When I was in grade school, I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. I was lucky I had teachers who inspired me and whom I looked up to. I thought it would be noble to help shape young minds the way they had helped shape mine. And I thought I would get a kick out of standing tall atop the wooden platform in front of our classroom, scribbling notes on the chalkboard all day long.

But, I must admit, there was another reason I fancied becoming a teacher. I so wanted the Holiday gifts! Come Christmas time, our teachers get lavished with the tastiest presents by doting parents and students. Think fruitcake studded with dates and cherries. Decadent brownies. Food for the Gods wrapped in whimsical cellophane. And, of course, heavenly lengua de gato [len-gwah deh gah-toh].

Borrowed from Spain, lenguas de gato are paper-thin buttery sugar cookies, so named because they are shaped like cat’s tongues. Snugly packed in jars fitted with yellow lids, lengua de gato is a classic Filipino Christmas treat. They are great dunked in coffee or cocoa, paired with ice cream, or simply nibbled one after another.

My I-want-to-be-a-teacher-pampered-with-presents phase didn’t last too long. One Christmas I discovered a penchant for wrapping gifts. I thought folding Holiday paper and making pretty pleats would be more fun than grading homework. I changed my fickle mind and dreamed of working in retail someday.

 

Lengua de Gato

 

Lengua de Gato Recipe
Recipe adapted from Penelope Casas’ The Foods and Wines of Spain, makes about 5 dozen cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon calamansi zest
2 egg whites
3/4 cup flour
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed. Add vanilla and calamansi rind and beat on medium. Add egg whites and continue to beat until very lightly textured.

Lengua de GatoSlowly stir in the flour and add salt.

Put dough in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round opening — plain tip #11 or #12. A ziploc bag with one of its tips snipped is a good substitute for a pastry bag. Press dough onto cookie sheet in 2-1/2 inch lengths, well-spaced at least an inch apart since the dough will spread when baked. Bake until cookies are very lightly browned around the edges, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove them immediately from the pan and cool on cooling racks.

The cookies burn in a flash, the original recipe cautions. I take this to heart every time I make lengua de gato. I watch the cookies like a hawk while I wait patiently for their edges to crisp and brown.

 

Lengua de Gato

 

More Holiday Baking from the Jun-blog Archives

 

Food for the Gods

Food for the Gods (Christmas Date and Walnut Bars)

Wrapped in festive red and green cellophane, Food for the Gods are buttery Christmas confections lavishly peppered with dates and walnuts. The texture is a cross between a crumbly cookie and a moist brownie. They are chewy with the crunch of chopped walnuts and the dates lend a rich caramel flavor with hints of honey.

 

Choc-Nut Chocolate Crackle Cookies

As you peel off its red pinstriped wrapper, Choc-Nut almost always crumbles. The fragile milk chocolate confection has a subtly grainy texture and has a delightful nutty taste. It is cocoa powder, milk powder, ground roasted peanuts and sugar mixed and molded into thumb-sized, ridged candy bars.

 

Paciencia Cookies

The cookie’s origin is Spanish, without a doubt. Ever since I was little and my mom introduced me to these light, crisp cookies, I’ve always wondered how paciencia got its name. Patience is a virtue and its sweet reward comes in the form of paciencia cookies.

  • nadia

    Wow, Jun! Your lengua de gato is shaped perfectly!

  • Myriam

    Hi Jun! If I can’t get calamansi (hard to here in Redmond, WA), can I use lime or lemon zest instead? Thank you. I love your blog, btw. It’s always a little bit of “home” when I get an update :)

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Nadia, thank you!!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Myriam, lemon would be fine. Thank you so much for following the blog. Enjoy the Holidays!

  • Maite

    Hi Jun! When you mention powdered sugar in the recipe, do you mean plain sugar or icing sugar?

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Hello Maite! It’s icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar. Happy Holidays!

  • Pru

    Hi Jun:) This story made me laugh! I work in Education and still look forward to the gifts! The birthday cupcakes are especially rewarding when delivered by toothless grins!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Pru, you’re one of the lucky ones!! Happy Holidays!

  • http://saberkite.com saberkite

    I love lengua de gato, and I’ve always wondered at the name because of the cat reference. I’d buy these in Baguio and eat one can on my own. I’d love to make it one of these days, perhaps when I get my own oven. :) Happy holidays Jun.

  • http://driftersblog.com/ JRinAsia

    Hi Jun! I just have to share with you that I recently discovered how amazing Filipino food is after my first trip to Manila. I love both the food and country! I Googled ‘Filipino food blogs’ and found your blog, haha!

    I just wanted to say that I will be promoting Filipino food and travel from now on. After my trip, I wrote a blog post about 3 of my FAVORITE Filipino dishes that I tried. (And 1 that is not so appealing, hehe.) Also, one of my new found Pinoy friends online showed me PI’s latest promo videos about “It’s more fun in the Philippines”, and I can’t wait to get back.

    I always wondered why so many Filipinos would find every opportunity to say how proud they are to be Pinoy. Now I’m beginning to understand. Please continue share your culture with the world, and I will do my part in promoting it!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    JR — thank you for writing. I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed your trip. Did you get a chance to travel outside Manila? I hope you’ll come visit the blog often.

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  • Lmarco

    I’m so happy you posted this recipe! I’ve been looking for one but not from a reliable source. I’m gonna make these soon. thanks :o )