I baked these Pan de San Nicolas- Filipino Heirloom Cookies for Christmas. These cookies are also known as Panecillos de Saniculas of Pampanga. It dates back to the 19th century recipe from the family of Atching Lillian Borromeo, a Kapampangan culinary icon. I visited her on a trip to the Philippines.
The slow preparation process calmed me down and made me think of times when life was simpler, less complicated. The intricate design of the antique wooden cookie molds drew me to images of a generation when days were less rushed, less busy. Of an era when handmade and made from scratch were the norm. When there were no technical gadgets nor social media whirling around to record or transmit anything. There was nothing instantaneous about this Pan de San Nicolas cookie. That is why the Pan de San Nicolas is a beautiful cookie. Even better, old stories say this is a cookie that heals.
There was a reason why our grandmothers created recipes like this generations ago in the Philippines. This type of cookie was meant to show what was important in life. The effort and the love that went into the making of this recipe, the hand carving of these molds, they were all meant to illustrate what mattered most.
This cookie recipe spoke for itself. It had a few ingredients. It was uncomplicated. I mixed it by hand. I shaped the dough with my nimble fingers. I patted it all down on the wooden block of a cookie mold.
The results were an amazingly pretty cookie, that looked like it was hand embroidered. The flavors were exquisite. There was sweetness from the coconut cream, but it was not overbearing.
There was a buttery aroma, but it was understated. There was a quiet, breathtaking beauty in the cookie as I held it in the palm of my hand. It had taken a while to mold and bake, so it was taking me a while to eat it right away. I had to sit still and appreciate every vine, every curve, every little detail on its picture perfect prettiness.
Nothing else made Christmas this rich with meaning than this lovely heirloom cookie – the Filipino Pan de San Nicolas. And the most thrilling part? I baked it in my American kitchen, instantly connecting the past to the present. All of it was well worth the effort.
Pan de San Nicolas - Filipino Heirloom Butter Cookies
- Heirloom cookie wooden molds from Pampanga
- Springerle cookie molds
- 1 1/2 cups rice flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/8 cups granulated sugar
- 6 whole egg yolks
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 cup unsalted softened butter or margarine room temperature
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl: Cornstarch, baking powder, salt, sugar, egg yolks, coconut milk, butter, lemon zest and oil.Blend with a wooden spoon.Add the cake flour and the rice flour. Knead into a mixture that looks like a thick, smooth dough. Mixing by hand will take 10 minutes.
- Place the dough in an airtight container and freeze for 4 hours or overnight.
- The next day, take the dough out of the freezer. Thaw on the counter for 8 hours or more if needed. Keep the dough cold so it is easy to roll out.
- Pre-heat oven to 325 F.
To shape the cookies:
- Grease with baking spray or shortening the surface of the wooden San Nicolas cookie molds. Be sure to grease the inside crevices and corners of the cookie mold.Place about 1/4 cup of the dough over one San Nicolas cookie mold, over the hand-carved portion. Flatten with your hand to spread evenly.Place a piece of wax or parchment paper over the dough. Using a small rolling pin, roll and flatten the dough so it gets embedded in the design.
- Place a round or oval cookie cutter over the dough on top of the San Nicolas mold. Cut to the appropriate size and shape needed. Trim the edges of the cookie.Turn over the cookie mold and transfer the shaped dough on a greased baking sheet lined with parchment paper.Repeat shaping process for all the cookies.
To bake cookies:
- Bake the Pan de San Nicolas at 325 F for 10 to 12 minutes.When done, transfer cookies on a rack to cool down. It will take 30 to 40 minutes for cookies to cool.
To wrap and store:
- Wrap the baked Pan de San Nicolas in transparent cellophane. Store in airtight cookie tins. Keeps up to 1 week without refrigeration.Refrigerate or freeze cookies to last longer if preferred.
- The original recipe of Mrs. Borromeo used 2 cups arrow root flour (uraru in the Philippines). I substituted with rice flour because I couldn't find arrow root flour in my suburban supermarket.
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Nutrition Notes: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking or baking methods and brands of ingredients used.
Did you love this recipe? I have more Philippine dessert recipes in my popular cookbook How to Cook Philippine Desserts, Cakes and Snacks.
If you need Filipino Instant Pot recipes, find more in my newest cookbook Instant Filipino Recipes: My Mother’s Traditional Philippine Cooking in A Multicooker Pot. Buy my cookbooks and books on Amazon.com sold worldwide in paperback and Kindle format.
Copyright Notice: Hello, Friends! Please DO NOT LIFT OR PLAGIARIZE my original recipe, stories, photos or videos. All the images and content on this blog are COPYRIGHT PROTECTED and owned by my media company Besa-Quirino LLC. This means BY LAW you are NOT allowed to copy, scrape, lift, frame, plagiarize or use my photos, essays, stories and recipe content on your websites, books, films, television shows, videos, without my permission. If you wish to republish this recipe or content on media outlets mentioned above, please ASK MY PERMISSION, or re-write it in your own words and link back to my blog AsianInAmericaMag.com to give proper attribution. It is the legal thing to do. Thank you. Email me at [email protected].