There was a lot of laughter that afternoon, even though the discussion was about being a serious food writer and researcher. The mood was light, perhaps because the guests knew each other, or perhaps because of the nature of the experiences recounted by writers Amy Uy and Jenny Orillos, during the search for their book, “Panaderia”, and the humorous anecdotes of Wilson Flores from the Kamuning bakery.
The conference was held at the Lopez Museum and Library, which also houses much of the information on the history of bread-making in the country. It was food historian Felice Sta. Maria, author of the introduction to “Panaderia”, who first referred the authors to the museum for their research.
Uy spoke about the materials she obtained from book collections, including the 55 volumes “The Philippine Islands” by Emma Blair and James Alexander Robertson.
But what contained more interesting information were the bread labels and newspaper advertisements of Sta. Maria’s own collection was donated to the museum.
The labels give the name of the bakery, its address, its products and ingredients. Salazar Bakery on Salazar Street in Binondo, Manila offered a super cake made with flour, eggs, shortening, salt, milk, sugar and water. Panaderia Villegas in Malolos, Bulacan, indicated their specialties: ensimada, biscocho, principle and aru-ru, which was to be another spelling for araru or uraro, biscuits made from arrowroot flour.
Advertisements give an idea of the products available at the time and the companies that made them. For example, Ma. Luisa bakery in Cubao offered to make orders (pedido) for Christmas for cookies like camachile, galetas, mamon tostado and Ensymadas. (Notice the different spelling of ensaymada in the previous two examples.)
Orillos focused his talk on the particular “feast bread”, as the book describes: “If the pan de sal is our daily bread, ensaymada is the bread we indulge in.
Ensaymada, as Filipinos know, is rolled bread that can be just sweet bread or a potential calorie-laden pastry with copious amounts of butter, cheese, and sugar. Orillos said Uy traveled to Spain for research and found the ensaimada at Pasteleria Escriba in Barcelona disappointing because it lacked the fluff and richness of Pinoy versions.
In Pampanga, the writers spent half their time tracking down different ensaymada makers, going to Corazon’s Sweets and Pastries in Magalang and Lillian Boromeo in Mexico, then later interviewing in Manila the Medinas of Arayat, the family. of Imang Salud of San Fernando, the Hizons of Bacolor and Mexico.
An advertisement from El Gusto Panaderia y Reposteria in Azcarraga (now Claro M. Recto), Manila, for Felices Pascua (Christmas) proudly announced, “Ensaimadas de la Pampanga”. Orillos said it shows how famous Pampanga ensaimada was already at the time.
Bulacan’s version is still faithfully made today by Eurobake, originally known as La Panaderia Concepcion.
In the book, historian Bulacan Dez Bautista was tapped for what he remembers from Villegas bakery in Malolos where the special ensaymada had ham and salted eggs on top. Orillos regaled audiences with Bautista’s story of how bakery owner Ka Puring made dough in a locked room at dawn.
Orillos also recounted how I wrote in 1986 that the secret of this particular ensaymada was in a tin can that Ka Puring herself showed me, supposedly levadura, sourdough or yeast.
Later, believing her secret was safe with Bautista who was actually her relative, Ka Puring revealed that they were kneaded potatoes. In the recipe section of the book, Jill Sandique included a potato ensaymada.
The event also included a tasting of panaderia breads, including the ensaymada made by a culinary arts student, who wanted Orillos to check to see if it was done right. Then there was a sample of panaderia ensaymada and other breads, like pinagong courtesy of Kamuning Bakery.
Flores briefly recounted how he acquired the Kamuning bakery from its original owners and the changes he made, such as opening a cafe, next to the bakery, where he holds his weekly Pandesal forum on national issues.
He assured the public that the bakery still uses the wood-fired pugon (oven). He was aware that the supply of wood for the pugon had been a problem that had been solved by networking on the Internet. After posting online that he needed firewood, many homeowners responded, grateful that someone could use debris from branches of their trees that needed pruning.
And that’s without counting the trees uprooted by typhoons. Flores’ only problem now is where to store so much wood.
The conversation ended hilariously when Flores said he used an “artistic license” to tell a story to young children who visited his bakery. Explaining the origin of the name Kamuning, instead of telling the children that there were a lot of kamuning trees in the area before housing projects took over (and he promised to restore those trees), Flores a stated that the first bakers were male. named Kamun and a woman named Ning.