I have yet to figure out why among all the Filipino pastries, there is none I associate more with Christmas than bibingka. Even though it has become pretty mainstream these days, I still cannot help but feel this way. I’ve told the story before– about how it became such a part of my Christmas childhood because my Mom always bought me one after mass– and even though it’s been so many years since we’ve done that, I still remember the warmth that the bibingka, with a square of toasted banana leaf underneath to give it that lovely earthy smell, gave my little heart.
But aside from bibingka, you know what else I suddenly feel myself drawn to during Christmas? Hot chocolate. I love chocolate, but since I am a coffee kind of gal I tend to forget about hot chocolate the rest of the year– until the chill in the weather arrives and the season becomes conducive for cozy-ing up with a cup of steaming hot chocolate and extra large clothes.
Vacation mode with bibingka and hot cocoa? I’ll take a double order of that!
Wow, the word “vacation” seems like such an alien word to me now. Back when I was a student, the signal for Christmas cheer to start flooding through my veins would be the last day of my final exams. I remember our enthusiasm bouncing off the white stretch of our university hallway as my friends and I rushed out of the classroom after submitting our papers. We whisper-shouted “IT’S CHRISTMAS BREAAAAAK!” as loud as we dared, lest we get in trouble for causing a ruckus. (Not on our last day of school for the year!)
Still, the bright looks we cast each other is enough. Before heading home we would have our Christmas meal together, exchange gifts, take lots of photos. Then once home, I’m sure I am one in the million of students who start lounging around without a care in the world, get up late the next morning and stay in my pajamas until noon…
Man those were the days.
Looking back, it would be an understatement to say that my life is starkly different now. For the past two years I can only feel that Christmas has arrived when people start saying “Merry Christmas!”, or I guess when work gets suspended on the 23rd for the holidays? I probably wouldn’t get that sense of Christmas cheer anymore if I weren’t making recipes for this blog and seeking out inspiration from the blogs out there that I follow.
Yep, the way I spend Christmas is really different now. Less gifts under the tree to open for starters! I don’t get to see my friends as much as I’d like. Every time I am caught off-guard by the arrival of Christmas season it is a reminder that this is the real world. I can’t remember the last time I fully enjoyed a “weekend” since I work on Saturdays. At first it was such a bitter moment for me to realize that I can’t go back to that happy-go-lucky life, but as more time passed I’ve realized that I’m only wasting my energies by feeling bad about it or complaining. I adjusted, and so I can say that my life right now is pretty good even though it has changed drastically from my student days. I’ve accepted that, and I’ve accepted as well that it’s a part of life to miss those days too. 🙂
One thing I can’t quite accept, since we’re on that topic, is how makers of the traditional bibingka seem to have dwindled in number compared to the commercialised versions. When I was a kid the best bibingka I ever ate was sold in church yards during Christmas, and it’s those kinds of bibingka I always yearn for. They taste wonderfully like a secret recipe passed on through generations and have the utmost homemade feel to them. Guess that’s what makes it so uniquely Christmas to me– the concept of home sweet home, where your family is. These feelings I’ve attached to the bibingka propel me every year to keep trying recipe after recipe in hopes of achieving the same bibingka of my childhood memories.
The two previous years that I’ve made bibingka it wasn’t a hundred-percent success, though I am happy to report that the second year’s results were much better than the first. This year I am trying out yet another bibingka recipe, and by jove you guys, I think I’ve got it! Finally!
The thing that I’ve been missing all the previous years is the characteristic fluffy texture of a good bibingka, and it seems that using REGULAR rice flour instead of glutinous rice flour does the trick. Before, I had the golden colour and the shape, but the soft bite was missing. This year, I was short of banana leaf thus the parchment paper substitution, plus I did forget to buy some desiccated coconut to sprinkle this with, and yet the resulting bibingka texture was spot-on! The shape isn’t though because I had filled my muffin cups with too much batter, causing the bibingka to rise too high and become to big-bellied. It also caused my toppings to sink to the middle as the cakes rose so I had to top the bibingka again, which is why in the recipe below I recommend baking the cakes a little bit before placing the toppings– or you know, just placing the toppings AFTER baking is fine too.
Anyway, all that feels like nit-picking in this case because topped with cheese and salted eggs like this, these bibingka were, for lack of a better word, the most perfect version I’ve made to date. I’ll just spend some time perfecting this recipe without a need to search out another!
And because I was so happy about the success of this year’s bibingka I decided to add a little something to make eating it a bit more special… In the form of Hot Chocolate spiked with rum! I’ve fallen in love with using rum in baking to be honest, so I always have it in my pantry and am always looking for things to put it in. (I also am in love with my snowflake mug. Isn’t it just the most Christmasy thing ever?!)
For this hot chocolate, the rum isn’t really that strong, but you can feel it like a little kick of heat at the back of your throat when you drink. You have all the control as to how much rum you put anyway so use as little or as much as you please.
As for the taste… Well it’s still predominantly chocolate but there’s a light fruitiness in there, I suppose you could say. Kind of reminiscent to when you place orange peel in chocolate, but the taste of the rum isn’t too clear-cut. I don’t know how else to explain it but the important thing I think is that you will not get drunk if you consume this so don’t worry. Unless that is your intention, in which case just drink the rum and leave the chocolate out of it! 😀
Fluffy Bibingka with Rum-Spiked Hot Chocolate
Makes about 10 to 12 bibingka using a large muffin pan + 2 cups of hot chocolate
For the Bibingka
- Banana leaves, optional but highly recommended
- 1½ cups regular rice flour, not glutinous
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- ¾ cup sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten until thick and lemon-colored
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 4 Tablespoons melted butter
- Kesong puti, farmer's white cheese or cheddar cheese, sliced into ¼-inch thick strips
- Salted eggs, sliced into thin strips (optional)
- Unsweetened/fresh shredded coconut, optional
- Butter, sugar, and shredded cheese (optional)
For the Rum Hot Cocoa
- 2 cups milk
- 110 grams dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 Tablespoons Rum, more or less according to preference
- Marshmallows, for serving (optional)
Make the bibingka
- 1. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Line muffin cups with banana leaves, greasing if desired. If not, use square pieces of parchment paper larger than the muffin cups.
- 2. In a medium bowl, add the rice flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, eggs, coconut milk, and butter. Mix until well incorporated. Batter should be runny.
- 3. Fill the cups half-full; these bibingka rise quite a bit. Bake initially for about 10 minutes before topping with strips of cheese and salted eggs. (I found that the toppings sink if I place them before baking.) Bake for 5 minutes more, or until tops are golden brown.
- 4. For the topping if desired, spread some butter and sprinkle a bit of sugar. Top with more shredded cheese and grated coconut.
Make the hot cocoa
- 5. Scald the milk in a saucepan, making sure it doesn't come to a boil.
- 6. Remove from heat and add the chocolate, whisking until melted and smooth.
- 7. Stir in the amount of rum depending to how strong you want it to taste. (2 Tablespoons is a good amount, I think.) Top with marshmallows before serving, if desired.
Wow I wasn’t expecting this post to be so long! At first I was talking about my attachment to bibingka, the next thing I was strolling down memory lane! Why am I so sentimental during Christmas season?
I am sure I’m not the only one who has fond memories with bibingka in the picture. I hope you try this recipe and enjoy the flashbacks! 🙂