I’ve been curious about ensaimadas since I first made croissants. They seemed very similar to me, but where croissants take a good three days, with all that resting and rising and laminating, these took about five hours, including the time it took to rest the dough. As I was making the croissants, I remembered something Walker’s sister said about making croissants at her cafe – that she didn’t think it was worth the fuss to do it at home for yourself.
And you know what? I haven’t made the croissants since I posted them here. Not because they weren’t fantastic (which they really really were), but between work and other obligations, who has three days to dedicate to one breakfast? Certainly not me right now

Ensaimadas come from the Spanish region of Mallorca. They are traditionally made with pork lard, and served cold with powdered sugar and hot chocolate. Well I couldn’t find pork lard and I was really wanting to try the ensaimadas, so I substituted butter. This is the style of ensaymada that is typical of the Philippines, which was once a Spanish colony. As the pastry crossed the ocean, the spelling changed, and instead of using pork lard, the pastry became more of a brioche made with butter instead of the traditional lard.

Being in China, land of pork, I imagine that I could find pork lard if I went out and looked hard enough in wet markets. But I also kind of like the idea of making the ensaimadas vegetarian. It does change the flavor, but either way, I think you’ll love these pastries.

Where croissants have to be laminated and folded and rested, folded and rested, and then folded again, these are rolled out once, rolled up like a scroll, then coiled around itself. This allows the fat to fold over itself many times without all of that repeated folding and resting. It creates beautiful layers of bread, which though not overwhelmingly sweet itself, is wonderfully tender and inspires finger-licking.

I served these with a cup of hot chocolate (not from a mix – it’s too sweet from a mix), and a dusting of powdered sugar for an afternoon snack as we watched a movie. It was a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon – indulgent, rich, and tender – snuggled under a warm blanket and fending off the last bits of winter.

Ensaimadas
adapted from Delicious Days
Makes 10 individual ensaimadas

Ingredients

5 cups all-purpose flour (plus additional as needed )
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
3 packets dried active yeast
1 cup lukewarm milk
2 eggs (M)
2 tbsp olive oil
150g butter (traditional recipes call for soft pork lard, so use this if you can find it. I couldn’t in Shanghai.)
powdered sugar for dusting

Preparation

1. Add the flour together with sugar and salt into a large bowl and mix well. Make a hollow in the center, add the crumbled yeast as well as a decent pinch of sugar and pour over just enough of the lukewarm milk until the yeast is covered. Stir the yeast milk once or twice, then cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 15 minutes or until the surface of the yeast milk looks bubbly.

2. Add the other ingredients (the remaining milk, eggs,olive oil ) and knead well, either by hand or with your kitchen machine until the dough comes together nicely. (I added the milk last, slowly and just until the dough came together into a smooth elastic ball. This way you keep the dough from being overly sticky). Let the covered bowl rest again in a warm place for at least 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled.

3. Punch it down softly, then flip the dough onto a well-floured surface and sprinkle with flour. Cut into about 10 equally sized portions and form into neat little balls, before letting them rest, covered with a kitchen towel once more for at least 30 minutes.

4. Shaping the Ensaimadas: Flatten one doughball, then roll out with a rolling pin (use flour as needed) until you get a pretty thin dough circle and brush it generously with the softened pork lard. Roll up cautiously, then let rest for a couple of minutes and continue with the other dough balls. (Meanwhile line the baking sheets with either parchment paper or silicone mats.)
Coil up each dough piece until it resembles the house of a snail (tuck the outer end under), ideally very loosely, because any spaces will fill up as the dough rises further. Place about five Ensaimadas on one baking sheet, making sure to leave enough space between them. Lightly brush with lard and cover up again.

5. The final rise is supposed to last overnight, but I followed Nicki’s recommendation of a 4 hour rise instead, mostly because I am impatient. They turned out fine for us, but experiment yourself.

6. Preheat the oven to 200°C (~390° Fahrenheit) and bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden brown. Take out and let them cool down on a wire rack for a couple of minutes, then generously dust with powdered sugar and enjoy while still warm. Greasy fingers included!

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