In Which There are Sweets from Cloistered Sisters…

Alfajores y cuchipan

Alfajores y cuchipan

I’ve been a naughty little biscuit, dear readers.  I’ve not posted anything here on Midge in the Kitchen for nearly a month now.  (The last post is actually dated 05th March!)  Life has been absolutely crazy for me: projects at work, a novel in the works (out this April…I hope!), going for passion projects (mine and a friend’s). and enjoying myself.  It’s been mostly good, really, and I regret nothing.

About a couple weeks ago, I got the opportunity to take a break and go on a spiritual retreat over at the Carmelite Missionaries’ Centre for Spirituality over in breezy Tagaytay for a couple of days and it was what a world-weary soul needed to get back in sync.  And, on the way home, I went and picked up a few treats for those back in the city.

The Good Shepherd Sisters are an order synonymous with the ube [purple yam] and strawberry jams that have long been a staple souvenir of those coming back from the northern resort province of Baguio.  This cloistered order is also popular for its peanut brittle and angel cookies (buttery biscuits with host cuttings – the edges left from cutting out communion wafers).  More recently, the order opened a convent in Tagaytay and also opened a shop whose proceeds are used for the vocational education of youngsters from less fortunate families.

What I opted for on this particular visit were the alfajores and the cuchipan.  The former is a variation on the classic Argentinian biscuit where shortbread circles are sandwiched with rich, unctuous dulce de leche.  The Good Shepherd version is lighter: sugary, crumbly, buttery shortbread discs sandwiched with a rather challengingly-textured sugar syrup filling.  Pretty passable, in my opinion, and a nice thing to pair with a cup of coffee.

More successful was the cuchipan, those vividly green discs shown above.  Cuchipan is a pandan (screwpine)-flavoured spin on cuchintaa chewy steamed cake made with brown sugar and galapong (glutinous rice flour).  The interesting thing about it is that it separates into two layers when cooked: a chewy, mochi-like layer below, a creamy and custardy layer on top.  Subtly herbaceous and not too sweet, it made for a nice little coffee break treat.  And, really, the coconut that came with it was practically optional as the cakes were good on their own.