Thursday, March 31, 2016

Puto (Steamed Rice Cake)

Colored Puto
Puto is a steamed rice cake in the Philippines.   It is served as a snack, dessert or as an accompaniment to another meal such as stews or noodle dish.  Puto is traditionally made with galapong (dough made from uncooked rice that was soaked overnight, drained and ground.)  The dough is mixed with coconut milk or milk and sugar and flavored with anise or lihiya (wood ash lye.)  The mix is then steamed producing a soft, moist cake with a uniform grain.  It is neither sticky nor dry and crumbly.
Puto with cheese topping
Traditionally it is steamed in putuhan, a large steamer with rings made of either soldered sheets of metal or thin strips of bent bamboo enclosing a flat bamboo. It has a large conical cover to allow the condensing steam to drip along the perimeter of the steaming tray and not on the cake.  Nowadays the ingredients for puto are so convenient and easy to find.  With rice flour and canned coconut milk, it's so easy to make!
Puto with salted egg topping
Puto comes in many shapes and forms.  It is traditionally prepared as a whole cake and not on individual molds.  It is then cut in individual serving portions before serving.  It has a greenish hue from the use of Pandan leaves and banana leaves that lined the steaming tray.  It is usually topped with grated coconut or native cheese or salted egg. Following are some of the variants of puto:
  • Puto bumbong - a popular Christmas delicacy in the Philippines;  made with deep purple sticky rice that is soaked in saltwater overnight then poured in individual bumbong (bamboo tube) and then steamed.  
  • Puto kutsinta - moist and chewy rice cake made with lye.  The color ranges from reddish brown, orange to yellow. 
  • Puto maya - a purple puto that is flavored with ginger.
  • Puto pao - puto with sweet meat filling
  • Puto lanson - a foamy puto made with grated cassava
I made puto for Easter so I added a little bit of color in the puto mixture. Some I left uncolored, some I added toppings of cheese and salted egg.  Instead of serving deviled eggs or colored eggs, I served colorful puto and it was a big hit for my kids! I used plastic sauce cups for molding the puto.  I have a tiny steaming tray so for every 10 minutes I can only steam six.

Prep Time: 60 minutes
Cooking Time: 80 minutes (10 minutes/batch)
Yield: 48 pieces (1 3/4-inch diameter)

  • 2 cups rice flour, sifted
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 14 ounces coconut milk (or 2 cups freshly squeezed coconut milk)
  • 2 cups fresh milk
  • 2 eggs (optional)
  • food colors (red, blue, green & yellow), optional
  • melted butter or vegetable oil for greasing the molds
  • optional toppings (bits of cheddar cheese or feta cheese, salted egg)

  1. Combine all dry ingredients (first five) in a large mixing bowl. Mix well.
  2. Combine milk, coconut milk and eggs in a separate bowl. Mix well.
  3. Pour the liquid mixture to the dry mixture.  Whisk together until smooth.  Cover bowl with cling wrap and chill the batter in the refrigerator for 45 minutes. 
  4. Grease the puto molds. (I used 48 plastic sauce cups.)
  5. If adding color to the puto: Divide the batter equally into 6 different bowls about 1 cup each. Leave the sixth cup uncolored so you have plain white batter. Follow the color guide below per 1 cup of batter:
  • pastel pink:  2 drops of red 
  • pastel orange: 1 drop of red + 1 drop of yellow
  • pastel yellow: 2 drops of yellow
  • pastel green: 2 drops of green
  • light purple: 1 drop of blue + 1 drop of red

6. Boil water in the pan for steaming. Pour about 1 tablespoon in each mold.

7. If using toppings: Place a bit of the topping of choice on top of the batter.

8. Steam each batch for 15-20 minutes while checking the steaming tray's lid from time to time for condensation. Make sure condensation doesn't drip on the cake.

9. Remove from the steaming tray. Cool for 5 minutes. Remove each puto from the mold and serve.

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