Here are holiday treats you can give as gifts or enjoy with your family. Each year, there seems to be something new—a different take on the classics.
Pan de Xocolat with Hot Cocoa, for example, is a chocolate lover’s dream combo. The pan is a soft, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth ensaimada dough with a twist.
It is shaped much like a puffy muffin speckled with bits of chocolate. It is neither too sweet nor too rich, yet made complete when dipped in any of Xocolat’s cocoa mixes.
This is a lighter interpretation of the classic ensaimada at tsokolate. The cocoa drink mixes come in five variants—Organic, Old-Fashioned, Dark, Wicked (spiced) and Rush (mocha).
My personal favorite is the Old-Fashioned variant. I have always stayed true to hot cocoa as I remember it from my youth.
According to Xocolat’s Valerie Lopez, her love of hot chocolate is an indulgence she has never outgrown. Every cup brings happy memories of her Indonesian ama, Pearl Alexander Theo, who always had a can of Van Houten cocoa powder.
Val’s childhood indulgence led her to open Xocolat with partners Pinky Ortiz, Rina Avecilla and Trish Malvar. Aside from the cafe’s collection of chocolate cakes and bars, the women concocted their own line of hot cocoa blends to enable clients to duplicate the hot cocoa experience at Xocolat Café in their own homes.
The mixes have natural ingredients, each formulated to strike that ideal balance of bitterness (cocoa), sweetness (sugar), spice and flavors (depending on the variant) to make a rounded cup. The blends allow those who fancy sweeter cups to add sugar; as is, it’s pleasing enough to those who wish to cut down on sweetness.
Casa Xocolat is at 172 B. Gonzales St., Loyola Heights, Quezon City; tel. 9294186
Ginger tea with turmeric
Another drink that brings back memories of Christmases past is ginger tea. I fondly recall sipping salabat in between bites of suman and bibingka.
Lola Helen’s Ginger Tea with Turmeric has now made it possible to make a similar cup from scratch—without all the trouble.
The powdered salabat mix was formulated by Helena Montero Jambalos of Bansud, Oriental Mindoro. She started making ginger tea in the early ’90s for family consumption, as a substitute for coffee. Relatives who visited Lola Helen would bring home the powdered tea mix to hand out as pasalubong.
As more people got to taste and love it, orders poured in. This made Lola Helen decide to venture into business. In 2010, she spruced up her brew by adding turmeric.
One of the biggest fans of Lola’s ginger tea is her son David “Jamby” Jambalos and his wife, Lilybeth. The couple saw the need to label and package the tea as it became more and more popular.
Lola Helen’s salabat is a perfect harmony of ginger, sugar and turmeric. It is the best instant salabat mix I have tried—an easy, comforting and healthy drink.
Thanks to my dear friend Ellen Ong for sharing her discovery of this tea.
Holiday Inn & Suites Makati’s Ube Cheesecake
I recently had an ube cheesecake that was so delectable. On first bite, it tasted like well-done ubeng haleya, but seemingly not as decadent because of the cream cheese, which subtly cut into the richness of the cake.
It’s a high-calorie treat—but all worthwhile, if you ask me!
The cheesecake, now a bestseller, was created by Holiday Inn’s head pastry chef Mike Sison, who said he wanted a cheesecake different from the usual mango, strawberry and blueberry variants.
He experimented with ube, which is his favorite. The resulting cheesecake was a resounding success; everyone in the hotel and beyond loved it.
Tel. 9090888 ext. 7429
Santa’s Belly Ball Surprise
Master baker and cake designer Penk Ching can mold anything out of gum paste.
My son, Diego, had a fun afternoon hammering into Penk’s Christmas ball, designed to look like Santa’s belly. It was oddly delightful to rip off the package, get a meat tenderizer and tell your son to hammer it!
Diego gave me a quizzical look at first—in disbelief that I was ordering him to pound on the pretty ball.
But once he did, little treats began popping out once it was cracked open, like a piñata. Indeed a fun, one-of-a-kind gift.
Tel. 7122676 or 09178134996
Who does not love salted egg potato chips?
What was once an indulgence that could be had only in Singapore, or if you were patient enough to make it yourself, can now be enjoyed freshly made by Jecelle Tycangco of Saporito.
Saporito’s Original Salted Egg Potato Crisps are so addicting—salty, sweet and subtly fragrant with curry leaves.
Jecelle recently launched her Spicy variant, for those who want their chips with a kick.
Either way, hers are fresh and crisp; they crumble nicely and are simply a delight to eat.