Sweet indulgences: Handcrafted candies, ‘maja blanca’ IlocanaBy Reggie Aspiras
Philippine Daily Inquirer
“The most rewarding part of my job is to see children with a smile on their faces,” says candy chef Chua Wee Hao of Made in Candy, a Singapore-based candy store that specializes in 100-percent handcrafted sweets.
Just last Friday, Made in Candy opened its first kitchen store in Manila at the Rockwell Power Plant Mall. When I dropped by, the place was abuzz. The adults, who outnumbered the children, intently watched Hao’s fellow chef Karen Huang as she pulled and wrestled with sugar, slowly transforming the giant mass of candy into dainty mini-bonbons with faces of little giraffes.
Their confections taste just as they are named. The fruit variants are not overly sweet, but concocted to strike a balance between the sugar, the fruit and the tartness of the citric acid. The whole idea is to bring the candies’ taste as close to the real fruit as possible.
According to Chua, perfecting the art of making rock candy requires patience. The store’s many designs are a tribute to the skills of the chefs, who use their best judgment to determine which ones will come out looking best on a small piece of candy.
Made in Candy has 40 standard designs on retail, each one used as a code for flavors, such as the rainbow for mixed berry, green clover for soursop, pig for grapefruit, and, my favorite, the martini glass for lychee.
The peppermint variant tastes like candy cane—so addicting! The chefs also mix and match the flavors, but for now, Chef Hao says, the Manila kitchen store only has 30 variants, with the whole range available in the next two weeks.
What I find mind-boggling is the level of skill these candy chefs possess in customizing candies. Imagine how meticulous a process it is to put your name, company logo or a short mushy message like “I ‘heart’ U!” on candy that is shaped and stretched by hand to a diameter of 10-12 mm. It takes a week to customize candies, says Chef Hao, and requires a minimum of 4 kilos.
The candy chefs can also make lollipops in all sizes and designs, even giant ones with personalized messages. They also hand-mold flowers and, from the pictures I saw, shape and bend candy into guitars and lizards.
I was very impressed by the fact that though these candies are hand-pulled, the candies look almost identical. Chua says no two candies are exactly alike, though they try to make it look pretty much the same. So, while one pig may look slightly thinner than the other, both taste just as grape-fruity good to me!
The Halloween designs are so cute and are quite reasonable in price, considering the amount of work that goes into preparing them. Christmas designs will also be out soon.
‘Maja blanca’ Ilocana
I still haven’t gotten over the dudol (Iloco version of the maja blanca) that Chef Nick Rodriguez made. It is so sinful, yet you cannot stop eating it.
The secret to this recipe is to cook it only over low fire and to stir it constantly for about an hour. Trust me, the dessert is worth the trouble. Besides, by the time you’re done cooking it, your arms would have been toned by the mixing. Thus, you’ve earned the right to eat the dudol!
1 c flour
3 c flour
1 c white sugar
1 c coconut milk
2 tbsp butter
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
Coconut milk preparation
2 c grated coconut milk
1 c water
Combine grated coconut and water. Squeeze and strain.
To the finely ground rice flour, add the water and stir. Let rest for 30 minutes to an hour.
Using a very fine strainer, strain the rice and water mixture. Cook the mixture over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the coconut milk. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add sugar, butter and vanilla, and continue stirring for another 15-20 minutes until smooth and glossy.
Pour the mixture on a lined round or oval leche flan mold.
Invert on banana leaf-lined plate before serving.
Slice and serve with the sauce.
2 c coconut cream
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
Do not let boil.
Color violet, or flavor, and serve with dudol.
The sauce is a basic sauce to which you can add just about anything—ube, corn, mango; Chef Nick even adds duhat.
For a copy of my new holiday cooking class schedules, call 0917-5543700, 0908-2372346, 4008496, 9289296.