Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Leche Puto

**This post has been revised. 28/12/14

I feel somewhat like a sacrificial lamb.  Or maybe a guinea pig.

Because of my desire to share new recipes here, I experiment a lot.  If I'm lucky, I get it right the first time. But if I don't, I find myself measuring, and mixing, and baking, and adjusting ingredients over and over until I am completely satisfied.

It takes a toll on my body, you know. Taking in all those extra, unnecessary calories...sometimes to the point of feeling really sick. But it comes with the job, I guess.

I am happy though when I finally get it right.  And I know that I make a lot of other people happy too.

So, what is this so-called leche puto? Just from the name itself, one can deduce that it's a fusion of the Filipino steamed 'rice' cake (puto) and milk flan or creme caramel (leche flan).  It actually is, just sans the caramelized syrup. I did not know what this thing was until I watched this feature on a Filipino TV show.  The lady in the video said that the idea came about because she found that a lot of eggyolks were getting wasted in her puto-making as only the whites were needed.  It's as simple as that.  Brilliant, isn't it?  How people come up with these combinations? How something so simple can turn into a big business?

They showed the procedure on the video but understandably, not the recipe.  So I watched and watched and watched..and tried to figure it out.

First attempt - great flan, dense puto.  Second attempt - eggy flan, still dense puto.  Third attempt - overcooked flan, fluffy puto.

Four attempts later - a creamy flan, and soft and fluffy puto finally!

I don't know how many of these I had to pop in my mouth to come up with this recipe (I refuse to even think about it!).  So in saying that, I sure hope you all will appreciate and like it!  It will make the sacrifice more worth it!

LECHE PUTO (makes around 48 medium-sized pieces)


For the flan:
4 egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk (395g)
2 tsps lemon/calamansi juice or 1 tsp lemon extract

For the puto:
2 cups self-raising flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder*
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
4 eggwhites (about 2/3 cup)
1¼ cups water
a few drops of yellow liquid food colouring (optional)


* I found that even if I am already using self-raising flour, I still needed to add a small amount of baking powder to make the puto fluffy.  I think this is because eggwhites toughen a cake and there are no eggyolks to make it more tender. Don't worry, there is no baking powder aftertaste!

**Note:  I used plastic puto moulds for this purpose.  You can use mini muffin pans but you will have to adjust the steaming time.  I tried using the pans in one of my batches and noticed that the flan cooked way faster.  You do not want to overcook it.  The flan should remain creamy yet firm enough to hold its shape.  When it's overcooked, it tastes like scrambled eggs (not good).

1.  Make the flan first.  In a small bowl, mix together the eggyolks and condensed milk.  Add in the lemon juice or extract.

Tip:  Get yourself these inexpensive plastic sauce dispensers.  It makes filling up the moulds so much easier and cleaner.

Use one for the flan mixture and one for the puto mixture.

2.  Heat water in bottom pan of steamer until water boils rapidly. Wrap steamer cover with a towel.

3.  Grease puto moulds then squirt the flan mixture into each mould, filling each about 1/3 full.

4.  Steam flan on LOW heat for about 5-7 minutes. At this point, the flan would not be fully set but should not be liquidy either.  Set aside to cool completely while you make the puto mixture.

5.  In a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients of the puto together.  Add in the wet ingredients and mix just until combined. Do not overmix.  Transfer mixture to your plastic dispenser.

6.  Prepare the steamer as before.  Top up with more water if needed and bring to a rapid boil again.

7.  Gently squirt puto mixture over flan, filling moulds nearly to the top.

8.  Steam the puto on LOW heat for another 10 minutes.  Remove from steamer and let cool slightly.

9.  To remove from moulds, carefully run a thin knife around the puto layer only.  Invert mould and tap to release the leche puto.

I think it is best to keep them inverted like this as the leche flan layer is more delicate and sticky.

Beautiful.  And I can assure you, it's absolutely delicious too.


PS.  If you have any suggestions on what I should experiment on next, leave them on the comments section below.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Old fashioned butter icing

Back in 2011, when I was still trying to figure out how to make a caramel cake similar to Estrel's, I wasn't sure what kind of buttercream they were using.  The reason I chose Swiss Meringue buttercream was because I had leftover eggwhites from the caramel icing anyway so I might as well use them. I was convinced, however, that it wasn't IT.

Upon tasting the Estrel's famed caramel cake when I visited the Philippines last year, I observed two things about the butter icing - 1) it was salty; and 2) it had a "waxy" feel in the mouth.  It made me question if it was actually butter they were using.  Was it shortening perhaps?

