When I was in primary school, my dad’s friends, Uncle E and Aunt V used to haul back goodies from their annual visit to the Philippines and present a good portion of the sweets to us. Of the delicacies they have kindly gifted us, I remember two rather fondly – silvana, a frozen creamy cookie coated with savoury-sweet cookie crumbs, made by sandwiching two cashew-meringue wafers on either side of the most heavenly layer of buttercream, and polvorons. As Uncle E’s business took him to China, we haven’t been so lucky on the goodies’ front for more than a decade, and that means that I have been craving silvanas and polvorons for more than ten painful years.
I searched high and low for the recipes of these two pastries without any success. A recent trip to San Sebastian intensified the cravings for polvorons when I spotted the Spanish version which is made of lard; I much preferred the Filipino version which is made from butter and milk powder. As luck would have it, I chanced upon a Filipino food blog soon after the trip and asked the author if he could share the recipe for Filipino polvorons. He obliged very quickly, I must say, complete with a post and pictures on how one could go about making these shortbread-like pastries.
Traditionally, these polvorons are made and wrapped in cellophane paper. They are eaten chilled, and if you like the buttery and milky versions of pineapple tart pastries or shortbread, you should like this. After I spilled my obsession to my sister, she went on a rather diligent search and found that the best brand for polvorons, Goldilocks (also the one I used to have), is currently sold at Lucky Plaza in Singapore. Seeing as to how I’m going to be back in Singapore soon, I would be indulging in the real thing rather excessively and will only need to revisit this recipe on rainy days instead. But I urge you to try making this anyway, it’s easy and the ingredients are cheap. If you don’t like it, you can give them away and I tell you, someone will like this. Someone like me.
Now, onto the recipe. I was very surprised to learn that polvorons are incredibly easy to make. The ingredients are not uncommon (perhaps with the exception of a certain rice grain called pinipig, but this can be replaced by nuts and other flavours we fancy) and the only thing you really have to get your hands on is a polvoron mould. I was in luck as I bought a mooncake mould not too long ago (the spring-loaded type) to make snowskin mooncakes for Mid-Autumn this year, and the mooncake mould is similar to that for polvorons. All I had to do was to pack the mould solidly with the pastry mixture, and press the plunger to stamp them out. If you can’t find such a mould, you can use little cups or containers instead. I didn’t have cellophane paper too, so I stored them between sheets of baking parchment in an air-tight container and left them in the fridge.
I loved the cookies that came out of this. No baking is required, just a little of toasting and lots of fun packing. With minimal effort, I made a whole tray of lovely, authentic polvorons in three different flavours (plain, matcha and Milo). I loved all of them, although the Milo ones turned out a little too sweet, so you might want to cut back on the sugar for those. The polvorons were buttery, milky, and once bitten, the cookies crumbled in the only legal way a shortbread should be allowed to crumble. The bits melt in my mouth. I was suddenly a kid again, eagerly munching on Uncle E and Aunt V’s treats minus the silvanas. I have to warn you though, do not speak once the polvoron gets in your mouth because you don’t want to be spewing crumbs at anyone…they are that delicate!
Now, all I have to do is to get my hands on a reliable silvanas recipe…..
Here’s the recipe:
Polvorons in Three Flavours
(adapted from Ang Sarap)
Makes 18 polvorons with a 4.5-cm mould
135g plain flour, sifted
65g full-cream milk powder, sifted
120g caster sugar, sifted
75g unsalted butter, melted to yield about 90ml of liquid butter
10g matcha powder
10g Milo (you might want to cut down on Milo, or reduce the caster sugar used for the Milo portions)
1. Mix caster sugar and milk powder together in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Fry plain flour in a non-stick pan till hot, then take pan off the hear and add the milk and sugar mixture. Mix well and divide this into three portions.
3. To the first portion, add 30ml melted butter while the flour mixture is still hot, mix well and add 1 and 1/2 heaped tablespoons of the mixture to the mould, compress with your thumb to form a solid pack, and push the plunger on the mould to release the polvoron. Refrigerate the polvorons when done.
4. Take a second portion of the flour mixture and heat it slightly (not for too long, you don’t want to melt the sugar in it!). Add the matcha powder and 30ml liquid butter. Again, mix well and make the polvorons.
5. Repeat this with the third portion, this time adding Milo and 30ml liquid butter.
6. Once they are chilled, the polvorons should hold the shape very well without crumbling apart if you try to pick them up. I would say bring them out of the fridge for about 5 minutes before serving. This way, they won’t be too hard, and they should be of the perfect crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth texture.