Have you wondered how the art of baking began, and spread its reach across the Philippines?
Baking, in itself, goes back at least a thousand years. The use of enclosed ovens, to produce bread and pastry, was probably introduced by European explorers and colonizers.
17th century oven as depicted by Jean-François Millet
Pies, and cakes, were prevalent in Europe during the 17th century, and as the continent spread its reach across the seas, they brought the art of baking along with it.
One school of thought is that Spanish missionaries introduced baking to the country. Wheat was often used in food, by missionaries, who introduced the diet, as well as the preparation and process to the locals.
On the other hand, as early as 618 AD, China was already making “moon cakes” and the early settlers and traders who landed on Philippine shores, also inevitably shared this unique process of using dry heat to make bread and other desserts.
Ancient baking mold of mooncake. Photo courtesy of http://www.news.cn
However, let us not forget the contribution of our Malay ancestors, who introduced sticky rice cakes and layer cakes. One can argue that the Malay’s knowledge of baking was still derived from their Dutch colonizers, but the ingenuity in the use of local ingredients such as rice, corn and coconut, as well as making do with clay pots and wooden steamers, created something totally original.
The Kueh Lapis, with its colorful appearance and layered arrangement, makes it a likely source of inspiration for our Sapin-sapin. Photo courtesy of http://travelling-foodies.com
Similar to many aspects of Philippine life, our history as a baking country is comprised of influences from many different cultures. From there, it became part and partial of growing up Filipino.
Food items such as Ensaymada, Sapin-sapin, Leche Flan and Biko were integral to one’s childhood. Having baked goods at home became a common thing. Breakfast would consist of Tasty Bread, and Puto or Mamon would be there during merienda.
Just a few examples of the different types of Filipino baked goods and “kakanin.”
For the everyday Filipino, there was the “bakery sa kanto” (neighborhood bakery) that satisfied one’s craving for Pandesal, Kalayaan and Monay.
Typical bread that you can find in a neighborhood bakery.
For those who could afford their own oven, having newly baked cake, cookies, bread and similar desserts, became staple during mealtime, snacks and feasts.
A modern kitchen, where baking techniques of yesterday, and appliances of today meet.
The importance of baked goods in Philippine tradition is undeniable. With so many foreign influences that made their mark in how baking developed in the Philippines, there is no definitive answer really, to how it all began. What we do know, is the importance of this wonderfully delicious art, and how it has since been vital in every Filipino’s life.