A puto is a type of Filipino muffin or cake usually made with rice flour. These muffins are always steamed and, depending what type of flour is used, can be a variety of colors. Usually white or yellow, they can even be bright shades of purple, with no artificial colorings. Putos are often topped with cheese or anise seeds and can be easily made at home.
Flour, baking powder, and sugar are included in a puto, as well as butter or margarine, milk, and eggs whites. A variety of different milks can be used, depending on the cook's preference, such as coconut, evaporated, or white. Occasionally, both egg white and yolk are used.
To make a puto, the flour and baking powder are sifted together before being included in the batter. The butter is softened, but not melted because it must be beaten with the sugar in a process called creaming. Creaming the butter simply gives it a light texture.
When the butter is creamed, the flour and baking powder mixture is added to the butter, as is the milk. Both are added in small quantities, alternately, and whisked until combined. If just egg whites are used, they are beaten separately until they begin to stiffen. Then, sugar is added and the mixture is beaten until stiff. Although the egg whites can be whisked by hand, an electric mixer is recommended for this process.
Once mixing is complete, the stiffened egg white mixture is folded into the flour mixture. Folding is a delicate way to mix ingredient which retains the air that is trapped inside the egg mixture and allows for a fluffy, light composition of the cooked sweet. Simply stirring the ingredients would result in a loss of the trapped air and cause the finished product to be flat and heavy.
Usually cooked in molds, putos can be cooked in muffin pans. The molds or pans are filled three quarters of the way with batter and may be lined with banana leaves. Quick-melting cheese or anise seeds are often placed on top of the batter before cooking.
Putos are always steamed. Care must be taken, however, that the condensation in the steamer does not touch the cooking muffins. Placing a muslin cloth between the lid and the pan should catch the drops of moisture and ensure that the putos rise correctly. Not all steamers will need a cloth, but many metal ones will.
For some color variation, using ube powder mixed with all-purpose flour will make the putos a bright lavender and impart a slightly different flavor on the muffins. Ube powder is simply the powdered meat of purple yams. Putos are often served with dinuguan, a type of Filipino blood stew that usually includes both pork meat and offal.