Almost holy cookiesBy Linda B. Bolido
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The paper-thin, unleavened round white wafers the Catholic faithful receive in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist do not come out that way from the oven.
They are actually cut out from wide rectangular sheets, leaving scraps much like those made by cutting out paper dolls.
In the past, those scraps were thrown away. But in the mid-1980s, Sr. Anesilde Antonio of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS) decided not to let the scraps go to waste.
The SSpS, founders of the century-old College of the Holy Spirit (CHS) (See related story above), was then making hosts that they sold to some parishes.
Antonio, who holds degrees in chemistry, and food and nutrition, became even more determined to come up with something to salvage those scraps when she heard that, in some places, the leftover was allowed to fall to the floor for animals to eat.
“I thought of incorporating the scraps into [the chocolate chip] cookie recipe,” she said.
Made of premium quality flour, the scraps are first roasted and mixed with commercial variety flour and the usual cookie ingredients—eggs, milk, butter and sugar. Unlike the host, the mixture is leavened to make it rise. The roasted pieces of leftover host look like nuts when the cookies are done.
Sans commercial brand and formal name, Antonio, with Sr. Virginia Jegonia, a CHS commerce graduate, as baker, initially made jars of “host” cookies as Christmas gifts for the medical staff of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Mandaluyong City, which the SSpS also founded.
Eventually, recipients started to clamor to buy the cookies so they could also give them away as gifts. The nuns “expanded” the operation to meet the demand.
But the cookie venture remains pretty much a cottage industry, not a big commercial enterprise.
Instead of cookie trays, the nuns use rectangular aluminum foil containers. They shape the cookies manually, each using two spoons, hence the nonstandard shapes and sizes.
Though still unbranded, the host cookies have since become one of the products associated with the CHS, at least in the academic circles, much like the tarts of Assumption College.
Almost three decades after the CHS made the pioneering move of reusing the scraps, the college has ceased making hosts, leaving other religious orders to do it, but it continues to make the cookies from the scraps that it buys from the others.
The college, after pioneering the venture, may also not be the only one making the cookies today. Antonio said she heard the Pink Sisters, the congregation associated with the late President Corazon C. Aquino, as well as other religious groups had also started making them.
In the past, with both Antonio and Jegonia based in the SSpS provincial house in Quezon City, the cookies were made and were only available there.
But now that Jegonia has been transferred to Mendiola, the Manila CHS kitchen will start making the cookies soon.
The cookies are available in small, medium and large jars that sell for P100, P250 and P350, respectively.
To order, call the Quezon City convent at 7217286 or the CHS Alumnae Foundation at 7355986.