12 years and a pandemic later, this Filipino bakeshop continues to rise to the occasion

An ensaymada with ube halaya is traditional. - Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN

PHILIPPINES (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN): Pearl de Guzman of Baby Pat Breads and Pastries finds herself bringing together an assortment of flavours into a bright, tight package of soulful ensaymadas, a spiral-shaped pastry made with sweet yeast dough and topped with powdered sugar.. But don’t let the signature colour-coded wax paper wraps lure you into thinking that it’s simply an array of vibrant specimens of yet another classic pastry.

In many ways, the home-based bakeshop derives from, deviates from, and devotes to a heartwarming legacy. Established in 2010 in memory of her mother Patria Ramirez Macalindong, or “Mama Pat” as she is fondly known, de Guzman isn’t one to shy away from embracing her heritage and kicking off an experimental sense of fun.

“It was my way of keeping her alive in my memory and my life. I grew up with her baking and tending our modest bakeshop, Pat’s Cake House, in Cavite City in 1976. Remembering my mother and her love inspires me to continue her legacy.”

The power of flour

Granted, the pastry chef’s ensaymadas don’t push boundaries per se with the types of relatable local ingredients on display. However, the constellation of products is worth wallowing in for the simple reason that these are delicious products of Filipino legacy.

Where others may feel excessive with their play on flavours, nothing here screams contrived. It’s all just a celebration of decadence that flirts with high-quality execution. The classic ensaymada is predictably good with a textured sugar coating enough to contrast the mildly chewy pastry; rich but not overpowering.

For the love of local

De Guzman’s forays into local flavours meanwhile sees her wielding her understanding of the Filipino flavour palate.

“An ensaymada with ube halaya (purple potato jam) is traditional. It is one of the baked products that my mother’s bakeshop was renowned for,” she says. Her version that incorporates queso de bola (cheese) is a piece fleshed out of her Caviteño heritage and a need to respond to the sophisticated tastes of the current generation of well-traveled Filipinos.

You can also see this on the Speculoos ensaymada where the generous smearing of the cookie butter spread feels primed to occupy all-day appetites. “My son Patrick loves this flavour he discovered in the Lotus Biscoff cookies served as a snack while on a Delta flight,” she says.

You do taste the creamy and carameliaed gingerbread flavor and the heft of the dough with each bite, and unlike other ensaymadas, the tastiness doesn’t get lost in fluff or air. Shelf life is a core strength, too—you can refrigerate or keep them in the freezer for up to two months.

Thinking past the pandemic

Making, baking, and perfecting pastry may be one of the toughest requirements in running a home bakeshop but hard work alone isn’t a silver bullet to the blows of the current pandemic. Even so, de Guzman took the strange global affairs in stride.

“The disruption has compelled us to improve our health safeguards for baking and (an) online system for business transactions. Although personal pick-ups and handovers of orders have lessened, door-to-door deliveries have increased,” she says.

The fact that de Guzman used this time for self-improvement and for helping delivery service providers is proof that sustaining a legacy brand doesn’t just mean sticking to what’s always worked out. There’s something to be said for molding a business plan to attune to the signs of the times, especially now when Filipino consumer behaviour and taste preferences constantly swirl in dynamic directions.

“I am aware that times have changed and so do the tastes and likes of Filipinos as they travel, explore, and discover more new foods,” de Guzman says, admitting this is a constant challenge to bakers like her who aspire to offer the best possible products to a fickle Filipino market.

But if the versatility and execution of Baby Pat Breads and Pastries are anything to go by, anyone can find redemption even in the most trying of times. “Bake with pure passion and pleasure, constantly improve, innovate, and commit yourselves to excellence,” she says.

De Guzman knows exactly what kind of products she wants to churn out and what type of brand she wants to bring into the future: a self-assured bakery designed to both satisfy and challenge expectations.

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