It’s Filipino Food Month over here, but in a few days it’s also St. Patrick’s Day. I decided to combine the two and make some Filipino food that’s green.
Puto is a Filipino steamed rice cake, although it can also be made with regular flour. (And before anyone gets all up in arms, I am aware that “puto” means something entirely different in Spanish. So if you and/or the people you’re serving are Spanish speakers, you might want to stick to “steamed rice cakes.”) I made these to be coconut pandan flavored, but they can also easily be made plain coconut, if you can’t get your hands on pandan extract. Bonus! These are gluten-free and vegan. I adapted the Puto Puti recipe found here.
Traditionally, puto is made in small cups placed in a steamer. However, these cups are not readily available to me, so I decided to create an oven hack version in mini muffin cups.
Before you begin, preheat the oven to 300˚ and put a good quart of water on to boil. Place a 9 x 13 pan on the bottom rack of the oven as it preheats.
To start, I combined 1 1/2 cups rice flour (regular white rice flour, not sweet/glutinous rice flour) and 1/3 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp baking powder and a pinch of salt.
Add to this 1 (400 mL) can of coconut milk (regular, not light) and about 2 Tbsp. water, or enough to make sure it does not hold peaks. I think this was a bit thicker than it should have been.
Then, if you can get your hands on it, add about a teaspoon of pandan extract. We could only find a combination buco-pandan, but buco is young coconut, so it works just fine here. Pandan is a leaf that imparts a sort of nutty flavor, and complements rice dishes quite nicely. This extract also has green food coloring included, so it’s perfect for a St. Patty’s day treat. Alternately, if you can come by actual pandan leaves, you could infuse them into the coconut milk beforehand.
Divide into 24 greased mini muffin cups and place in the oven. Carefully pour the boiling water into the 9 x 13 pan to steam the oven up. Bake for 20 minutes.
If you wish, sprinkle some dried coconut on the top right as they come out of the oven. My cakes cracked on top, I think because the batter was a little thick. When I had tested this recipe before, they came out smooth and a bit stickier on top, which is what you get when they’re steamed in a steamer. Still, for a fairly simple alternative, these came out pretty close.
Inside, they’re light, a bit creamy, and delightfully sweet. It’s easy to eat 10 without really noticing… not that I’d know about that, of course. I am a picture of self-control.
Alternately, in a typical Filipino fashion, you can cut up some slices of quick melting cheese and place them on top, returning them to the oven for a minute. I should advise, however, that if you have a typically western palate, you will likely enjoy the coconut topping better. You could also brush them with some melted butter, or just leave them plain. All of those are excellent options, in my opinion.
One additional note: These are definitely best they day they’re made. I found that if they’re stored in an airtight container, the outside gets weirdly wet, but if you leave them out in the open they’ll begin to dry out. This is not a problem, however, since they’re so tasty you’ll want to eat them up immediately.
Coconut Pandan Steamed Rice Cake-- Puto
Adapted from Oggi’s Puto Puti recipe
Preheat oven to 300˚ and place a 9×13 pan on the bottom rack of the oven as it preheats
Put 1 quart of water on to boil
1 1/2 cups rice flour (not glutinous or sweet rice flour)
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 400mL can full-fat coconut milk
2 Tbsp water (more if needed)
1 tsp pandan (or buco pandan) extract (can omit to make plain coconut puto)
Optional toppings: shredded dried coconut or cheddar cheese
Whisk together rice flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add coconut milk and water, adding more water if needed. Mixture should not hold peaks. Stir in pandan extract. Divide mixture into 24 greased mini muffin cups and place in the oven. Carefully pour the boiling water into the 9×13 pan to steam up the oven. Close oven quickly. Bake for 20 minutes. Top with dried coconut immediately when removed from the oven, if using. If using cheese, cut into strips and make an “X” on the top of each. Return to the oven for a minute or two to melt. Let cool a bit and remove from pan carefully. Cool completely before serving.