Shibuya Toast is a dessert commonly found in Japanese or Korean cafe franchises. It is, in essence, what it is: toast slathered with sweet toppings. However, the toast in question is definitely not the same toast you scarf down for breakfast. Au contraire, what these establishments do is grab a hunk of bread – say a quarter of an unsliced loaf – chuck it into the oven to crisp up, then load it up with syrups and conserves and goodness knows what else.
For this reason, I’ve never been inclined to order it. For all that I’m for decadent desserts, turning your toast into a groaning behemoth of massive, sugary proportions is just overkill.
For the same reason, I prefer a little more constraint to my dessert toast. I don’t want a hunk of bread; a somewhat thicker-cut sandwich slice works enough for me. I don’t need all the bells and whistles of Nutella, matcha syrup, chocolate ganache, and gobs of sweetened adzuki bean.
Truth be told, all I need is a generous schmear of good peanut butter thickly slathered over the bread and a drizzle of wild honey. Five minutes in the toaster gives the peanut butter a richer flavor and renders the honey crisp like thin, wispy shards of properly made caramel. I finish it off with a scoop of plain, honest-to-goodness vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of more honey. Easier to eat, no need to share; a divinely decadent dessert for one given elegant restraint.
Things have changed since that post: I now work in Makati (again) and, while there are no churrerias within my immediate vicinity, I am grateful that I can get a cruller-fix on weekends at La Maripili Churreria at the Alabang Town Center.
La Maripili is located at the Corporate Center, the newest building in the ATC grounds, and is a little difficult to find at first. But, trust me: it’s worth looking for.
First impressions: a clean space reminiscent of Spanish interiors just after the turn of the last century or of Southern/Caribbean plantation interiors; plenty of wood and wicker, some bits and bobs of wrought iron; and mirrors on the walls. A refreshing place where one can relax, really. You can opt to hop onto a bar stool or sit at more conventional tables.
But I am, of course, not here for the decor: I’m here for the churros!
A small serve of churros sets you back P 60.00 and you throw in an additional P 110.00 for a cup of smoky-dark hot chocolate.
Mind you, though: these aren’t the skinny sticks you’d get at most lower-market establishments. For scale, look below:
These crullers are as long as an average-sized glossy magazine is wide. Again: you get six of these beasties to a serve and they’re the perfect size for sharing. However, for hardened churro-holics like myself, these are just the right size to enjoy for a solo breakfast on a lazy Saturday morning.
These come in a paper cone and are lightly sprinkled with granulated white sugar; every order is freshly-fried so these come to you all crispy-hot and golden.
Sans chocolate, these are nifty on their own: there is an eggy, buttery savor to each bite that you crunch through. But if you dip these into the chocolate, every bite becomes divinely decadent and you are torn between scarfing down the lot before they get soggy or leisurely crunching through the lot one by one.
Flavored churros(P 60.00 per piece)are also on the menu at this particular churreria and diners are spoilt for choice between sweet and savory options.
Here, oversized churro tubes are either pierced at the ends and piped through with creamy custards for sweet options (rumor has it that the classic crema Catalana and chocolate and chili mousse are quite popular) or split on one side and filled with either smoky-salty jamon Serrano or slices of paprika-spiced chorizo; the latter is finished off with a drizzle of honey.
The latter is a rather posh spin on a hotdog: a nifty little sandwich (or, to put it in context, bocadito) that is portable and easily noshable. The sausage is said to be in-house and is excellent: just the right amount of paprika, deliciously porky, and has an even ratio of fat to lean. The honey adds a light sweetness that offsets the spice and works beautifully against the eggy taste of the churro. While putting a sausage into a cruller sounds ridiculous, I suggest you try it at least once – and you’ll find yourself craving for one. Oh, and if you’re hankering for more substantial savory fare, La Maripili also has savory toast and sandwich options to choose from.
And, if you’re still craving for something sweet, this shop also has a selection of chocolate-covered churros(P 40 for classic dark or white chocolate; P 60 for fruit-infused white chocolate) you will be glad to sink your teeth into.
All things considered, La Maripili is definitely a place I’d be happy to return to…and I’ll be more than happy to head on back.
La Maripili Churreria: Ground Floor – Corporate Center, Alabang Town Center, Alabang, Muntinlupa
With the Lunar New Year coming up, supermarkets here in the Philippines are all stocking up on tikoy – large translucent discs of steamed glutinous rice dough that are usually sliced up, dipped in egg wash, deep-fried, and eaten for breakfast. Practically the same thing as Japanese mochi, tikoy is supposed to symbolise good fortune and prosperity for the coming year.
