March 29, 2012 in Desserts
Sometimes I get these cravings that come from what seems like no real rational place. Maybe it’s like scent memory, but working in the opposite direction where something subconsciously triggers a desire for a particular foodstuff. This time around I was stunned by a deep hunger pang that could only be satisfied by that sticky and sweet Filipino rice dessert, BIKO.
This is something that’s I’ve grown up with. Always on the lengthy buffet table at pretty much any gathering where the ratio of Filipinos to everybody else is at least 1:1, it’s usually in some circular bamboo basket lined with banana leaves. Often times it will be in tandem with ube (we’ll get to that some other time) or leche flan (a.k.a. leche plan). Growing up, whenever my mom made it, it was usually one of two versions. The one I saw most of was a layer of sticky rice cooked in coconut milk, covered by a layer of condensed milk that browned when baked in the oven. The second one was a rare occurrence; it was a little more involved. My mom had to make sure the whole thing didn’t burn by constantly stirring as the rice cooked on the stovetop resulting in a stiff viscous ball. The molten mass (it is extremely hot sugar we’re talking about here) is then transferred to a dish or mold, pressed, and left to cool. This is the rendition I took a stab at this time around.
I used the biko recipe from a fantastic Filipino cuisine site Panlasang Pinoy. In my version, I halved it, and used slightly less sugar overall, as well as part brown sugar and part cane sugar.
- 1 cup sticky/glutinous/sweet rice
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup regular sugar (I recommend using an unbleached sugar)
- 1 14 oz. can of light coconut milk
- A few pinches of sea salt
- butter or cooking oil (for greasing)
Put the water and rice in a rice cooker and let cook until cycle is finished. If you don’t have a rice cooker, then pour the rice and water in an accommodating sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the flame to low-medium, cover and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the water looks like it is completely absorbed.
Lightly grease a dish or mold, whatever you have on hand that is about the size of a pie dish.
In a second pan (I used a skillet with 3 inch walls) pour in the coconut milk and sugars and heat on medium-high to get the sugar melted. I recommend stirring with a wooden spoon to avoid burning the sugar that’s resting on the bottom of the pan. I emphasize a wooden spoon because plastic can actually melt from the heat of the sugar.
Once it starts to bubble, turn the heat to medium. When it looks fully incorporated, it will look like a mocha color and be of a slightly thicker consistency. Add the salt.
Add the semi-cooked rice and break up the rice if necessary. Now comes the fun part. Stir, stir, stir! Don’t let the bottom sit still for too long or it will burn. Burned sugar is great for some things, but not this. Cook it until the liquid is evaporated/absorbed by the rice. This will be stiff and almost form a ball when you stir it.
Pour it into your prepared dish and press the rice into it. Let it cool on the counter. When it’s a tolerable temperature, either warm or room temperature, eat it!