Just the word alone used to send me into a happy tizzy, of excitement and anticipation of the coming deliciousness.
Even in Manila, bibingka was only an occasional treat for us. I was told that it was a staple during midnight mass, the twelve -- or ten? or seven? -- midnights before Christmas, but never having gone to midnight mass then, I would not know.
Bibingka was not readily available and there were only a handful of places we went to that would serve it, but they also didn't serve it all of the time.
And of course, not all bibingka are created equal -- and there are some unacceptable ones that we didn't want to have even, or when, they were available.
What is bibingka anyways?
The bibingka that holds a dear, dear place in my heart was a kind of cake. It was usually lined with banana leaves, brushed with a lot of butter (or margarine, as that was the fashion those days), cooked in a claypot over wood charcoal, and served hot, freshly baked -- because there was no point in having it any other way.
Biting into that cake was pure heaven. It was usually not a very fluffy cake, so it was very easy to take into one mouthful all the things that are right with the world:
the sweet cake delicious with coconut and butter, the rich saltiness of the duck eggs and cheese interpersed with the rich sweetness of the freshly grated coconut on top, the fragrance of the banana leaves, and the aroma and flavour of the fire and smoke enveloping the rest of your senses.
It is hard to do justice to the experience. And even harder to recapture experiences of one's childhood and youth. I had been content to let bibingka stay in the back of my mind, simmering on a very low, low flame.
When coconut was chosen as the ingredient for this month's Weekend Wokking, we immediately thought of that topping of freshly grated coconut on freshly-baked bibingka. But even with that incentive, we were still on the fence whether to attempt bibingka or not. We played around with ideas for coconut in savoury applications -- but it turns out that TS does not like coconut in savoury applications at all!
I'm just not too big a fan of savory dishes cooked in coconut milk. It's "OK", but not something I would crave or get excited about. Bibingka, on the other hand... I couldn't wait!
Okay, so bibingka it was, because that was the only thing we could agree on. We knew going in that our bibingka would not be the same as the bibingka of our childhood. We couldn't cook it over wood charcoals, for one.
We could, technically, cook it on our grill, but that would require a tad too much work at this time. We were already late in making our Weekend Wokking entry as it is. Maybe someday. We need to get one of those claypot things first.
We needed a recipe for bibingka and that's where the confusion started for me.
See, bibingka apparently is also a generic term for "cake" -- or is it cakes made from rice? I don't know. When I was looking for recipes online, I came upon lots of bibingka recipes, but some of them would be the
bibingka cassava: a kind of dessert made from grated cassava, which is totally different from the bibingka I like.
bibingka malagkit: translated, "sticky bibingka," and this seems to be some sort of sticky sheet cake made from glutinous rice. . .and I don't know if this is what we used to call "biko" when we were kids.
In recent memory, I recall ordering the kind of bibingka I like in some restaurants as "bibingka espesyal." Well, because they are special indeed.
We found a recipe that's promising (and easy) and we decided to go with this recipe for now. (See our recipe based on it below.)
First, preparing the banana leaves.
Since having great difficulty working with banana leaves the first time we used them (to wrap tilapia), we since learned that one had to "wilt" them first before using. That simply entails holding the leaf over the flame until the top of the leaf turns bright green and shiny. It was a little fascinating to watch.
We didn't know what size pan to use, so we guessed and used a 9-inch pie plate. We lined it with banana leaves and brushed it with butter.
To make the batter, we beat eggs, sugar and melted butter together. Then we combined rice flour, a little glutinous rice flour and baking powder. We added coconut milk and the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mixed well. Into the banana leaf-lined pan it went.
Into a 350F-degree oven for about 20 minutes. We used the toothpick test to check for doneness.
While the bibingka was baking, we prepared the toppings. Of course, first and foremost, the freshly-grated coconut.
Actually, we didn't have the energy or mental preparedness to get fresh coconuts and extract the flesh ourselves, so we just bought frozen grated coconut.
Additional sugar (we used brown sugar) is also used as a topping.
Traditionally, toppings included salted duck eggs, but when I went to get salted duck eggs, I couldn't find any. I used to see them beside the chicken eggs -- but yesterday, they were gone! I went to our two Chinese supermarkets and both of them didn't have any to sell.