Unfortunately, as a food, it isn’t very exciting. Even the kind flavoured with ube (purple yam) and pandan (screwpine) tend to be bland and just faintly sweet. Again: not a very exciting thing to eat and bother the fact that it represents good fortune and wealth.
For those of us who are just so done with tikoy, Korean grocers here in the Philippines offer several interesting variations on the classic glutinous rice cake. Baram tteok, shown at the top of this post, is one of them.
These are half-moons made by folding discs of steamed glutinous rice dough over a mildly sweet, slightly nutty-tasting red bean [adzuki] paste (an in Japanese). The pink ones are tinted with food colouring, but the dark green ones in the bottom row are flavoured with green tea or a blend of edible herbs. The resulting deep-green cakes have an exterior whose flavour has a pleasant bitterness that is balanced by the bean paste within.
For those of you wanting something chunkier and more substantial to sink your teeth into, kyeotteok may grab your fancy.
These are slabs of steamed glutinous rice dough over which a sumptuous, lightly sweetened topping is scattered. The mixture scattered over kyeotteok can be a simple mix of sweetened beans and nuts; more elaborate confections may also include jujubes and oriental dates, perhaps some shreds of dried peach or apricot and diced dried persimmon for a honeyed sweetness. The resulting cake is then sliced into more manageable slabs for serving.
May I just say that both are particularly comforting and satisfying when eaten with a good cup of green or jasmine tea, or perhaps a mug of bittersweet and citrusy yujacha. Whichever you prefer, these Korean rice cakes make an interesting alternative to a traditional Oriental sweet.
Incidentally… For those who want to try these Korean desserts, I bought them over at Sun-Han Korean Mart on the Ground Floor of Fort Palm Spring, 1st Ave. corner 30th St., Upper West Side, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. The baram tteok goes for P 100.00 for a tray of nine pieces; the kyeotteok is P 25.00 for a tray of four slabs.
At this time of year, the weather is getting a little colder (just a little; we’re currently in the throes of the El Nino) so there are those of us who start craving for something heftier when mid-afternoon rolls around and it’s time for tea. This means crisps and soda are no longer de rigeur, but it isn’t cold enough just yet for stodgier fare like kakanin (rice cakes) or bowls of champorado (chocolate rice porridge) and congee. No: this time of year calls for things that fall in between: sandwiches, perhaps; cupcakes and biscuits/cookies; and, of course, ensaymada.
Inspired by the Mallorcan ensaimada (soft eggy dough dipped into melted lard [saim] or butter before being coiled and baked), this rich yeast bread is usually slathered on top with butter and sprinkled with sugar and/or grated cheese after baking. That, of course, goes for the regular version of ensaymada. Believe me when I say it can get pretty fancy.
The ensaymada espesyal varies depending on which bakeshop you go to. If you get one from Eurobake in Malolos, Bulacan, you get a version that’s more buttery than the regular kind and has sliced salted duck eggs on top to cut some of the sweetness with a salty contrast. Some of the larger bakeshop chains in urban areas offer ensaymadas that are filled with ham; more bespoke ones tout buns filled with gobbets of rich, dark Belgian chocolate or slathered with sweetly golden dulce de leche.
I prefer my ensaymada more on the savoury side rather than sweet, so my go-to bun is the one from Pan de Manila. Golden with butter and egg yolks, this roll has but a bare scattering of sugar on top and a regular snowdrift of shredded sharp Cheddar. While this is gloriously decadent on its own, it gains further glory by being popped into a toaster oven for three minutes for the outside to crisp up, the cheese toasty in spots and melting in others.
Rather than coffee, though, this is better eaten with a bottle of cold milk tea for a bit of afternoon bliss; a slight pocket in which to relax towards the end of a busy day.
The combination of butter and honey is something I find irresistibly appealing. It’s the sort of flavour combination I enjoy when it soaks into fluffy golden breakfast pancakes, when it melts within a hot, split pan de sal or a toasted English muffin. I’ll even go out on a limb and say it also works on a hot croissant. (Butter on butter? Yes, please!) So when I saw these honey-butter flavoured Kko Kkal Corn snacks from Korea’s Lotte, I just had to grab a bag.
The honey butter Kko KKal Corn is actually just one of a number of snacks introduced to the Korean market earlier this year, hot on the heels of the honey butter craze that swept that part of the world. I mean, really: everything in the SoKor snack market seemed to smack of honey butter: potato crisps, French fries, crackers, puff pastry leaf pies – name it and it came in golden yellow packaging that released a puff of a honey-ish aroma once opened.
