I was so delighted to attend the other weekend the cooking demo conducted by Amy Besa at the Maya Kitchen Culinary Center in Makati. One of the dishes she demonstrated was pinipig cookies, which she has been baking since she was a teenager. It’s one of the recipes in the book Memories of Philippine Kitchens, written by Amy and her husband Romy Dorotan.
Here’s my article on Amy’s cooking demo and on the pinipig cookies, published in my DIY column last Thursday in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
IN 2006, AMY BESA AND ROMY DOROTAN CAME UP WITH an in-depth book on Philippine cuisine titled Memories of Philippine Kitchens. Hardbound, with photographs by Neal Oshima and published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang (an imprint of Harry N. Abrams Inc.), the book is 232 pages of recipes, photographs, cooking tips, reminiscences and culinary wisdom. It covers nearly everything one needs to know about a cuisine that’s both loved (by many) yet unknown (to others)—from traditions to topography, from foreign influences to the regional variations that make Filipino cuisine so rich and diverse.
I can just imagine the amount of research that went into the making of this book. To collect and compile its contents, Amy and Romy travelled the length and breadth of the Philippines. Their interviews with home cooks were interspersed with cooking demonstrations and eating sessions that lasted well into the afternoon. Most touching are Amy’s own memories of family meals and her grandmother’s cooking. The reader can sense, in her every word, the affection that surrounded every dish that was served and eaten, and how this later on led her to a journey of rediscovery.
Deservedly, the book won the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) 2007 Jane Grigson Award for scholarship in the quality of its research and writing. It was also a finalist for the Julia Child First Book Award.
But perhaps one should not be surprised that a book of this magnitude should come from Amy and Romy. After all they’ve been trail blazers for years; it was they who opened Cendrillon Restaurant in New York City back in 1995, when Filipino food was struggling to win its own recognition in a world that seemed suddenly focused on cuisine. The restaurant was a huge success, so much so that on most nights all the tables would be occupied. It was a wonderful place not only for Filipinos to recapture the tastes of their homeland but also for them to introduce their foreign friends to their culinary heritage.
A few years ago, after the couple closed Cendrillon, they opened Purple Yam in Ditmas Park in Brooklyn, serving more of the beloved cuisine rooted in their country. To the joy of our own local food aficionados, Purple Yam recently opened a branch in Malate.
A few weeks ago, Amy shared some favorite recipes at the Maya Kitchen Culinary Arts Center. The crowd of cooking enthusiasts watched in awe as she demonstrated how to cook kulawong talong (grilled eggplants with coconut cream), PHOTO BELOW
kinagang (coconut with crabmeat, wrapped in banana leaves), ukoy (shrimp fritters) and pinipig cookies. The dishes were quite a revelation. Imagine grilled eggplant that’s been cooked with burnt coconut cream, or adobo made not with pork but with gently tenderized beef ribs.
And as Amy said during the cooking demonstration, although ukoy is very common, no two of them are ever alike.
Here, Amy’s recipe for pinipig cookies, which was served at the Maya Kitchen with creamy avocado ice cream. I tried cooking them at home and found them to be so crunchy and addicting—what a delicious way to make cookies using a homegrown Filipino ingredient.
(Recipe of Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan, from the book “Memories of Philippine Kitchens”)
1 ½ c pinipig
½ c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
¾ c sugar
2 large eggs
½ tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 c Maya all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and set rack in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Grease 2 baking sheets.
2. Warm a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pinipig and toast, stirring, until lightly browned and aromatic, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
3. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Beat in the lemon rind.
4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine. Stir in the pinipig.
5. Drop the dough by heaping teaspoons onto the baking sheets 2 inches apart and press down with the tines of a fork. Bake the cookies in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, rotating the pans and switching the position of the baking sheets halfway through baking, until lightly browned around the edges, about 12 minutes. Let cool on the sheets for a couple of minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely and bake the second batch on the cooled sheets.
Serve with ice cream, if desired.
Tips from Amy Besa:
- Use only good quality pinipig. (For the Maya cooking demonstration, she used pinipig from Cavite.)
- Do only small circles of batter because it spreads out a lot.
- Likewise space the batter wide apart (at least two inches) on the cookie sheets.
- Instead of greasing the pans, you can line them with nonstick baking paper.
The Maya Kitchen Culinary Center is located on the 8F Liberty Building, 835 A. Arnaiz Avenue, Makati City with numbers 8921185 / 892-5011 local 108 / Mobile No. +63947 835 2290. For more information on other courses, log on to www.themayakitchen.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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