Friday, 31 March 2006

LP 8: Puto

The current theme of the eighth Lasang Pinoy, hosted by the lovely Iska of Edible Experiments, is centered on food for/by children. I wanted to create my husband's favourite childhood snack of bibingkang malagkit but my recipe fell short of expectations. The bottom - soggy, the top - too sweet. Maybe I'll blog it some other time. So off I went recruiting my kids in making a very simple Filipino steamed cake - puto. Mind you this is not your regular traditional puto which is made of malagkit (sticky rice) flour. This is of recent provenance, probably as early as the 80s when the popular Filipino bakeshop, Goldilocks, came up with this rich cake-like puto. There are very few ingredients to have and it's just a matter of mixing them all up in a bowl which a kid can easily do. My eldest daughter remarked that the batter is very much like that of a pancake. Well what do you know, she was right of course. More like a very sweet pancake version which is steamed instead of panfried. My kids are usually enthusiastic with 'helping' out in cooking and baking especially ones where they are actively involved in as opposed to just watching. I hope this would encourage them to be more adventurous in eating as well as in kitchen activities.

J2 mixing it
You don't know how much frustrations this seemingly innocuous snack has given me for the last ... oh ... 15 years. It's not a problem in the batter, more on the process of making these cakes rise in the steaming. The biggest Darth Vader-like enemy of steaming puto is water or condensation dripping/forming on top while it's cooking. Once water dripped on top then your puto is doomed to be earthbound. Never to rise in all its peaked glory. I've had this problem over and over again in the years that I was trying to make it. Often times I have to disguise my failure from our guests by saying it's actually my new version of kutchinta. LOL! I changed steamers, used rice cookers, metal steamers, and now just about having moderate success using a cheap and simple bamboo steamer. Really, sometimes you don't need high-tech gadgets to achieve good results.

puto galore
The recipe is something I got from my sister-in-law, Ate Eva, in Toronto which in turn she got from a friend of hers. I have to tone down the recipe considerably because it was cloyingly rich (nakaka-uta). The original measure of 2 tablespoons baking powder is I think too much. It actually have an slight aftertaste which I don't like so I proceeded to halve the baking powder. Same with the milk and eggs. I also added salt since I noticed that it doesn't rise as much as I want to and as you know, salt reacts with the baking powder that causes cakes to swell. As for my dreaded steaming, normally I would cover the baking pan to prevent condensation to drip on it. But since I'm using small (different sized at that) moulds, it would be truly troublesome to cover them all individually. Life is too short for me to get that tedious. So I covered the top of the steaming basket itself with a cloth. That didn't work since the water vapours came in unimpeded thru the slats at the bottom. So I moved the cloth onto the bottom of the first level basket. Finally, I had my well-risen puto (well most of the time).

Rich Puto

Rich Puto

2 cups plain flour
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 egg - slightly beaten
1 Tbsp baking powder
scant 1/2 tsp fine salt
1 1/3 cup sugar
  1. Mix all ingredients well.
  2. Pour into small cake moulds. (Any small ramekins or tiny bowls/plates may be used). Cover with aluminium foil, tea towels or cloth (or you may cover the steamer itself with cloth).
  3. Steam in medium heat for about 20-25 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and pry off the puto from the moulds with a butter knife. Serve warm or cold.
*Variation: Mix grated or slivers of cheese just before steaming.

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