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Kulinarya Cooking Challenge - Flores De Mayo (Puto)

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Kulinarya was started by a group of Filipino foodies living in Sydney, who are passionate about the Filipino culture and its colourful cuisine. Each month we will showcase a new dish along with their family recipes. By sharing these recipes, we hope you find the same passion and love for Filipino Food as we do.

 

Please see http://kulinaryaclub.wordpress.com/members/ for the latest members list.

I was quite honoured when I saw my name on the Kulinarya mailing list to be the one to choose the theme for May 2011, along with Connie of Home Cooking Rocks. Since I joined the KCC way back in June 2010 (naks naman!) with my first post of pancit (noodles), I’ve actually been rather slack with it. But if anyone will forgive you for being lazy, it’s your familia, no?

Connie and I chose the theme Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May). It’s technically Spring in the Philippines and throughout this month, there are many fiesta to honour the Virgin Mary. Her symbols are flowers, especially roses. I’m taking this month’s theme a little personally because my maiden name is also Flores. So, I present to you:

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Eh, okay, so maybe that was a little anti-climactic. Since I didn’t grow up in the Philippines, I actually had no idea of the fiestas until Connie mentioned it. My original suggestion for the theme was actually condensed milk because I wanted to make biko! But that can wait until another post. I did consider going ahead and making biko with Carnation brand condensed milk, but I figured that was a little too troll-ish, even for me.

I’m not a big fan of silicone baking trays, but I was given this one as a birthday present. I must have used it once before since the label’s been removed, but I honestly cannot remember what for.

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Puto – Filipino Steamed Rice Cakes

Makes 16-18 muffin-sized servings
20 minutes preparation time
20 minutes steaming/baking

From Oggi’s Puto Puti recipe: http://oggi-icandothat.blogspot.com/2008/04/puto-steamed-rice-muffins-white-purple.html

3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups rice flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ cups sugar
a pinch of salt
2 cups coconut milk
2 tablespoons water

Food colouring, optional
Ube extract, optional
Shredded cheddar cheese, optional

Roasting tray
Baking tray
Aluminium foil

What’s stopped me from making certain Filipino foods is… that I don’t actually have a steamer. I have a plastic steamer tray that fits in my rice cooker, but that doesn’t fit any of my baking trays, and honestly, it’s really small. But I thought – how a steamer works is basically by heating water until it evaporates, and trapping the moist steam inside a sealed (-ish) container, which then cooks the food.

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So, all I really needed was:

  • heat source
  • hot water
  • food – and a way of containing it
  • tight lid

Hmmm.

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I’m kind of counting the flavourings and colourings in the equipment section since they are optional. I prefer plain white puto (puto puti), but since this was for the Flores de Mayo theme, it had to be more colourful. (PS: I didn’t wind up using the pandan essence, oh well)

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Since the baking tray I was using has a lot of little nooks and crannies, I really had to make sure that it was very well greased. I melted the butter in the microwave, then pre-heated the oven to 180C.

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Sift all the dry ingredients into a big mixing bowl. This time, sugar counts as a dry ingredient.

Start boiling a kettle-full of water. If you’re using a proper steamer, pour the water in and start heating it.

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Add the wet ingredients, and mix well.

Add more water if you need to, but you want the result to be more like a smooth paste, rather than a batter or dough. Since we’re using rice flour, this recipe is actually gluten-free, so mix as much as you want. It’s rather hard going by hand, but since there is so much flour, using a stand mixer would probably coat your kitchen walls with white.

(Nail polish check: ORLY Coffee Break)

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Once you’ve finished mixing, you can split the paste into smaller bowls and mix in your food colouring or extracts. I left half of mine plain, coloured a quarter pink, and added ube extract to the last quarter. I used about 1/4 teaspoon for each.

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Put the baking tray inside the roasting tray, making sure that there is a lot of room around the sides.

Brush the melted butter into every single little nook of the baking tray. Don’t put too much in, but err on the side of making sure things are covered.

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Pour the paste into the baking tray, filling each up no more than half way. The buns will rise, and you don’t want them sticking to the foil later on. And if you’ve made puto before, you’d realise that I’m actually making them upside down. The things I do for blogging!

By now, your kettle should have finished boiling. VERY carefully, pour the hot water into the roasting tray, coming at least halfway up the baking tray. What we’ve got here is a bain-marie, or water bath. This is how you’d cook things like custard and cheesecake, but we need to go one step further to make it a steamer.

Safety note: Put a clean dish towel in the roasting tray underneath the baking tray. This will prevent the baking tray from sliding around. The amount of water you’re putting in should be more than enough to keep the towel from burning or catching fire in the oven.

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Cover the whole thing tightly with foil. You want as tight a seal as possible to keep all the steam in. Now, very VERY carefully, put the whole thing in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes.

If you’re using a normal steamer, steam the puto for the same amount of time. There is no need to cover them.

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I put the left overs into normal muffin trays and steamed those as well. Since these batches were cooking the right-way up, I put some shredded cheese on top before steaming.

If you are using a normal steamer, you would put the cheese on after they’d steamed for 15 minutes.

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The result: flower-shaped, colourful steamed buns, lightly sweet on their own or eaten with savoury dishes like dinuguan – or in my case, Japanese curry. You smell the coconut more than you taste it, and the small amount of ube extract adds another layer of slight sweetness.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and to the #KCC members, I hope you enjoyed this month’s theme!

Have you participated in a themed cookoff? Or have you done weird things to food for blogging purposes? Let me know in the comments!

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