus more for brushing)
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 12 greased brioche tins or muffin pan with muffin cups
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1. To activate the yeast, dissolve in warm water (100 to 110 degrees F) and add a tablespoon of sugar. Let sit for about 10 minutes until mixture doubles in volume and foams up. Make sure yeast is activated.
- 2. Sift together flour and salt, set aside. Place butter and sugar in a bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium to high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
- 3. Turn the speed to low-medium, add egg yolks one at a time, beating well with each addition.
- 4. Add flour-salt mixture alternately with evaporated milk, mix well until incorporated. Slowly add the yeast mixture, mix well.
- 5. Replace the paddle with dough hook and knead the dough until smooth elastic.
- 6.Have the dough rest in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with cloth or plastic wrap and let the dough rise until double in size, about an hour or two.
- 7. Punch down the risen dough and divide equally into 12 portions.
- 8.Flatten each piece using a rolling pin, and brush with melted butter across the middle.
- 9. Roll each piece into a tight log and coil into a spiral-shaped dough. Either place the coiled dough flat on a greased baking sheet, or place in greased brioche molds or muffin cups.
- 10. Let them sit at room temperature to rise, about 45 minutes to an hour. If using muffin cups, place them in a muffin pan (optional) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
- 11. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. To prepare the topping, cream together butter and sugar using your electric or handheld mixer. Spread on top of cooled buns (depends on how much you want on them), then sprinkle with shredded cheese. Serve while still warm.