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Mum’s Recipes with Ann Vernadette Apag



There’s no doubt that home baking is popular in Qatar. From bespoke birthday cakes to apple pies and crumbles, there’s an increasing network of online communities sharing their posts of lusciously sweet treats and confections. For Anne Vernadette Apag, baking is a true passion. “It’s where my heart is. I cook for love and I bake for a living.”

Born in Manila, the Philippines, Anne moved to Qatar in 2006 where she met her husband-to-be, Joseph. Fast forward twelve years and the happy couple now have a five-year-old daughter, Francheska Noelle, and the whole family calls Qatar their second home.

You’ll often find Anne whipping up delicious birthday cakes, desserts and pastries for family, friends and a growing list of admirers, all keen for a sweet taste of home. Filipino breads and pastries such as ensaymada and the purple-hued ube cake, made from purple yam, are popular requests, not only from her clientele but from her daughter too. “Our family staple is ensaymada—a sweet bread covered with butter and topped with grated cheese. My daughter loves the traditional classic cheese roll which is basically a bread roll topped with a blend of butter and sugar then filled with cream. She always asks for ube cake too!”

The Philippines serves as a major source of culinary inspiration for Anne’s family meals too. On the daily menu are hearty, wholesome dishes featuring rice, vegetables and meat. “Our meals will never be complete without rice,” she says. “We love fried rice, tuyo [dried fish], sinigang [hot and sour soup], adobo [meat stewed in a base of vinegar and soy sauce] and nilaga [meat stew cooked with vegetables].”

To Anne, Filipino food is very complex. “It’s a bold combination of sweet, sour, and salty flavours,” explains Anne. “The pairing of something sweet with something salty results in an exquisite flavour.”

As with many home cooks, Anne’s childhood inspired a love of cooking and baking. “Many people have inspired me in the kitchen, including my mother. She has a never-ending variety of mouthwatering gourmet foods. From an early age, I’ve also been inspired by one of the Philippines’ most popular TV pastry chefs—Heny Sison. I remember always enjoying her show while helping my mum to prepare and cook our family Sunday lunch. I told myself that one day I would take one of her classes. Eventually, after working hard, I saved some money and took a crash course at her baking school,” she says.

It’s obvious that food has played a major role in Anne’s home, family and work life. As Anne says, “Filipinos love to eat! It’s a huge part of our culture!”

Brazo de Mercedes

Serves 12–15

A classic Filipino dessert made with rolled meringue and filled with luscious, creamy custard. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a small pot inside a larger pot half-filled with water.

Ingredients

  • 9 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 ¾ cup caster sugar, separated, with extra for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 1 cup butter, softened

Special equipment

  • Parchment paper
  • Electric mixer with a whisk attachment
  • Cheesecloth, 60x60cm
  • Double boiler
  • Cake comb (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 175ºC
  2. Grease and line a 1½-inch high 16x12” pan with parchment paper
  3. To prepare the meringue, place the egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer
  4. Using the wire whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form
  5. Gradually add half a cup of the sugar and continue beating at medium speed. Add another half cup of the sugar until the egg white bubbles are stiff but glossy. Stir in the vanilla extract
  6. Spread the meringue into the prepared pan. If desired, use a cake comb to make decorative lines on the surface
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until meringue is golden and firm to touch
  8. Sprinkle caster sugar on top of the cheesecloth, and turn the meringue out of the pan and on top of the sugar. Allow it to cool
  9. To prepare the custard, beat the egg yolks in the mixer with a wire whisk for approximately five minutes until thick and lemon coloured. Transfer to a double boiler and add the butter and ¾ cup of sugar. Cook over medium heat until thick enough to spread. Allow the custard to cool
  10. Evenly spread the custard on top of the meringue. Roll gently into a log shape and serve

Ube Macapuno Cake

Serves 12–15

A beautifully purple-hued cake made with purple yam, topped with macapuno—a gelatinous form of coconut. You can find ube Flavacol in the Kabayan grocery store in Souq Waqif and sometimes in Lulu Hypermarket. This recipe uses cake flour which results in a finer and more delicate texture.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ¾ cup caster sugar, separated
  • 7 egg yolks
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup fresh milk (not UHT-treated)
  • 1½ teaspoon of ube Flavocol (ube flavouring and colouring)
  • ½ cup vegetable or corn oil
  • ½ cup purple yam, cooked, peeled and mashed
  • 1 cup egg whites
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 litre chilled whipping cream
  • 1 small bottle of macapuno string, drained

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 165ºC
  2. Grease and line two 10x3” round cake pans with parchment paper
  3. Prepare the cake mixture by sifting together the cake flour, baking powder, salt and ¾ cup of the caster sugar into the bowl of a mixer. Add the egg yolks, water, fresh milk, ube Flavocol, oil and mashed purple yam. Mix at low speed until smooth
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and remaining cup of caster sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the cake mixture
  5. Pour the batter into the two round cake pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to fully cool on wire racks
  6. Meanwhile, whip the cream and remaining cup of caster sugar until stiff
  7. Once the cakes have cooled completely, remove from the pans. Spread some frosting onto one cake and then place the other cake on top. Use the remaining frosting to decorate the top of the cake and add macapuno string as garnish

Anne’s Top Tips

  • Keep these baking essentials in your kitchen: flour, butter, eggs, sugar and good-quality chocolate
  • Invest in a high-quality mixer—this will be your knight in shining armour
  • Follow the recipe exactly and weigh ingredients carefully. Baking requires precision
  • Take time to learn basic techniques
  • Practice, practice practice! Enrol in a baking class to further your knowledge

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