If you love the taste of salted butter caramel, you’ll love these. These aren’t much to look at, but they are deliciously addictive. Not too sweet, just enough salt to grab your palate; crunchy and totally noshable. If you’re a popcorn junkie like I am, this will remind you of sweet-salty kettle-popped corn. Definitely a snack to consider the next time you go to the movies – or just about anytime. 🙂
I have a confession to make: puff pastry is one of my guilty pleasures. I am absolutely mad about the texture – so crisp and flaky on the outside, so moreishly tender within; the rich, buttery flavour is something I crave for from time to time. There is just something about pastries made with luscious dough laminated all throughout with the richness of pure butter. Sure, they’re absolutely calorific; sure, they wreak havoc upon your waistline – but, sod it: give me puff pastry or suffer the consequences!
That said, one particular indulgence I love every once in a while is a gourmandise from the local franchise of popular Parisian patisserie/boulangeriePaul. The gourmandise is a pastry standard, I think, to all branches of the patisserie throughout the world. In substance, it is a sheet of puff pastry folded over or sandwiched around a filling of rich, custardy, vanilla-infused creme patisserie and a more than generous scattering of dark chocolate morsels throughout that custard-bellied middle.
This is the sort of pastry that sends shivers down my spine, I kid you not. You bite through the buttery crispness of the surface and sink your teeth into the custardy centre, the vanilla middle rich, creamy, and subtly sweet. The dark chocolate seems to punctuate it, spots of a rich bittersweetness against the silky creme.
It’s not the sort of thing you’d nosh on everyday, but it’s just the thing you need when you want something rich and indulgent to get you through the afternoon.
I’ve meant to post this particular entry for ages. For some weird reason, however, other things took precedence and this topic was stuck on the backburner for a while.
For nearly a decade, I’ve been working with chocolate. Initially, this was because I was helping friends out with the Chocolate Appreciation 101 lectures over at Heavenly Chocolates in Quezon City. (Alas, the HC is now closed.) Later, it was more of a way to put a smile on friends’ faces: the dark chocolate and salted cashew mendiants for the person whom I consider my best friend, for one. Truffles infused with lavender vodka for a friend who had the blues. Mochi filled with one ganache or another.
And then, there were peanut butter cups.
The thing about peanut butter cups is that these are, believe it or not, one of my guiltiest pleasures. Anything with chocolate, I love. Anything with peanut butter, I eat. (Heck, I have been known to sneak tablespoonfuls of the stuff straight out of the jar.) Bring those two together as in the case of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or those newfangled peanut butter Snickers bars, and I am a lost cause.
These homespun peanut butter cups, however, have a little backstory to them. In a nutshell, this involves the person whom I consider my best friend, the crowd down at the Boiler Room (whom I miss because I haven’t seen them since Clem and Ian left for the tour), my boss (!), and a dinky little recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess. Specifically, this recipe was for peanut butter squares: think Reese’s, but bigger – hunks of the good stuff, even!
In HtBaDG, the recipe is found in the section for Children: kiddie party food, kitschy cookie cutouts, Barbie cakes…you know the sort. When I decided to make these, though, I added a few grown-up twists. One batch had an alcohol-enhanced chocolate topping; another had a spicy peanut-butter filling. In its final iteration, I’ve incorporated spices traditionally used for gingerbread or spice cake.; plus, the topping involves dark chocolate as opposed to milk. It’s a touch that elevates this kid-pleasing sweet into a snack even grown-ups will enjoy.
Grown-Up Peanut Butter Cups
50 grams muscovado / dark brown sugar
150 grams confectioner’s / icing sugar
200 grams crunchy / chunky peanut butter
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
dash of ground black pepper (optional)
scant 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
200 grams dark chocolate
100 grams milk chocolate or Meiji Black Chocolate (this Japanese confection is actually milk chocolate but has a higher percentage of cocoa solids)
1 tablespoon olive oil or margarine
Line a mini-muffin tin with small-size paper cupcake liners; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the brown and icing sugars, peanut butter, and – if using them – the spices. Mix until well-combined. Press a rounded tablespoon of the mixture into the prepared tin. Set aside.
Break up the chocolates and place in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave at medium or high for a minute. Remove from the microwave and mix till all of the chocolate has melted. Add the oil or margarine and mix until the consistency is more or less fluid. Pour the melted chocolate over the peanut butter bases in increments of 1 tablespoon per cup.
Chill for at least 45 minutes. Remove from the tins and store in the fridge in a covered container.