We didn't know what kind of cheese was used for the topping as well. However, to get our saltiness quotient missing from the absent salted duck eggs, we used a mixture of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano.
left: Parmigiano-Reggiano; right: Pecorino Romano
As for the quantities of the toppings, it's up to you. Go hog wild!
When the bibingka finished baking, we were unsure what to do next. Were we supposed to just put the toppings on and call it a day? The recipe we were using called for adding the salted duck eggs and baking for an additional 5 minutes. But, we didn't have the duck eggs.
So, I brushed the top with melted butter then proceeded to pile up the cheeses, brown sugar and grated coconut. However, the whole thing looked anemic. We then decided to put the bibingka with toppings under the broiler.
The banana leaves caught fire! But I pressed on until the top at least had some "burn" marks. (It still could've used more scorching for that smoky aroma.)
Of course, of course, it could use even more grated coconut on top!
See, doesn't it look better with even more coconut?
The bibingka was very fluffy and high; I don't think they're supposed to be that high. Next time, we'll either use a bigger baking dish or do 2 9-inch pie plates. That way, there'll be more topping per cake! It's all about the toppings for me!
This bibingka was delicious! We had it on the table and I couldn't stop eating it.
The freshly grated coconut (okay, frozen freshly grated coconut) and the cheeses on top was heavenly. And having the banana leaves burned by the broiler added a little taste of fire to the bibingka which was most, most welcome.
I still missed having the salted duck eggs. Oh well. I figure this was going to be our trial run anyways and the bibingka recipe would have to undergo several revisions. The next revision, we'll have the duck eggs.
It was so good. We deceived ourselves and pretended we weren't going to have a lot, so we never actually sliced a serving of it onto a plate. However, whenever we'd pass by the table, we'd eat a little piece. And each time, it was like having it for the first time all over again! Our eyes would widen and say -- with mouths full -- "Ang sarap!" ("It's so good!")
Was it similar to the bibingka of our past? Not quite -- but we're working on that. This was a very good attempt and so I'm happy with it. If we didn't have other bibingka to compare it with, this would an unqualified hit. But it does have all those other bibingka to contend with, not fair perhaps, but hey, that's life.
Another [eatingclub] bibingka moment:
Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Starry. Starry Night in Vancouver -- Evoking the Philippine Christmas Spirit
More bibingka information
Market Manila has an approximation of a bibingka "oven."
Here's another post about freshly-made bibingka, which I've never had the good fortune of having, by the way.
Pinoy Cook's post about bibingka and puto bumbong, miso de gallo (midnight mass) favorites.
Salted Duck Eggs information.
And of course, Wikipedia's bibingka information.
Based on Bibingka from Simply Anne's
Makes two (2) 9-inch bibingka
"wilted" banana leaves
½ cup sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
2 cups rice flour
¼ cup glutinous rice flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup thick coconut milk
melted butter for brushing
sugar (white or brown)
grated fresh coconut
sliced salted eggs
grated cheese (Pecorino Romano, Parmiggiano-Reggiano)
To "wilt" banana leaves, hold them over a flame until the "greener" side becomes shiny.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line two (2) 9-inch cake/pie pans with wilted banana leaves. Brush banana leaves with butter.
Beat eggs in a bowl until foamy. Add sugar and butter and beat until fluffy.
Mix the rice flour, glutinous rice flour and baking powder in a bowl. Add coconut milk. Blend well.
Add the egg mixture to the coconut-flour mixture, mixing until smooth.
Divide the batter in half and pour each half into lined pans. Bake for approximately 15 minutes. (Do toothpick test.)
Switch oven to BROIL.
Brush top of each cake with butter, and top with toppings of your choice: sliced salted eggs, grated cheese, sugar, grated freshg coconut. Broil until top is charred/golden.
Serve with more grated coconut and sugar, if desired.
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We're submitting this recipe to Weekend Wokking, a world-wide food blogging event created by Wandering Chopsticks celebrating the multiple ways we can cook one ingredient.
The host this month is Ivy of Precious Pea.
If you would like to participate or to see the secret ingredient, check who's hosting next month.
Check out all Weekend Wokking Roundups.
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