HOMEMADE TREA­SURES

Chona Ayson hon­ors her grand­mother by bak­ing the most de­li­cious old-fash­ioned en­say­madas ever.

Let’s Eat - - CONTENTS -

Ev­ery year, when­ever I fly to Canada to visit my brother and his fam­ily in Toronto, I’ll have at least six boxes of Chona Ayson’s en­say­madas safely packed in bubble wrap. It’s be­come our fam­ily’s fa­vorite en­say­mada, as it’s the one that comes clos­est in ab­so­lute cheesi­ness and but­tery good­ness, taste and tex­ture, and sug­ary sweet­ness to the en­say­madas that our very own Ca­pam­pan­gan Mary Pop­pins, “Apo Cion” used to bake when we were kids.

I re­mem­ber how back then, ev­ery De­cem­ber, our kitchen was a bee­hive of ac­tiv­ity, and ev­ery day, there were the un­mis­tak­able scents of en­say­madas be­ing prepped, baked, and fin­ished: the yeasty, slightly sour smell of the bat­ter, be­ing made to rise in gi­ant bowls cov­ered in cheeese­cloth; the golden brown brioche­like buns, hot out of the oven, un­adorned still, but waft­ing that toasty aroma of freshly baked bread; and fi­nally, the fin­ish­ing with soft­ened An­chor but­ter and grated Marca Piña quezo de bola, and a gen­er­ous sprin­kling of white sugar. The en­say­madas would then be care­fully wrapped in wax pa­per, and de­liv­ered to the lucky re­cip­i­ents in those gi­ant made-to-or­der white boxes from Car­ti­mar. To this day, en­say­madas bring back pow­er­ful as­so­ci­a­tions and beau­ti­ful mem­o­ries of child­hood hol­i­days, and that’s why I love Homemade Trea­sures’ so much. Ev­ery time I en­joy one? It feels like Christ­mas Day.

They’re baked all the way up in a home kitchen in Po­rac, Pam­panga, by Chona, who de­cided to say good­bye to her cor­po­rate ca­reer with Avon, to fo­cus on her pas­sion, bak­ing. She’s a chemist by ed­u­ca­tion, so she un­der­stands the science of her new pro­fes­sion. In 2010, af­ter leav­ing Manila’s traffic and tur­moil be­hind, she took an en­say­mada bak­ing class and started test­ing recipes; but her grand­mother, Am­paro Aguas Mer­cado, in­sisted, per­haps gen­tly de­manded, that her grand­daugh­ter use a recipe that she her­self had cre­ated and per­fected back in the 1930s when she was a young home­maker. Chona, of course, obe­di­ently fol­lowed her Lola, but made ad­just­ments in mois­ture, bak­ing time, and raw in­gre­di­ents, in or­der to up­date and per­fect the en­say­mada for the present day. Re­mem­ber, she’s a chemist by train­ing, so she knew ex­actly what to do. The re­sult? What many con­sider to be one of the best en­say­madas in all of Pam­panga, and by ex­ten­sion, in all of the Philip­pines as well.

The baker slash sci­en­tist has re­cently turned her at­ten­tion to devel­op­ing ube recipes. She sources the pur­ple tu­bers di­rectly from her sukis from the mar­ket, and she’s mas­tered an all-nat­u­ral, no ar­ti­fi­cial color­ing ha­laya (ube jam), that she’s now us­ing for her ube en­say­madas, her ube cakes with a del­i­cate frost­ing rem­i­nis­cent of ube ice cream, and her new­est cre­ations: chewy ube cook­ies topped with ched­dar strings. And just like her en­say­madas, each and ev­ery ube mas­ter­piece is a homemade trea­sure.

4 Ube Cake

5 Ube Cook­ies

3 Kitchen of Homemade Trea­sures 02

2 Chona Ayson

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