Mamon Tostado: The toasted bread to start the New Year right

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

WE MAKE pan prinsipi (prince's bread) just in time for the New Year, both as a household delight and as gift to relatives and friends.

The delicacy, however, is known by another name outside of our little village in Sta. Rita town. Most people refer to the soft-crunchy bread as mamon tostado (toasted sponge bread); in reference to the way it is baked.

Every late December, my grandmother would always bring in a loads of baskets filled with fresh duck eggs, the chief ingredient for the tostado. Others would prefer using chicken eggs but would fall short of the distinct taste from duck eggs. We would then troop to the village pugon (oven) that is large enough to roast a fully grown cow. The pugon is operated by a local baker whom my mother would commission a large trunk-sized tamarind wood to be used to fire the furnace.


In later years, my mother would explain that tamarind wood, along with bayabas, santol and talang wood are perfect for baking in wooden ovens as these produce less smoke, reducing the risk of a smoke aftertaste on the bread.

My cousins and I would then huddle ourselves around old steal cauldrons to make the batter; a mixture of eggs, flour, and sugar. Some bakers would add baking powder to the mixture to which my grandmother would object vehemently. Baking powder, she believes, mars the taste of the tostado.

Beating the mixture is a tough task as one is expected to malsa (expand) to its full potential, so as to create more of the mixture for the sponge bread. All this is done manually; using an electric mixer was discouraged as it tends to make the bubbles in the tostado more consistent. Manual beating renders the mixture with irregular bubbles. The result when baked is bread that easily crumbles when chewed.

The mixture is then placed on large rectangular narrow pans and baked in medium heat. The result would be the soft-spongy bread called mamon. The bread is then cut into small rectangular shapes; one side would be spread with cheese or margarine depending on one's taste and then re-baked in slow heat. The bread, now half-toasted, is again removed from the oven and the other side would be spread with a generous serving of margarine and again baked to complete the toasted effect.

Mamon tostado that one buys commercially is a bit hard to chew and is dry on the palate, since the ingredients are not balanced. The real mamon tostado has generous servings of duck eggs and less flour, making it soft on the palate. The result is a cheesy and creamy flavor unlike any other.

The baking itself is so laborious that my grandmother would always refer to the New Year delicacy as food "fit for royalty". We would stack the mamon tostado on large plastic drums lined with Manila paper.

My sisters and I had fond memories of the mamon tostado when we secretly raided the storeroom where the other Christmas goodies were laid like treasures, waiting to be horded and given to playmates.

In fact, most of the mamon tostado we make end up as gifts and holiday presents to visitors and friends. Not much stays at home for personal consumption. It is an expensive delicacy that was expected to be given away, never mind the expenses and the long hours of laborious baking.

When my grandmother passed away, the tradition passed on to my mother, and later on to us children, who are eager to make generous stocks of the delicacy every year.

Though expenses on the ingredients have grown exponentially in the past years, we have never been discouraged to continue a tradition that had delighted palates of friends and relatives throughout the years. It does not seem complete to start the New Year without that sweet and crunchy mamon tostado.

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Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on January 07, 2011.


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