Friday, March 24, 2006

Tinapay: Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

This is part of a series, "Tinapay," about local breads and cookies at street corner bakeries across the Philippines.
Baguio City being a mere 1 1/2 hour ride from my hometown, not a year passes by without at least a visit to the country's summer capital. Its proximity also affords us lowlanders the privilege of avoiding the crowds and going there during tourist off-peak seasons. As such, we get to avoid the frenzy, and can take our own sweet time enjoying what the mountain city has to offer.

But a Baguio trip is, and should be, never complete without a visit to the Good Shepherd Convent, along the end of Gibraltar Road and just before you hit Mines View Park. Even if it is so out of the way, a good twenty minute drive from the center of the city.

I may forego the fresh highland vegetables at the market, breakfast and probably all meals at Cafe By the Ruins, the bulalo at Rito's, batchoy at the PMA bowling lanes, the chicken at Rose Bowl, pancit at Star Cafe, some pasta at the original Don Henrico's, and the ubiquitous walis, but never, never, will I leave Baguio without paying my respects to the nuns, even if sometimes it means we have to drive from one mountain to another (good thing I don't drive, but better that the hubby indulges me).

For you see, the Good Shepherd Convent does not only produce the one and only ube jam non-pareil, as well as a complete line of strawberry products - from fresh fruits to syrup to preserved whole fruit to spread to jam to jelly to the newest low sugar 100% fruit - but also a whole slew of bakery products that are a class in themselves and are, at times, undeservedly overshadowed by the famous jams.

Foremost of these is the cinnamon swirl loaf.

All travel books I've read about the Philippines that had been written by foreigners are one in pronouncing the Cordilleras as cinnamon bread haven. And going around the region, I found that to be excellently true. From the town bakeries of Banawe to the market bakeshops of Bontoc to the foreign-influenced restaurants in Sagada, down to the anciently revered Star Cafe and space cowboy inhabited 468 along Session Road in Baguio, one can always find and be comforted by soft, sweet bread redolent with the aromatic spice.

Good Shepherd elevates this reputation to new, hard-to-scale heights. In a light, fluffy, buttery moist loaf, inside of which cinnamon has left a whirling and twirling, fragrantly sweet trail. And I could eat a whole loaf, because it comforts me so much, but which is rather impractical since the price has now increased from the original Php5o per loaf ten years ago to Php75 nowadays. And more so because I'm leaving no room in my stomach for not much else.

But then again it's alright, because I always, always, bring extra money for hoarding the bakery items because, unlike the fresh strawberries, they are such good travelers and keep so well in the refrigerator for more than a week.

A national broadsheet, before it went online, once zeroed in on the jarred cookies - alfajores, crinkles, etc. The famous angel cookies, too, so-called because they contain trimmings of the Roman Catholic host, and which I've sent to a blogging by mail partner in New Zealand. There's a whole wheat "Marian" loaf, which is a bit dry, but satisfyingly multi-grain, without giving the sensation of crunching on pebbles in your mouth.

There are two counters in the selling area atop the hill where the convent is located, past the basketball court and the commissary where the business first ventured out. The counter to your left is where ube jam and the bakery items are sold, while the one to the right is where the various fruit preserves and nut products are. Recently a nipa hut kiosk had been added, at a right angle to the ube jam counter, selling meryenda or snack items.

This is a good development, the better to highlight the "other" first-rate products being sold, which are now a distance away from the frequently disgruntled ube customers.

So you can concentrate on the refreshing strawberry-lemon cooler, or a brew from the region's Arabica plantations. To go with, more importantly, the lusciously delightful mound of ensaymada with a generous topping of grated cheese that is worthy of another post. And (yes, and) the adobo pandesal, filled to bursting with chewy pork shreds with a bonus slice of boiled egg, that is so delicious to eat warm under the Baguio morning sun.

There are new products that have been included in the kiosk - chicken pie and baked siopao. And a big cookie peppered with hard, unmelting chocolate chips, on which you may be in danger of choking as I had been. Maybe the date cookies, which had ran out, are better. The peanut-almond cookies are passable. Cookies are definitely not the nuns' expertise. Except for the angel ones, of course.

But those are just a few among all the many other excellent products the convent makes. A bite alone into the cinnamon loaf and you'll be smitten, forever. Guaranteed. And I'm not even talking about the jams yet.


  • You are more than welcome to buy after the Holy Week and for the rest of the year (you'd be more lucky in being able to snatch a bottle of that most-coveted ube jam), but be warned, though, Good Shepherd claims no responsibility for products sold under the Mountain Maid brand at outlets other than in the convent, whether in Baguio or elsewhere. So go to Baguio! And buy Good Shepherd, even if it is the only thing you bring home. Never mind the walis.

  • Emblazoned on every Good Shepherd jar and and plastic wrap is the statement that every product you buy helps the convent in sending someone to school. Do patronize Good Shepherd products. The premium you pay for first-rate quality food products and the effort to go to their store are more than worth it. You are also fulfilling your alms-giving duty this Lenten Season, at the same time satisfying your palate. Hitting two birds with one stone - a bit odd, since Lent is about fasting and abstinence, but that's just me, hehe.

  • Related post
    Bahay Pastulan Goodies, products of Good Shepherd nuns in Tagaytay City

    Other Baguio Goodies
    Vizco's Strawberry Shortcake
    Choco-Strawberry Float

    The Tinapay Series


    Toni said...

    Every Baguio trip of mine has to include the Good Shepherd convent on the itinerary too! Gosh I miss Baguio. Haven't gone back there in years. Thanks for reminding me!

    dexiejane said...

    i want some :)

    a said...

    I love anything with Cinnamon...Those bread photos reminds me all kinds of bread we have available in Manila- French Bread Bakery sell their very own adobo roll- it's to die for!


    rlf said...

    How about the "kababayan"? Was looking for the recipes but google can't find it either!

    Anonymous said...

    this post just made me feel guilty! my kids have been begging for cinnamon swirl bread for a week now, and i've been putting them off. i love to bake for them but sometimes i could send them off to the corner bakery too -- if only we had one!! dapat madala 'tong mga batang 'to sa baguio.

    Theoretical Cook said...

    Hi Kai. I wish I was able to read your post while I was in Baguio - then I could have visited some of the places you made mention of. We had a difficult time deciding where to eat because everyone had different ideas (and wanted to skip the usual haunts). I didnt know about the excellent cinammon bread, for one. We passed by Pangasinan on our way back and we were able to buy tupig by the roadside though, my first Pangasinan tupig. Yum.

    Kai said...

    Toni, time to go back!

    Dexiejane, if only it would survive the mail I'll send you some!

    Tin, thanks for the tip, I'll go to French Baker right now!

    Relly, sorry, I can't find one, too. I have to talk to a street baker for that.

    Stef, I'd love to get hold of your recipe when you have the time to make some!

    TC, there's always a next time! At least you got tupig!

    Anonymous said...

    i already beg M for 3 weeks off from work this october.. for a real trip up north philippines and visit Samar and Leyte as well

    other than that I will have to compile all stories you pinoy foodies and travellers have written.

    I will be around hopefully i just hope my work has an internet connection if my capt is internet junkie himself

    see u

    Anonymous said...


    She said...

    I am from Baguio City but I rarely go to Good Shepherd. But if I do, I grab hold of their Ube Jam :) They are the best :)

    Kai said...

    She, I buy no other ube jam in Baguio but Good Shepherd!