Thursday, December 13, 2012

Noche Buena - A Good Night for a Filipino Feast!

Noche Buena  Feast with the Macalino's!
The Christmas season is my favourite time of the year because for my family it's about spending time together and indulging in a Filipino feast called Noche Buena. Spanish for "good night", Noche Buena is a traditional late-night meal celebrated after midnight mass by many Filipino families on Christmas Eve. I still get giddy with excitement during the car ride home from church, anticipating the dishes that my Mom had lovingly prepared earlier that day. 

As we approach my parent's house, it's around 1:30 am and we're looking forward to our second Christmas Eve dinner. My Mom brings out her best china and silverware, a special touch for the holidays, to serve our favourite Filipino and non-Filipino dishes. 

Her Noche Bueno menu changes from year to year but we can always count on the staples: pandasel (sweet Filipino buns) with sliced roasted ham and pasko de bola (ripened cheese ball), buko (young coconut) fruit salad, cold macaroni chicken salad and my favourite, bibingka (coconut cake). 

With my Dad's favourite Frank Sinatra Christmas album jingling in the background, we dig into the festive treats while joking about old family memories, reminiscing about the past year's events and being grateful for spending another Christmas together. By 3:30 am, we're exchanging gifts and slowly winding down for the night. 

There are lots of leftovers from Noche Buena and we're able to easily whip up another large spread when our extended family gathers for Christmas dinner.  To my delight, my Mom always makes sure we have ample bibingka cakes to last until the following day - she knows it's not a Filipino Christmas without them! 

Bibingka Cake!
Bibingka is a soft and chewy cake made with flour, sugar and coconut milk. It's baked in pan lined with banana leaves to help impart flavour and create a natural non-stick surface. Once cooked, the cake is topped with butter, sugar, grated coconut, shredded edam cheese and salted duck egg. 

Bibingka can be enjoyed as a snack, dessert or breakfast and can be found as street food in the Philippines as well as in high-end restaurants and five-star hotels. It's loved by many Filipinos because of the unique flavour combination. The sweet coconut cake with the savoury cheese and salted egg surprisingly go well together. For me, bibingks tastes like Christmas!

Food is and will always be the center of any Filipino celebration, especially during a Noche Buena feast. In addition to basting your turkeys, try adding this bibingka recipe to your Christmas menu. Happy Holidays!

Candice's Cusina Bibingka Cakes

Bibingka with the works!
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (or rice flour)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 coconut milk
2-3 banana leaves

1 cup shredded cheese (Edam, Mozzarella, or Cheddar)
1 boiled salted egg, diced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup grated fresh coconut 

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Line one 8" diameter springform pan or five 6 oz. ramekins with banana leaves. Brush leaves with butter.
2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
3. Beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed for 5-7 minutes until the mixture has thickened and tuned a pale yellow.
4. Slowly add flour mix and coconut milk to egg mixture until just blended. Then mix in 1/2 cup cheese. Then pour batter into springform pan or ramekins and top with 1/2 diced salted egg.
5. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove cake and the top it with the other 1/2 diced salted egg and 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Brush top of cake with butter then sprinkle with sugar and grated coconut. 

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