As a grammar geek, it’s absolutely electrifying to be getting a grammar lesson along with my dessert. RJ Galang and his mom, Eleanor, have a home baking business called Bakere. There’s a macron (-), a diacritic placed above the last ‘e’ that indicates a long vowel sound. Thus, Bakere is pronounced “bakery.” Because of the encoding limitations on standard fonts on this website, I can’t type Bakere the way it should correctly be displayed so let’s just imagine.
The distinctive name refers to Eleanor. Says RJ, “Most of my cousins and close friends call her Tita E and we initially named the bakeshop Baker E since it was an existing bakeshop and she was the one who developed all of the recipes. It eventually evolved into Bakere.”
Former incarnations of Bakere hark back to 1975 when Eleanor had a bakeshop called Sweet Expressions. Then when the family moved from New Manila to Wack Wack in 1996, it was given yet another name-change to Bakeshop 833. When RJ decided to team up with his mom to handle marketing, the business was re-christened Bakere.
Eleanor does the baking and because she’s been at it for so many years, Bakere’s line-up spans the spectrum from retro to contemporary. Some of the stalwarts that have been around since the start are the Ensaymadas (P600/12). Varying fancies for this rich roll abound, and this one proffers yet another form.
Opening the box reveals a reverie in butter and light – squat, delicate rolls dusted with queso de bola, glistening with grains of sugar. Picking one up, it’s similar to an oversized mushroom, its stem sprouting a fluffy cloud. Today, these ensaymadas are “tasted” by an aroma of yeast, an almost overwhelming beer-like smell and tinge of sour. This happens when too much yeast is used in the dough and/or the dough is over-proofed. Either way, I’m willing to let it go for now. The roll is pleasingly soft, its presence on my palate reminding me that indeed, Christmas is soon coming.
Everybody I know considers him/herself a connoisseur of cheese cupcakes. We all grew up on them after all but it’s ironic that the ones we remember are those bought from the school canteen. Even now, I’m hard-pressed to name bakers who sell them; I guess they’re deemed too quaint. Whatever it is, everyone needs to get reacquainted with Cheese Cupcakes (P470/12), beginning with the ones from Bakere.
A crinkly, crusty top evokes similarities to a giant coconut macaroon, yet another one of those old-fashioned goodies that time forgot. One bite and an almost all-inclusive taste landscape begins: salty, cheesy, sticky, sweet – a perfect synergy stoked by nubbins of cheese – salty grit in every bite. Far from the humdrum crumb of yesteryear’s cheese cupcakes, the crumb on this is coarser, better than any I’ve ever known. These are outstanding cheese cupcakes.
Bakere is an example of an ideal mom-son symbiosis: Eleanor bakes and RJ blazes a trail for them. He’s certainly no slouch in the kitchen either – his experiments with bacon jam and finishing salts have proven wildly successful and profitable. On the side, he runs Underground Supper Club, a monthly degustation dinner operated in a venue taken over for the evening.
Because RJ always has an eye trained on the next trend, he broached to his mom the idea of baking brookies. Another one of those dessert mash-ups, a brookie is a brownie in a chocolate chip cookie. It sounds like the best of both worlds, ideal for when you can’t decide if you want one or the other. It’s not a novel idea but execution is key here. There’s already one home baker who’s made a business out of this and I’ve tried it, but it’s blown clear out of the water by Bakere’s Brookies (P500/12).
Heavy in hand but not dauntingly so, it’s the size of a muffin. At first glance, it’s a chocolate chip cookie, the darkness of its midnight middle is muffled by the paper liner. Unwrap it and yes, let none of the crusty bits sticking to the paper fall to the wayside – scrape and lick the decadent debris. Though the chocolate chip cookie is on top, it’s the brownie who’s boss here in flavor and texture, smooth but bold with a softness that makes my spine slump. It’s only at the end that the cookie comes in for the finish, chips of chocolate enmeshed in a buttery batter, echoing the intensity – and ecstasy – of the bite of brownie that began it all. The glory of these brookies wanes with each passing day so eat them immediately.
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