Osang’s makes the finest broas I have ever tasted in the Philippines (and yes, I have NOT tasted all of them). And more than just the end result, I think they have one of the most truly ARTISANAL approaches to their baked goods, one of a dying breed of food artisans all across the country. If they would allow me to buy into their operations just to preserve this gem of an institution for generations to come, I would do it without hesitation. And I have never said that on this blog before, so yes, I feel very strongly about Osang’s. Our family has purchased broas from Osang’s for nearly 50 years… My first recollection of entering their storedates back nearly forty years, and I distinctly remember dropping off large empty tin cans on our way to my mother’s ancestral summer home a couple of hours drive away, and a week or so later passing by Osang’s to pick up the cans that were filled with the most amazing broas ever. The broas are made almost exactly the same way they were made nearly half a century ago. And they still taste wonderful.
Besides taking care of family business in Tagbilaran, my recent overnight trip to Bohol had another purpose. I was there to campaign privately for Mar Roxas and Noynoy Aquino. I visited some 6-7 markets in just a few hours and handed out nearly 2,000 ballers (rubber bracelets, I had no idea what a baller was before this campaign!), lots of aprons, tons of stickers and other campaign paraphernalia. All of these we either purchased from the Aquino campaign headquarters or were sent directly to us from the Roxas campaign headquarters. And no, I was not with the candidates themselves, just doing this on my own initiative, just as we had in Batangas, Palawan, Cebu, Baguio, etc. in recent weeks, hence the frenetic travel schedule.
So I was thrilled when I asked the daughter (or was it now granddaughter) of Osang who they were supporting in the upcoming elections and they enthusiastically said Aquino/Roxas. I went back to the car to get them one apron and a baller and before I knew it, every single one of their workers had donned the aprons proudly and put on the ballers before going back to work. They were in the middle of broas production run, and I was thrilled to take several photos to detail the process. I have posted just a few of these photos here, so as not to give the entire procedure away… I might save that for part of a book instead. The eggs and sugar are mixed in a specialized mechanized mixer that goes at a slow pace (this is the only change from hand-mixing some 4 decades ago). Flour is then added, the batter is hand mixed to the right consistency and placed manually in large piping bags…
Each broas is hand piped onto a thin sheet of tin and baked in their wood-fired clay oven. I have done a post on Osang’s oven before, see it here . They also bake their other specialties in this oven, see another post on them here.
When the cookies are deemed to be done just so, they are removed, dusted with superfine sugar, removed from their pans and carefully laid on buri ribs (the center stems/spines of the large buri palm leaves, like giant ting-tings or coconut leaf ribs) for a second cooking. This is done over a very low charcoal heat. This second drying process is critical to ensuring a crisp cookie. It is similar to the second baking of Italian biscotti. After a few minutes baking on one side, they are turned over. Sometimes they are moved to a very low heat part of the open oven where they dry out further. Then each cookie is brushed to get rid of any browned/burned bits. EACH AND EVERY COOKIE IS HAND BRUSHED!
This is how they have done it for decades and they haven’t thought to expand their output or switch to modern ovens. They only make so many broas a day, and when that runs out, that’s it. I asked them if they wanted to increase their sales and they smiled politely, sure I was kidding. I then promised I could ensure a steady purchase order of at least 100 bags per week if they guaranteed production, but they demurred. You have to love them. I think the record order they have done for me is a couple hundred bags when we gave these away for Christmas presents one year. And I had to place that order several weeks in advance!
At PHP100 for a bag that must contain at least 50 pieces, I felt they should be asking at least double for their cookies. But competitors using far more shortcuts and with less impressive broas were undercutting them pricewise. Arrgh, I hope they don’t eventually go out of business as a result…
Back at home, before reclining on my bamboo chair to write out my list of candidates for next Monday’s election, I happily munch on nearly a dozen Osang’s broas with a glass of ice cold Diet Coke. They go great with hot chocolate as well. Knowing how each and every cookie is lovingly hand made, I appreciate the snack more than you can ever imagine. :)