Abi Balingit was obsessed with baking from a young age. At 17, she got a stand mixer for Christmas and says it became her “whole personality.” Balingit grew up in California but now lives in New York. During the pandemic, she started a blog and began making pastry boxes stuffed with her inventive Filipino-inspired desserts. They were a hit and earned her a cookbook deal. That book is out now: “Mayumu: Filipino American Desserts Remixed.”
“Mayumu” means sweet in Kapampangan, her parents’ language in the Philippines, Balingit tells KCRW.
She says she focuses on balance when making Filipino desserts. “I try my best to walk this tightrope, where you definitely still want it to taste like dessert, and you want it to be majority sweet. But at the same time, you don't want it to be something where you're tired after one bite. … In a lot of even just Asian cultures, a parent or an aunt saying, ‘Oh, that's not too sweet’ is the best compliment, I think.”
She credits the Food Network for inspiring her to get into sweets. She says she watched a lot of TV growing up, including cake content, and she developed a passion for baking specifically in the early 2000s.
Balingit’s food life took a particular turn during the COVID pandemic, when she started creating and selling boxes called “pasalubong” (loosely meaning souvenir), which each contained six desserts. She gave the profits to charity.
“It felt like there was no end in sight. And a lot of the times, online, it was really cool to see people doing bake sales on their own, and then also contributing to Black Lives Matter, different nonprofits, mutual aid networks. … I was like, ‘Okay, well, I'll do it too, then,’” she recalls. “And it was a way that I met so many cool people. … In the past three years, I've raised almost $15,000 with just doing all these rounds of boxes and people trying desserts. … Book or no book, I think that was something that I've alway really felt good about.”
Adobo chocolate chip cookies
Makes 22 cookies
Chicken adobo stewed in soy sauce and vinegar was always the dinner my parents cooked for us when they needed to fix up a quick but delicious meal. For my signature chocolate chip cookie recipe, I wanted to incorporate all of adobo’s nuanced and comforting flavors. I am a big fan of incorporating savory into my desserts, and this recipe is no exception. Miso chocolate chip cookies have been everywhere lately, and I thought that soy sauce acts as an excellent alternative source of salt. For an acid to help with activating the baking soda, apple cider vinegar is mixed into the dough.
To add a hint of herbal flavor, I steep a couple bay leaves in the butter while it’s browning. Last but not least, toasted pink peppercorns adorn the cookies. When you take a bite with some of the chopped dark chocolate, they help accentuate the fruitier, more floral notes of the chocolate while adding a hint of spice. As a kid, I’d wince every time I took a bite of a whole black peppercorn while eating adobo. For these cookies, I opted for pink peppercorns specifically since they’re milder and less harsh on the tongue.
- ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2 fresh bay leaves (or 4 dried bay leaves)
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
- ¼ cup soy sauce (regular sodium)
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 10 ounces dark chocolate (60% to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
- Flaky sea salt, for garnish
- Place the butter and bay leaves in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula until the butter melts and gets golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour the brown butter into a large bowl and discard the bay leaves. Set aside until cool enough to touch, about 10 minutes.
- Add both sugars to the brown butter and whisk by hand until well combined. Mix in the egg, egg yolk, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla.
- In a separate medium bowl, mix together the flour and baking soda until the baking soda is evenly distributed.
- Gently whisk the flour mixture into the butter mixture until no flour streaks remain.
- With a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Ideally, you’d want to let it rest overnight to allow more time for the flavors to meld. After an overnight rest, the cookies have an intense caramel flavor once baked. If you’re resting the dough overnight, just make sure you let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to make it easier to scoop into balls.
- Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with silicone mats.
- Using a 3-tablespoon cookie scoop, portion the dough into balls. Place six dough balls on one of the prepared baking sheets, making sure to leave at least 2 inches of space between the balls. Place the bowl of remaining cookie dough back in the fridge until the first sheet is done baking.
- In a small skillet, toast the pink peppercorns on low heat until they start to smell fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Grind the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle until they’re coarsely crushed.
- Sprinkle some of the crushed pink peppercorns and flaky sea salt on top of the dough balls before popping the baking sheet into the oven.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. Before taking the cookies out of the oven, drop the sheet against the oven rack a couple times at a height of about 4 to 5 inches to create outer ripples in the cookies. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Repeat the process with the remaining cookie dough and the other lined baking sheet until all the dough is baked.
From Mayumu by Abi Balingit. Copyright © 2023 by Abigail Balingit. Reprinted by permission of Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.