The bread-and-cheese combo once again finds its way to the Filipino stomach through cheese bread, a panaderya staple referring to small snack-sized buns with a bread base (usually of the neutral,pan de sal-like sort) covered with a processed “cheese” layer that forms its exterior as it bakes.
Gardenia’s comes as irregular-shaped, roughly pebble-sized pieces with a pale yellow coat of what seems to be a milk powder-based mix, just damp enough that it holds together into a slightly clumpy layer. It’s squidgy-soft within, with an especially moist, doughy character that make for an addictive chew, and that—given its petite size—compels us to go back for piece after piece (after piece). And though more milky-tasting than cheesy, the sweetness comes at just the right level, well balanced with the dairy richness in the background.
Sweetness: 3/5 | Softness: 5/5 | Milkiness: 4/5 | Cheesiness: 1/5
The pieces on Marby’s version are significantly larger, coming closer to the size of a medium potato. The bread is of the somewhat-soft and airy sort with a short crumb. It can feel dry compared to Gardenia, but the life of this bread is in its coating—a thin but clumpy layer of a dryer (and starchier) milk powder mix which comes on the sweet side, with lots of the powdered-milk profile that our inner child can’t get enough of.
Sweetness: 4/5 | Softness: 3/5 | Milkiness: 4/5 | Cheesiness: 1/5
Mister Pullman’s cheese bread is around the same size as Marby, but with a more uniform pan de sal-esque form and more saturated, mustard hue. It’s notably firmer—you could throw it against the wall without it losing its shape (not that we recommend it)—and predictably dryer within, with a particular slightly-sweet, slightly margarine-y taste we’d liken to that of cheap ensaymada from the neighborhood panaderya. Hugging the bread is a more uniformly-applied layer of milky, cheesy granules that juggle sweetness, a peculiar milkiness similar to cheap compound white chocolate, and an odd berry-like note that isn’t unpleasant.
Sweetness: 4.5/5 | Softness: 2/5 | Milkiness: 3/5 | Cheesiness: 2/5
Uncle George’s lives up to its “cheesy balls” name with its small, bite-sized pieces, each tinted yellow from the thin, powdery cheese coating that surrounds it. The said coating hardly contributes much sweetness, or flavor for that matter, apart from a margarine-y, powdered milk-y note that comes at a weaker degree versus the other brands. Its bread base does not offer much redemption either, being especially dry and almost stale that it leaves us looking for water.
Sweetness: 2/5 | Softness: 1/5 | Milkiness: 3/5 | Cheesiness: 1/5
The Verdict: Gardenia
Gardenia takes the crown again for our third breadbattle. But it’s for good reason—with consistently soft, moist, milky-tasting pieces that carry just the right amount of sweetness, there’s almost no contest here. In a pinch however, Marby’s is a decent substitute; though nowhere near as soft, its sweet, milky profile nonetheless captures our hearts as much as our stomachs.