Today was another heat wave day. We ventured out again prior to lunch to hit up the grocery store. It was already unbearable by then. We were going to watch a movie, but the kids didn’t enjoy stepping foot in the heat. The humidity is so terrible it feels like you can’t breathe! So we stayed indoors for the most part. I noticed in my fridge that I had some condensed milk left over from making leche flan. So I decided to make a quick small batch of pastillas de leche. Pastillas are filipino candy adopted from the Spaniards when they had colonized the Philippines. It basically is a creamy milk candy (usually carabao milk), wrapped in bright colored wrapping. There is a great must-read blog post by Tangled Noodle on the Art of Pabalat, or the ancient filipino art of decorative paper cutting for pastillas.
My mother used to make pastillas de leche all the time. However, growing up in the U.S., carabao milk is not something you can pick up at the nearest Kroger. So she used a basic recipe of condensed milk, powdered milk, and sugar. I remember my mother making it formally on the stove top…because that’s how you could get the ultimate creamy goodness out of the candy! But I loved the candy’s so much she showed me how to heat up the condensed milk in the microwave and mix up the concoction myself. I swear I was making this stuff myself as a 6 year old for my after school snack! After making, you are supposed to roll them into small pieces tootsie-roll style, long or short depending on how much you made! Then roll in sugar and wrap. I made it so much that my mom and I would make batches, pour straight into a casserole dish, and then spoon it straight out of the dish when we wanted. Sometimes we’d score it so that we could pluck out a portion, but most of the time we just dug in! I think my mom and I were the only ones who devoured pastillas. We must have had similar palates.
So I have great memories of making these with my mom (she passed away when I was 18). I loved it when she would do the formal wrapping and give it to friends. I would help her. She always used bright blue cellophane. It was always so pretty to look at when all the wrapped candies were in a jar together. I have made pastillas once in a while, but not that often. Reflecting back, it was a nice tradition that I want to pass on to my children. They never had the chance to meet my mother, so this is one way they can experience a sense of what she was like. They love that. So I’m reminded that I need to keep these creations alive. I think next week I’ll make a full batch of wrapped pastillas and yema (another creamy filipino candy).
If you want a recipe for pastillas de leche, check out Panlasang Pinoy. This is the basic recipe I use because I love the sweet taste! I’ve tasted other recipes that are different, and this is basically the one I grew up on, so I prefer it! On Panlasang Pinoy you’ll also see pictures of how the candy is supposed to be rolled. As you can see from my batch from today, I was a bit lazy and just rolled them into balls. I didn’t have any wrapper, so I did a no-fuss shortcut so my kids and hubby can pop a bite-size portion into their mouth. Plus my batch was so small that I knew we were going to finish it within seconds!
Lesson Learned: #1: Reflect on memories of your childhood. Take the best and pass it on to your children. It’s one way they can develop an understanding of the generation before.
#2: Keep your cultural traditions alive and remembered. Diversity adds spice to life.