If you saw my previous post on Puto, A study then you already know a lot about my frustrations with this recipe. For one, I was always raised believing this was a steamed rice cake but it turns out there isn’t a speck of rice flour in it. In addition, it was one of those recipes I had to find and research myself despite having a Filipino mother. My sister shared in this frustration so I dedicate this episode and the next episode (coming next week) on kutsinta to her.
If you didn’t happen to read my other post on puto (I recommend that you do, I think it’s interesting… but I would since I wrote it) then let me go ahead and describe puto for you. Puto is a muffin-like pastry that’s very popular in the Philippines. It’s has a mild, sweet, dough-like flavor that appeals to most people and because it’s so plain it goes great with almost all dishes, savory and sweet, and is particularly great with barbecue. In fact, puto-pao is a dish that has meat in the middle of it, similar to Chinese pork buns. Puto is a very dense dough so don’t expect it to be as light as a pork bun though. It’s relatively easy to make puto-pao by putting cooked meat into the middle of the batter before steaming. If all goes well, the puto will rise above and around the meat – as opposed to just rise upward and pushing it out. It is also common for puto to have cheddar or a similar cheese on top, usually baked in during the last 5 minutes of the steaming process. I personally can’t stand it when puto has cheese on top, but some people just love it.
Traditional puto has a flavoring added called pandan. It is a leafy plant and is very common in Asian cooking. Pandan has a deep nutty and earthy flavor. Pandan is mostly used in rice dishes or dishes with coconut. If you can find natural extract grab it while you can. It seems that it sells like hotcakes. The artificial flavoring is almost always available. Both are available in Asian markets, especially Filipino markets. If you don’t have pandan or don’t want to use it, vanilla extract works just as well.
One important point I should bring up is that even though puto is steamed, if it soaks up water shortly after the steaming process it will be ruined – oh the irony. So make sure that after you remove your puto from the steamer, if any water has collected in the cups that you dump it out as soon as you can. If it is allowed to seep in, you’ll get this mushy ball of goop that is edible but unbelievably unpleasant to eat. It’s like eating a sponge, every gushy bit bursts with water and the mild flavor is reduced to bland and tasteless. For the love of puto, don’t let your puto sit in water!
Anyways, the recipe is extremely easy to make (after all it’s nothing more than pancake batter) and steams in just under 25 minutes so I definitely recommend trying it! Here is the recipe for puto, Filipino steamed cake, and enjoy the video below. Thanks for watching!
*Update: My dog just loves puto! I don’t know if it’s necessarily a healthy treat but considering the recipe isn’t anything more than pancake batter I’m sure it couldn’t do much harm! Thought I would share : )
*UPDATE (2/25/12): A few more experiments have revealed that using coconut milk instead of evaporated milk makes them extra light and fluffy. Though they don’t have the perfect dome shape the flavor and texture is amazing. Here’s a picture I took with my phone.