I have been known to literally fill a whole grocery cart with powdered sugar in boxes when they don’t have the bulk plastic bags available… finally, all through the year I keep my eyes out for good brown sugar like muscovado that looks, feels and smells like brown sugar should.If it clumps up and gets hard, that’s actually a good sign that it is the kind of sugar you should want.On salt, I am lucky enough to have one more box of really salty tasting kosher salt that I use in bread.

I read somewhere once that if you can’t find cake flour you just have to slightly reduce the amount of all-purpose flour to attempt to replicate the impact of using cake flour. I thought I would do well to buy eggs in local town markets but they have generally turned out to be extremely watery and the yolks break into the whites annoyingly often… In general, the cost of ingredients in baked goods is small compared to say a meat dish, so splurge for the finest quality you can afford. There are a few European and Australian butter brands available but they are incredibly expensive for the slight bump up in quality.

For eggs, I use the finest organic eggs I can find such as the organic eggs from Joey Malana at the Salcedo market (though his are the bloody priciest I have ever purchased at PHP250 for 30 eggs and that’s discounted! For recipes which I don’t think the butter will necessary shine through, I use any decent locally available unsalted butter.

In theory, unsalted should be of a better quality as there is no salt to mask the underlying taste of the butter.

When I need something that will shine through the finished product, I go French or Danish (the latter on the assumption that they must have happy cows in Denmark, right? Think butter spread ON TOP of finished ensaimadas then sprinkled with sugar and cheese and think nose-bleed butter.

It is also not as bleached as supermarket all-purpose flour.

For cakes, I used boxed Maya cake flour only because I haven’t seen anything else, have had mediocre results with Maya so far. For some reason, the Philippines has really crappy butter – generally very high water content (which screws up recipes big-time) and lower than average quality.

I read somewhere that if keep apple slices in the sugar jar it will prevent it from clumping up… I haven’t tried this and wonder if it will work in such a humid country…but that’s what I read.

On yeast, I use Fleischmans yeast in packets if I am only doing a little baking.

It can’t be the holiday season unless you have baked SOMETHING!

In our home, the ovens go into overdrive this time of year and at Marketmanila, we started over a month ago testing ensaimada recipes, making several leche flans, pan de sal, lenguas, angel food cake, upside down pineapple cake, cookies… and the list goes on and on.

This is the priciest of the locally available yeasts but it is reliable. If I am baking in bulk, I buy the Red Star yeast in cans and once opened keep it in the fridge.