Why is she talking about Christmas in September?!? If you aren’t Filipino or if you have never spent Christmas in the Philippines you probably wouldn’t understand. You see, Filipinos are notorious for having the longest celebration for Christmas. Once the “ber” months roll around (September, October, November etc) we start playing Christmas music and the decorations start to come out.
So to kick off the Filipino Christmas Season, here is a recipe for one of my favourite treats – Bibingka.
Every morning starting the 16th of December until the 24th, churchgoers all over the Philippines wake up before the crack of dawn to hear mass. This is one of the most enduring traditions in the Philippines called Simbang Gabi. After mass, friends and family gather in their homes to feast on traditional Philippine breakfast treats. One of the more popular dishes is Bibingka. It’s a sweet/savoury cake made from rice flour, coconut milk, flour and eggs. It is topped with a native Philippine cheese and salted duck eggs. Admittedly it was an effort to grind my own rice and grate my own coconut but I had a bad craving for a really authentic bibingka – and it was worth it!
This recipe was adapted from Memories of Philippine Kitchens (Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan).
Ingredients for Galapong (rice batter)
- 1 3/4 cups jasmine rice
Ingredients for Bibingka
- Softened butter for the clay cazuelas/containers
- Four 6-inch banana leaf rounds, if unavailable use wax paper
- 1 1/4 cups flour
- 1/4 cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cup galapong
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 salted eggs
- 4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
- 4 slices kesong puti (I used Haloumi as kesong puti is a traditional Philippine cheese unavailable in Australia)
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 cup freshly grated coconut
For the galapong
Rinse the rice under cold running water until clear. Drain and place in a bowl with cold water to cover and leave in the refrigerator overnight. Drain and rinse again and then drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and process until the mixture is finely ground, about 1 minute, scraping the sides of the processor as needed. To grind more thoroughly, use a coffee/spice grinder and grind 2 or 3 tablespoons at a time. You will need 1 1/2 cups galapong.
For the Bibingka
- Pre-heat the oven to 220c (fan forced). Brush the cazuelas/containers with softened butter and line with the banana leaves or wax paper.
- Sift the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add in the galapong. With a whisk, beat the eggs and coconut milk in a separate bowl. Pour into the dry ingredients and with a rubber spatula, mix slowly until smooth.
- Divide the mixture among the lined containers, nestle the duck eggs (I used half a duck egg per cake, quartered), cheddar cheese strips and kesong puti and finally 1 tablespoon sugar per cake.
- Set the cakes on the top rack of the oven and bake until firm, around 15 minutes.
- Brush the bibingka with the melted butter while still warm. Unmold each bibingka onto a serving plate.
- Serve with grater coconut.
To Open a Coconut
Pierce the eye of the coconut with a skewer and shake out the water from the coconut. Heat the coconut in a 200C oven for 10 minutes until the coconut cracks. Remove the coconut from the oven and finish opening the coconut by holding the coconut and hammering it until it opens. Remove the meat with a melon baller.