St. Louis Filipino Bread now open in Maryland Heights
The selection of Filipino breads at St. Louis Filipino Bread in Maryland Heights is amazing. The small room that opened in April – and by “little” we mean a room the size of your school counselor’s office, except that it is filled with bread instead of brochures.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the choices. There are boxes on tables and shelves that are as tall as possible. The window behind the counter looks out onto a kitchen with a bunch of bakers who seem to be constantly on the move.
“We are from the Philippines, but we all live here now,” explains one worker, explaining that there are enough Filipinos in St. Louis to create a market for one of the most valued elements of Filipino food.
An industrial-size mixer and a nifty machine with a belt that falls over cellophane-wrapped bread are both busy. Breads that have already been packaged on the shelf are called pang-estante. If you ask what’s currently Turo-Turo, the staff will tell you which breads are coming out of the oven and you can order them while they are hot.
If you are thinking of a number of options, you need to know that ube is purple yams. They are cooked and mashed in all kinds of Filipino desserts. Attempts to explain their taste usually involve words like “white chocolate,” “vanilla,” “pistachio”, and “I couldn’t get past that Harold’s crayon color.” What is easier to describe is the texture, creamy and smooth. Ube was featured as a mousse in a filled donut recently offered by the Manila Social Club in Brooklyn.
There are various types of bread that ube use as an ingredient that adds sweetness and a creamy richness. Ube bread is a donut-sized bun filled with a purple yam pudding. Ube wrinkles are similar to puffy sugar cookies with deep crevices and a satisfactory crunch.
Ensaymada (pictured above) reminds you of a brioche, egg, and yeasty light made with butter instead of lard and rolled in sugar. They come in large, swirling knots. Best of all, if you want to try them decadently, soak them in a mug of hot chocolate.
Pan de Sal will probably be the most famous bread here and one of the bakery’s most popular products. It’s like a Parker House bun, even looks the same with a golden brown top, and has a puffy, airy lightness that melts, just leaves a faint salty taste, and leaves you wondering how you managed to eat half a dozen, without noticing it . The buns are dusted with breadcrumbs before entering the oven, which adds a subtle topping that adds to their addicting charm. (If you want your rolls to be lightly crispy on top, ask if they have a pan de sal tostado that spends a little more time in the oven.)
Pan de coco rolls are filled with bukayo, desiccated coconut that is sweetened and then caramelized. Dark chocolate fills German chocolate bread. Pan de Pula means “red bread,” but the alternative term used in St. Louis Filipino Bread is Kalihim. The filling contains sugar, milk, and vanilla, plus a hefty drop of red food coloring and stale bread left over from yesterday’s baking. It makes a scarlet jam that is sticky and sweet.
Like Pan de Pula, Pig Pie (pictured above) is another product worth ordering for name alone. There’s no such thing as a pig – it’s a hearty onion bun. Then there is Red Pudding Bahug-Bahug, a type of Filipino variant of bread pudding. And don’t forget about the cinnamon rolls, as big and lustful as you know, but with a much lighter texture and frosted icing.
The variety in the bakery is extraordinary. It’s a great addition to the St. Louis food scene. Your best bet: ask for a sweet bread and a savory version, then work your way through the offerings on successive visits.