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Country Cooking
A hundred-year-old cookie

By Micky Fenix
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:09:00 05/07/2008

Filed Under: Food

MANILA, Philippines?A little experiment a hundred years ago produced a cookie, then a brand name and later a line of products. The brand name is Titay?s, the nickname of Margarita Frasco.

She loved to bake and in one of her kitchen sorties, she made rounded thin cookies with curled borders. At first, those were just given away to customers who bought cold drinks at her little store near the railroad of Liloan, a town in Cebu north of the capital city.

Those cookies eventually became the reason for customers to pass by Titay?s store. It had no name until Sergio Osmea, then governor (and then became president during World War II), called it rosquillo because the cookie looked like a ringlet which in Spanish is called rosca.

Titay?s celebrated its 100th year in 2007. The renovated shop in Liloan displays pictures of the late Margarita Frasco with family and friends at the ordination of two priests, her scholars at the seminary.

She was unmarried and so spread out her largess to seminarians as well as her nephews and nieces.

Na Titay bequeathed her rosquillo recipe to the wife of her nephew, Corazon Bugtay Frasco or Na Azon who is also shown in those enlarged photographs mixing the batter in the kitchen.

Her two sons inherited the business, Panphil and Gerardo Jr., who were both nicknamed Dodong but were distinguished by dako (big) and gamay (little) attached to the pet name.

The fourth generation is now part of the business?Lilian J. Frasco as vice president and Aljew Fernando Frasco as corporate secretary.

Main product

The rosquillo is still the main product of Titay?s. Only the family knows its formula and the bakery workers receive the batter already mixed, then shape each piece using a mold that looks like a machine gear.

At the working area I met Connie Toc-al who learned the art of making rosquillo at the age of 6. She did that while waiting for her mother who was one of the workers and whose face is also there in the old photos on the wall of the shop.

Asked to demonstrate just how the rosquillo is made, Connie took the batter, rolled it out thinly, took the mold and cut out pieces that were placed on a tray.

The remainder of the batter was rolled out again and the process continued until the batter was reduced to very little, not enough to make one cookie.

In the old days, a wooden egg beater called taladro was used, the original one displayed at the shop. Baking tins were fashioned from kerosene cans and the oven, the hodonohan, was made of clay.

Today, all the equipment are what can be found in commercial bakeries such as huge mixers and professional ovens.

Connie also packs the rosquillos in cans or in plastic containers. Some of the cracked pieces are placed in a separate plastic pack and those were my first taste of just-cooked rosquillos. They are crisp, thin with a flavor that has the right balance, neither sweet nor salty. Because those are light, it?s easy to finish a whole pack.

When eating the rosquillos, Cebuanos will sometimes put those round cookies like rings on their fingers. Or they take those dipped into their coffee. When patrons have a particular way of holding or eating a product, you know that it already forms part of a place?s culinary culture.

Today, Titay?s sells more than rosquillos. The shop displays a variety of products and people come in and out, some buying just one piece for a snack while others get boxes and stuff those with many of the offerings.

Elorde bread

One of the amusing breads we saw being shaped inside the bakery was the Elorde, named after the former world boxing champion. Once baked it forms a figure like two fists held together but it really looks like the usual monay.

Another was bear?s claw, shaped like its name with ube inside.

But the bestseller in the bread section is called CPA. It?s chicken-pork adobo stuffed inside a pan de sal. One bite and I knew why it?s popular. The shredded adobo formula is so good mixed in with some hard-boiled egg that makes it almost like siopao. And CPA (its original name is meat bun) is filling.

They also do the other Cebuano specialties like torta and otap. My very short visit didn?t give me time to ask about the other products.

Next time I will get to know the galletas del Carmen, galletas de bato, cay-cay, sinudlan, binagkal, beko, siakoy, graciosa and the margarita, possibly named after the woman who started it all, Margarita Frasco or Titay.

Pastry-making seminar

Learn the art of pastry-making from master chef Nick Malgieri who will conduct a two-day seminar at the Rockwell Tent on May 20 - 21.

Malgieri, considered the best pastry chef instructor in New York and author of several baking and chocolate books, will teach savory tarts and pies and cake and cake techniques. To register, e-mail me or call 412-8507.

E-mail the author at pinoyfood04@yahoo.com

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