A tale of two cookbooks

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Chef Gene Gonzales

“I was sleepless for at least two nights just going through the cookbook. It had so many interesting recipes of traditional breads, including coffee cakes and yeast-risen cakes, that I thought it had to be shared with the world.”

Normally, books—or cookbooks—are launched one at a time. Not for Chef Gene Gonzalez, however. The multi-awarded Filipino chef and culinary educator, who is behind the critically acclaimed Café Ysabel and Center for Asian Culinary Studies (CACS), is such a prolific cookbook author that, despite his busy schedule as a professional chef and culinary consultant, he can constantly come up with great cookbook ideas.
Just last June 6, Chef Gene and his publisher, Anvil Publishing, launched two cookbooks—Modern Philippine Confections: Tropical Island Flavors and Treats and Breads, Cakes, Pastries, and More—at the new Café Ysabel along M. Paterno St. in San Juan.
The first cookbook, Modern Philippine Confections: Tropical Island Flavors and Treats, is a collection of 60 recipes representing Chef Gene’s adaptations of favorite confections from all over the world, including marshmallows, macarons, chocolates and other confections. Chef Gene adapted them to tropical island flavors, such as langka (jackfruit), guava, pineapple, coconut, calamansi, ube (purple yam), melon, sampaguita, ylang-ylang, pandan, mango and chocnut.
Aside from the ready availability of ingredients, these recipes are easy to follow. “Even children can make them. They are so easy that the macarons are the most difficult already,” explains Chef Gene, who personally signed each copy of the book for guests who bought one.
Chef Gene got the idea for a confections cookbook after noticing that pasalubong centers all over the country offer mostly pastillas and polvoron.
“Hopefully,” he says, “the book can inspire people to create other pasalubong ideas.”
The second cookbook that was recently launched, Breads, Cakes, Pastries, and More, is actually derived from the Golden Treasury of Baking authored by the late Efren Bunquin and was first published in 1963.
Four years ago, in a Kundirana concert practice, Chef Gene met Raymond Bunquin, who told the amiable chef about the cookbook of his late dad and promised to give him a copy. Being a voracious reader and collector of cookbooks, Chef Gene wondered why he never came across Bunquin’s book. When he received the book, a third edition copy released in 1976, he picked it up and started reading the masterpiece work of the late baker and authority on flour, who finished his MS degree in Cereal Chemistry at the North Western University. Once Chef Gene started flipping through the pages of the cookbook, he could not stop because he was simply amazed at the wealth of recipes in it.
“I was sleepless for at least two nights just going through the cookbook. It had so many interesting recipes of traditional breads, including coffee cakes and yeast-risen cakes, that I thought it had to be shared with the world. So I asked Anvil if they would print the book if I kitchen-tested the recipes and put my annotations on each recipe. When Anvil said yes, I started researching on Efren Bunquin, got hold of even more recipes of his from other sources, and kitchen-tested over 400 recipes with CACS students,” explains Chef Gene, who then went on to include in the book some of the other recipes that he ‘discovered’ during the course of his research on Bunquin. The chef religiously made his annotations on the recipes.
The result is Breads, Cakes, Pastries, and More, whose treasury of recipes include Brazo de la Reyna, Malacañang Cream Roll, Beautiful Babka, Coffee Klatsch Cake and Especial Pan De Sal de Baliwag.
Despite just being released, both books have already won World Gourmand Awards. These, plus the World Gourmand Award given to Chef Gene’s previous cookbook, Philippine Breads, became another cause for celebration during the cookbook launch, where guests got to taste some of the featured recipes by way of a merienda buffet.
Modern Philippine Confections sells for P195 and Breads, Cakes, Pastries, and More retails at P525, both available at National Bookstore and Powerbooks stores.

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