The broas (ladyfingers) from Osangâ€™s somewhere behind the Baclayon Church in Bohol are simply spectacular. Broas are my number one favorite locally baked sweet crunchy snack. Itâ€™s a kid thing. Growing up I used to get dragged to my motherâ€™s ancestral summer home in Bohol and on the arduous jeepney or minibus ride there we would stop at her suki where she would chat with the old lady while the ENTIRE jeepney or minibus waited patiently and we would pick up a few packs of broas to take with us on the trip. At this early stage, she would also place orders for several cans (huge cans) of broas for us to take back to Manila on our way home. Last year I went back to Osangâ€™s and it has barely changed in the past 30 years in between my last visit. Many people make broas in Bohol, but Osangâ€™s is it for Marketman.
Broas are nothing new, they are in fact a local version of well-known ladyfingers or similar cookies in the west. What makes the Bohol ones so good is half fond childhood memories and half an incredible attention to craftsmanship. The recipe is a secret mix of whole eggs (not egg whites as most would assume), flour and sugar. My sister once spent a day at Osangâ€™s to figure out how to make them but she recalls mostly that they were slowly mixed by hand in wooden bowls. The slow mix yields a different consistency from an aerated mix in an electric mixer. They still mix the ingredients by hand today. Also unique is they oven where charcoal is beneath the cookies and charcoal is also place above the cookies so that they are crisp and cooked just right all over. You would think after selling their 7 millionth broas they could get an oven but that isnâ€™t the point. How nice that someone still makes this the old-fashioned way! Considering how humid the Philippines is, the fact that these cookies remain crunchy for several days or weeks if properly stored is a miracle in and of itself.
By the way, forget all those stories that Bohol had lots of particular baked sweet goodies due to church construction in the 1500′s, egg whites, etc. While the egg whites WERE probably used to set the sand/mortar between large stones in churches, this then washed away with the rains afterwards. All the yolks were probably used in cooked dishes but REFINED sugar wasn’t readily available until 100-150 years AFTER the churches were built. So historically it would seem unlikely that all these sweet delicacies were made around the time the churches were built! Postscript note: some later research by Marketman suggests the churches in Bohol have misleading plaques, they weren’t built in the 1500′s but rather the 1700′s and later!!! In that case, the broas/torta/eggwhite in mortar story becomes more believable but refined sugar in the Philippines wasn’t readily available until the mid-1800′s… The only thing that has changed in the past 30 years is the way they pack them. Instead of nice sturdy airtight cans they pack them in paper bags followed by an outer layer of plastic bags. The packaging looks flimsy but surprisingly few broas break even after being packed and carried on a plane or boat. I can munch on up to 30! broas in one sittingâ€¦and they work well in a tira misu as well. But the best possible match for the broas is a nice steaming cup of hot chocolate made from bohol grown cacaoâ€¦ The broas photographed here were brought by my brother yesterday. I have consumed nearly half of one bag already…