There’s no better way to cap off a hearty Filipino meal than with something light and sweet for dessert. No, not ice cream or milkshakes, although those are great too—we’re talking about native Filipino desserts. If you think sweets have no place in Filipino cuisine, you can’t be further from the truth. From simple sugar-raised doughnuts to elaborate cakes, there’s always a sweet Filipino food that’s sure to satisfy that sweet tooth.
But one dessert that deserves a mention is the Filipino pastry. Although not as popular as our kakanin or rice cakes, Filipino pastries are a steady favorite in many regions. They’re also a great start if you want to bake your own Filipino desserts recipes. They don’t require as much attention as kakanin, but they give you just the same sweetness. Here are some of the most popular pastries in Filipino cuisine, plus some recipes to help you get started.
It’s hardly surprising that one of our favorite desserts comes from our top fruit export. Outside the country, buko pie is sold in pre-packed frozen slices, so we’re lucky to get it here fresh and hot, not to mention cheap. It is a popular pasalubong for people who go south of Luzon, particularly to Laguna, Quezon, and Batangas. The filling is made from young coconut flesh mixed with macapuno, coconut milk, cream, and sometimes caramel. Most bakeries carry a cheaper version of the pie made from sweetened coconut juice and flour. If you feel like making your own, here’s an easy recipe you can try.
Ingredients: 2 c all-purpose flour 2/3 c shortening 1 egg yolk ¼ c cold water 1 tsp salt 1 tsp vinegar 4 c shredded coconut meat 300ml condensed milk 2/3 c cornstarch 1 c coconut water
Procedure: Preheat your oven to about 435oF. In a bowl, combine the salt and flour and cut in the shortening until they form pea-sized pieces. In a separate bowl, mix the egg yolk, water and vinegar, then add to the flour mixture. Mix until the dough is soft and pliable. Split the dough into two balls, one part a bit bigger. Roll out the bigger dough until it’s slightly bigger than your pie plate. Fit into the plate and let hang over the sides. Roll out the smaller dough, then set aside. In a saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients and cook until thick. Let it cook for about 15 minutes, then pour into the crust. Cover with the smaller dough, seal the edges, and bake for about one hour.
For a quick, cheap sugar fix, boat tarts are your best option. These are small, open pastries with a filling of caramel, langka (jackfruit), mango, or some other sweetened fruit. You can find them pre-packed in most groceries and cafeterias. They are a popular dessert for school lunches, mainly because they are fairly cheap and go well with most Filipino food recipes. If you can pull off a simple cake, boat tarts shouldn’t be a problem.
Pili Nut Tarts
Ingredients: 1 kg all-purpose flour ½ kg ground pili nuts 1 cup butter 1 cup sugar 1 cup condensed milk 1 cup ice water
Procedure: Mix the flour and sugar, and cut in the butter until they form small pea-sized balls. Slowly add in the water, stirring along the sides to help the dough hold together. Form the dough into small balls, then roll out about 1/8 inch thick. Press into tart molds and prick the sides and base with a fork. Bake the dough for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the condensed milk, sugar, and ground nuts. Pour into the baked crusts and top with pili slices. Return to the oven and bake until the filling turns golden brown.
Filipino macaroons are made with coconut shavings, which make them chewier than flour-based American ones. It’s actually one of the easiest Filipino cooking recipes, so it’s a great starter recipe for beginners. This one puts an unusual twist on the basic recipe.
Ingredients : 1 cup desiccated coconut ½ cup coconut cream powder 1 tsp pandan extract ¼ cup melted butter 1 ¼ cup sugar ¼ cup bread crumbs 3 eggs, separated 1 ¼ cup warm water green food color salt to taste
Procedure: Preheat your oven to 320oF. Grease a baking pan with butter and sprinkle a little flour to coat. In a bowl, mix the water and coconut cream powder, then set aside. Beat egg whites until they get foamy, then beat in the yolks. Combine the bread crumbs, desiccated coconut, sugar, salt, and butter. Add in the egg mixture, dissolved coconut cream, food color, and pandan extract. Mix well and pour into the pan. Spread evenly and shake down to compact the batter. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the sides are browned.
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Carlo Villamayor is the owner and co-author of the Filipino food blog, Kusina.ph. A devoted cook, he makes it his personal mission to spread the joy of Filipino desserts recipes with food lovers the world over. Bon appetit!