In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I wanted to take a moment to share something near and dear to my heart (and stomach) growing up in a Filipino household.
Ube pandesal is a delicious Filipino sweet bread baked with purple yam – known as “ube” in the Philippines – and a sweet cheesy center mixed with ube jam. The small loaves come out in a bright purple color. As a child, I would regularly stuff my face with pandesal and other Filipino treats on a regular basis. As an adult, I admit I still can.
The problem is, my ube obsession can be hard to find, especially in the Metroplex. Making the bread is an art in itself, and my own Filipina mother does not find time to bake outside of her job as a nurse. Oftentimes, one has to know someone who makes pandesal in bulk and shares with friends and family, which is how I continue to meet my quota on eating pandesal each month.
So when I heard about a mother-daughter duo in Allen launching a pandesal bakery in the past year, I knew I had to tell their story of sharing Filipino culture with North Texans.
Jennifer Dural moved to Texas from the Philippines nearly 15 years ago. She's always had a talent for baking and cooking Filipino food, mainly for her family and friends to enjoy.
Her specialty is pandesal and pan de keso, a sweet cheese bread. She also whips up Filipino flan as well as ensaymada, a classic Filipino brioche topped with different sweet toppings like buttercream, almonds, or shredded cheese and sugar.
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"I've been baking in the Philippines since I was 12 years old with my mom,” she said. "It took many years to perfect because it's hard to perfect this bread."
In the past year, her daughter, Rafaela – who happens to be a marketing graduate from UT Dallas – helped bring Jennifer’s delicious creations to the masses.
"Fortunately for me, I have my mom, and she's always been baking all kinds of things – cakes, Filipino desserts and Filipino food. But I have a lot of friends who are able to keep in touch with their culture because we are able to share that with them,” Rafaela said.
With more time to spend at home during the pandemic, the two started a family business The Pandesal Place.
Once Rafaela posted her mother’s creations of ube pandesal and pan de keso on social media, their business took off.
Her pictures of sweet bread fresh out of the oven is temptation enough.
Within months, the bakery was featured in the Dallas Morning News and D Magazine. At their peak in the last few months, they had orders to make nearly 1,000 pieces of sweet bread in one order cycle.
Watching Jennifer in the kitchen during our visit to their home bakery, I can tell how much care she puts into every single piece she creates.
"It's been overwhelming. Only my friends have tried it,” said Jennifer.
The family said clearly North Texans are hungry for Filipino sweets and they're happy to share the love.
"We just love making it and sharing it to everyone,” Jennifer said. “As a Filipino, this is my way with our food, of sharing the culture."
The bakery works out of their home in Allen and fulfills orders once a month, with pick-up organized through set meeting locations on pick-up day. However, the family said they want to expand into a brick-and-mortar shop one day soon.
"In the Philippines, we have corner bakeries within neighborhoods. You turn the corner and there's a bakery, or what you call a panaderia, and that's our goal. We want to be that local panaderia that you can just go to,” said Rafaela.
And that's a good thing. In recent years, Filipino restaurants and awareness for the culture have steadily increased, with more options for eating Filipino food now than there were 10 or 15 years ago.
"Over time, it's just been growing. The community of Filipino food has just been growing with more pop-ups. We're so glad that we're able to join that movement," Rafaela said.
Mark your calendars – the next order window opens up this Sunday, May 30, 2021.