Estrel's say they have not changed their recipe since they started in the 1940s.  In one article I read in their website, the owners mentioned what brand of milk and butter they have been using. To quote:

Quality ingredients more than make up half the success story. “We never changed the recipe, nor the way we did the butter roses and their shapes, sizes and colors of tinted peach, pink and green; nor the thickness and taste of the caramel icing. Before we used GI butter during Liberation. And at that time the best milk was imported Carnation full cream milk (has to be full cream, no dilutions). Now we use Alpine or Omela (from Thailand) full cream milk for the butter icing. And we have never substituted anything for Anchor butter ever since we started using it,” professed Mrs. Navarro.

Although they specifically said "full cream milk", the brands suggested they were actually evaporated and not whole milk.  From this little information, I think I now know how they make their butter icing.

Old fashioned cake = old fashioned recipe.  Why didn't I think of that before?  The recipe below is what my aunties iced and filled their sponge cakes and rolls with.  So simple and easy.


1 cup butter, softened (I used salt-reduced.)
3/4 cup evaporated or whole milk **
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (original recipe didn't have this)

**I have tried both types of milk and like whole milk better.

1.  Dissolve the sugar completely in the milk.  Set aside.

2.  In a mixing bowl, cream the butter until it is very light in colour. Start from the lowest speed then gradually increase to high.

3.  Turn down the mixer speed to low then gradually add in the milk/sugar mixture in thin streams.  Do this patiently, like 1 tablespoon at a time only. 

4.  When all the milk has been added, beat in the vanilla extract then increase the mixer speed to high and beat mixture until it is fluffy.

As all butter-based frostings are, the final colour is off-white.

This frosting seems soft but it is stiff enough that it will not fall off the spatula unless you really shake it off.

It spreads really smoothly too.

The taste? It's 100% buttery goodness! It does not only taste buttery but it appears buttery as well.  It actually feels like butter in the mouth!  (I don't know if that's actually a good thing or not!) How do you describe that? Waxy? Slippery? It's exactly how I remember the butter icing from Estrel's (though less salty since I didn't use regular salted butter.)  Definitely heavier in the mouth than Swiss meringue buttercream.

Now, let's test this thing on a caramel cake!

Lacy, squiggly lines, check. (Used piping tip #1 for that.)

More squiggly lines, check.

Borders, check. (Ruffle tip 88 and shell tip 18 for those.)

Roses, check! (Petal tip 124 for the roses, leaf tip 352 for the leaves.)

 Do I really think this is the sort of butter icing that Estrel's uses?

Looks pretty good to me!  The empty space is for some writing I had to add later on.

I am willing to bet on it!  Will I use it?  Definitely yes, for borders and flowers on a caramel cake.  However, to frost a whole cake with buttercream, I still prefer to use my favourite.  Still the winner for me in terms of texture and taste.

Try this butter icing next time you make a caramel cake and let me know what you think.

Have a good weekend!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Flower basket cake

Sometime ago, I watched this video (most likely in YouTube) in which Buddy Valastro, the Cake Boss, said that he thinks in a few years' time, no one will be using buttercream to frost cakes anymore.  With all due respect, I don't think he knew what he was talking about!  He is a big advocate of fondant but obviously, fondant is not for everyone, me included.  Instead of losing its popularity, it looks like buttercream is in fact making a big comeback!  These days, buttercream-frosted cakes have turned into intricate, sophisticated works of art, just as fondant-covered cakes are.

Because of this, I have made it my goal to improve on my piping skills and take buttercream art more seriously.  Today, I practiced on flower and basketweave piping!

I wanted to place more flowers on the bottom but made the mistake of using a small cake board so there was no space for them!  The sunflower looks out of place, doesn't it?

This is just a small, three-layered, 6" cake but boy, did I have to make a lot of buttercream!  I am not a big fan of crusting buttercream for the simple reason that it is too sweet.  I frosted and filled the cake with my usual Swiss meringue buttercream but made the roses and sunflowers using a classic buttercream with half butter, half high ratio shortening and icing sugar as this is more stable for piping.

Next time, I will use a more dense cake as the weight of the flowers seemed too much for the top layer of my chiffon cake!

It took me a few hours to get this cake done but I did have fun practicing!  My basketweave still needs a little work plus I know I should learn how to better arrange flowers.  Overall though, I was happy with the outcome.  Just the burst of colours was enough to make me smile!

I hope to apply another buttercream-related skill on a cake next week. Maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to do something really nice for Easter.  

Till then, you all have great weekend!