Ensaimada is a bread made from sweetened, yeast-risen dough, (like a sort of brioche) made in Spain, and in the Philippines.
Per loaf, you use about 1 cup (8 oz / 225 g) of butter, 3/4 cup (6 oz / 175 g) of sugar and 8 egg yolks. You make a creamed mixture, then add strong white wheat flour (aka bread flour) and a yeast sponge prepared in advance from yeast, flour and water. You let the dough rise, punch it down, then roll it out thinly. You can apply to the top of your rolled-out dough anything that you want — such as melted butter or grated cheese. Then, you roll the dough up into a coil and fit it into a special fluted, moulded pan that has been greased, where you let it rise again, then bake it.
Ensaimada comes out as a spiral shaped bread with fluted edges. The finished loaf can be glazed with honey, or brushed with butter and sprinkled with a topping such as more grated cheese, or sugar and served for breakfast.
The Ensaimada made in Mallorca, Spain was considered unique, and good enough, to have been granted European PGI Status on 19 February 2004 under EU Regulation 297/2004 .
The registered name is “Ensaimada mallorquina” (though it can also be called “Ensaimada de Mallorca” in Spanish.)
The PGI for Ensaimada de Mallorca is administered by the “Comité de Cata del Consejo Regulador “Ensaimada de Mallorca” (the “Ensaimada de Mallorca” Specific Denomination Regulatory Council) in Palma, Mallorca. The wording “Indicación Geográfica Protegida Ensaimada de Mallorca” has to appear on all labels. Anything labelled as such can only be made in Mallorca, and anyone wanting to make and sell it under that name has to register with the association.
The Ensaimada made in Mallorca is sold whole in cardboard boxes, to make it easier for tourists to take home. Small ones 5 inches (12 1/2 cm) wide cater particularly to tourists, but the loaves can be made from anywhere from 2 oz to 4 1/2 pounds (60 g to 2 kg.)
Ensaimada de Mallorca has a crunchy crust, and is dense and soft inside. The recipe for the dough is regulated. It must be made with these ingredients in these proportions:
- bread flour (45 to 55% of the recipe)
- water (18 to 20%)
- sugar (16 to 20%)
- eggs (6 to 10%)
- yeast (4 to 6%)
There are several versions made. For a plain Ensaimada the dough is rolled out flat, has lard spread on it, then is rolled up like a Swiss Roll, and twisted into its spiral shape with a minimum of 2 turns. It is then let to stand for 12 hours, then baked.
Another version of Ensaimada has sobrasada sausage put on top of the dough before it’s coiled up, so that the sausage ends up as a filling.
Yet another version has cooked pumpkin pulp mixed with sugar spread on before rolling. This is called “Ensaimada de Mallorca de cabello de ángel” (“cabello de ángel” means “angel’s hair”, referring to the golden strands of pumpkin pulp that you can see.) Regulations state a minimum of 40 g of pumpkin filling per 100 g of dough. A finished Angel’s Hair Ensaimada can weigh anywhere from 3 1/2 oz to 6 1/2 pounds (100 g to 3 kg.)
Both the plain and Angel Hair Ensaimada may be sprinkled with icing sugar after baking.
In the Philippines, Ensaimada is made in individual serving size portions as a flat, twisted coil of pastry.
The dough is dense and richer than in Spain, because double the quantity of egg yolks is used.
Before baking, the top is brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar and grated cheese.
It is used a sweet roll for breakfast or as a snack later in the day.
Ensaimada is nice when heated before serving, especially ones brought back after a trip to Mallorca.
Ensaimada is good for up to 8 days after baking.
In Mallorca, Ensaimada was being made as early as the 1600s. Because white wheat flour was expensive, and dietary fat still an expensive commodity back then, it was made for special occasions or as a gift.
By the 1700s, the Spanish middle-classes and up started having Ensaimada increasingly regularly for breakfast, as a dessert, or to accompany afternoon tea or chocolate drinking.
Some speculate that Ensaimada may have been Jewish or Arabic in origin (with the pork fat added later, obviously), from the Jewish dessert “bulema” or the Arabic one “bulemes dolces.”
The word “saïm” in the middle of “Ensaimada” means “pig fat.”