Colette's Buko Pie at Pasalubong in San Pablo City, Laguna is a popular stop for both tourists and locals. Colette's is an institution as far as native sweets and buko pies are concerned. Their stores are dotted all across Luzon, especially in tourist-heavy places like Tagaytay where every few hundred meters boasts of a Colette's. But San Pablo City is Colette's headquarters and it's said that this is where the freshest and best pies are to be bought or eaten at site fresh out of the oven. This is their main branch, where in 1989, Colette's buko pie business began, utilizing the abundance of coconuts in Laguna. Though there were already several stores selling the same product in the province, Colette's would be the first in San Pablo City.
I have to get special permission to take photos inside the commissary. Dong, the supervisor, is a friendly man who is our tour guide for the few minutes we're there. The space is about as large as other professional bakeries I've seen. Subdivided into three, there's a room for the hacking open of the bukos and scraping out the meat; a place for mixing and rolling of the pie crusts; and a section for filling the pies, making the lattice crusts, and packaging.
You can see from the pale color of the dough that the crusts are made primarily from shortening. Of course butter would tint it a muted yellow and impart its unique flavor, but shortening is sufficient for flakiness as well as to cut costs. Plus, nothing can beat the old fashioned style of pie crusts made from shortening.
Each crust is roughly nine inches in diameter. The dough is divided into those that are for the lattice crusts (seen in foreground), and those that are made for a peek-a-boo top crust (upper left corner). I especially like the nifty, steel flat plate used to make it. It certainly beats cutting out those little squares one by one with a cookie cutter.
Each buko pie consists of a custard filling which comes out of a large spout, and is interspersed with layers of succulent buko meat. A top crust is then added on. It's neither hot nor cool inside the commissary, but what surprises me is how there's no smell of pie in the air.
Buko doesn't really emit an aroma when it bakes but already, my mouth is beginning to water and I can't wait to sink my teeth into a slice. It's all I can do to restrain myself from grabbing one of the pies that are being packaged and wolfing it down.
The pie pictured above is Colette's newest offering, the Buko Supreme Pie. The traditional top crust is replaced by a streusel, similar to that used in apple pie. Streusel is a crumbly topping made from butter, flour and sugar. This pie is just minutes out of the oven. Still warm, the custard oozes into my mouth with enough bite coming from the crust and lots of lush buko meat. Speckles of sugar dance on my tongue, while stray crumbs of crust stick to my lips. This is a pie that must be eaten without fork and saucer, all you need are your fingers and gaping mouth. Damn good pie!
Editor's Note: Are the best buko pies from Laguna? Tell us where you find your favorite places for buko pies?