There are about a million kinds of breads in the world and I love trying them all. French breads and Japanese breads are among my favourites, but I always- always– find myself drifting back to Filipino bread at the end of the day. There’s something about them that’s so comforting; something that fills me with strong feelings related to home and belongingness more than any other Filipino food so far I think. My soul food, I guess you can call it.
Whatever time of the day, nothing beats having a piping hot cup of coffee in one hand and a warm piece of fluffy pan de sal in the other. Unless of course you choose to have another type of Filipino bread, in which case you shouldn’t need worry since they all go well with coffee (and by that I mean as something you dip in your cup of joe). One of my life’s simple joys really: Eating coffee-dipped warm bread especially in the morning. It allows me that one true peaceful moment before I go out and face what usually is a day full of stress and toxicity.
I am really glad I live in a country that has such great love for bread. The selection of Filipino breads is truly so colourful that I think I should make it my mission to recreate each of them at home. One of my favourites aside from the pan de sal is actually these breads that originate all the way from the province of Quezon called pinagong. I can’t quite explain why I love them. I just do. They’re wonderfully dense (they remind me of a tennis ball when I hold them actually) yet they are surprisingly soft to the bite. They’re also very fragrant and quite milky in taste with just a light sweetness to them.
Quezon is actually at least about 3 to 4 hours away from Manila by car, so the pinagong is not exactly something that’s easily accessible to me. Sometimes when a craving hits, it’s frustrating to have to wait around for someone we know to visit Quezon just so I can have my pinagong fix. But those times are too few and far in between that I decided to just find myself a recipe and attempt to replicate them at home. I can’t tell you enough how glad I am that I did just that!
This recipe is great because it’s actually a 3-in-1 recipe that allowed me to make 2 other kinds of popular Filipino breads that are fundamentally the same texture and taste as the pinagong. The only difference among the three is how the dough is scored on top, giving them a certain identifier. The putok is actually the first dense bread I tried as a child and I remember loving it a lot but not eating it often as it was a bit too heavy for my smaller appetite back then. Putok is the Filipino word for ‘explosion’, referring to the cross-shaped cut on top of the bread that looks as though something erupted from its center.
Next there is the monay, where we have the cut right down in the middle to make two separate “cheeks”. It’s a great bread for sharing because you can just tear half the bread off with ease. This is a favourite snack-time bread and is sold pretty much in every hole-in-the-wall family-owned bakery in the country (that translates to nearly every street corner in Manila, by the way), and while dipping it in coffee is optional, it is highly highly recommended. Filipinos love local coffee as much as local breads!
Both the monay and putok are more accessible to me here in the city, but I honestly can’t explain to you why the pinagong is my specific favourite. Must have something to do with the way it looks. Pagong is the Filipino word for ‘turtle’ and that is exactly what the cuts on top of the bread are made to remind you of. Maybe I find the shape of the breads cute? In any case, when I made this recipe and they came out tasting EXACTLY like the Cadiz brand of pinagong I always receive from Quezon, I was ecstatic!
Something I noticed while I was making this– and I’m not sure if it was because the weather was too warm– but my dough was a little too sticky and damp. Next time I will probably lessen the water or add more flour to the dough to make it a little smoother. The dough was a bit hard to shape and score because it was too soft, requiring me to cut into the dough a little deeper (and deforming the rounds just a tad bit). The scores I made on the surface actually rose along with the bread as it baked, so I decided to slice into the dough again halfway through baking while it was still quite soft, just to make sure they are more apparent.
The instructions were to pop the bread directly into the oven after shaping and scoring so as to lessen their resting time. Apparently this will help attain that density in the breads that I love so much. Unfortunately because I spent a lot of time struggling with scoring my soft dough (ultimately giving my dough some resting time), my breads did not bake as dense as those of Cadiz’s.
It’s actually quite a minor complaint as some might argue they like breads a bit softer in crumb, but either way I guarantee it will be no less delicious. I did however bake it about 8 minutes more because I really wanted to get that dark golden colouring on the crust.
Monay, Pinagong, or Putok
Makes about 12 buns
- 1¼ cups lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- ½ cup sugar
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 Tablespoons soft butter
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 cups bread flour
- ½ cup milk powder
- 1. Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).
- 2. In a standing mixer with the kneading hook attachment, add the ingredients in the order as written. Mix on low until combined.
- 3. Knead on medium for 5 minutes or until smooth. Transfer the dough into a greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic film, and let rest on the kitchen counter for 1 hour. Dough does not rise a great deal, but it does a little.
- 4. Lightly knead the dough and divide: for monay and pinagong into 4-ounce portions; for putok into 2-ounce pieces.
- 5. Shape dough into rounds, flatten slightly, and place on a baking sheet 2 inches apart. For putok, make a deep long cross on top surface of dough. For monay, make a deep slash right down the middle. For pinagong, make 4 quarter-inch deep slashes.
- 6. Immediately bake in the preheated oven until golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.*
- 7. This bread is supposed to be full-bodied and dense, but if a softer bread is desired, let the buns rest for half an hour covered with plastic film, before baking. However they buns will not ave the correct texture for monay/putok/pinagong as they will be too fluffy already.
If there was such a thing as a “happy bread”, then the pinagong would deinitely be mine. 🙂