Ensaimada Memories

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

Ensaimada is a Filipino treat that I grew up eating. It is kind of like a brioche, and is made from a buttery, yeasty dough that is shaped like a coil and baked. You can get versions of it in just about any bakery in the Philippines. But the best kinds are those with an incredibly rich and buttery flavor, and only mildly sweet, which offsets the usually sugary topping. They are moist and soft, yet dense, and they melt in your mouth.

I have recently discovered that the ensaimada was first made in Majorca, Spain, and then eventually made its way to the Spanish colonies in Latin America and the Philippines. The Majorcan saim means “pork lard” and that was what was used in the original ensaimada.

My mom had an ensaimada phase, which lasted a couple of years. I was in my early teens then, and I remember the really hot Saturday afternoons when she would ask me to help knead her dough, and after it rose, I would watch her portion it out and roll each one flat, brush the surface with butter, sprinkle it with grated cheese, then roll the whole thing up into a longish piece which she then coiled up and placed in the ensaimada tin. She worked with such efficiency and grace that it was really fun to watch.

So I decided to make ensaimadas some weeks ago, because I was missing her and was feeling nostalgic. But Mom’s recipe only had a list of ingredients, and a shorthand version of the procedure, which is totally useless if you’ve never done it before. Good thing I found this ensaimada recipe online with very detailed instructions (which I am extremely grateful for) which comes closest to my recollection of how my mother made it.

It is a long, messy, and painstaking process that simply can’t be hurried. There are lots of steps and lots of waiting involved — I do not recommend that you embark on this adventure on your own. Take family or friends with you — it would be a great bonding time. The company and the chitchat would divide the work and make time go so much faster.

Good luck! Happy baking — and eating!

These are what ensaimada tins look like, and they have to be brushed generously with butter.

This is what they look like before they get popped in the oven. As you can see, my coils are far from perfect.

They come out of the oven all puffed and golden. They were so beautiful they almost made me cry.

The final product, after the top is slathered with butter, dipped in grated cheese and white sugar. For a more luxurious version, whip the butter first and use edam cheese.

All images by Nathalie Mariano

Posted in Culture, Food | Tagged , ,

6 Responses to Ensaimada Memories

  1. Midori Tanaka says:

    Those look absolutely divine Nathalie! Wow! Your mum would be proud.

  2. Chay Sebastian says:

    Natalie, this is Jay Sebastian’s younger sister. These look awesome – I can practically taste them! My mouth is watering… your mom taught you and Lulu so well!

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