Following my review of commercial ensaimadas on the eve of Christmas 2005, several readers and other sources have since suggested that I try some other commercially available ensaimadas to see if I would like them. I had the opportunity to try the Pastelleria Mallorca ensaimadas at a Food & Wine Society merienda, and thought they were quite good, and I also tried other sources of Hizon ensaimadas (not Landmark basement outlet) but remained unimpressed. I have continued to buy my favorite Medina ensaimadas whenever I find them (they disappeared for a while for some reason), and I have been curious to try the Diamond Hotel ensaimadas, but not curious enough to make a special trip to that part of town. So when I spied a Bakerâ€™s Special at Rockwell Mall with a stall by The Diamond Hotel Pastry Shop yesterday, I thought that would be an excellent opportunity to try their ensaimada (and I threw in a mini apple tart tatin as well)â€¦
With at least half a dozen strong recommendations for me to try these ensaimadas, and a whopping PHP100 price tag for a medium sized piece, I have to say that expectations were high. And the bottom line? Frankly, I thought these were close to HORRIBLEâ€¦ Maybe it would be kinder for me to say I would never buy them again. Anyone who knows this blog knows I have a personal preference for an ensaimada with verve, something closer to a brioche with a bread like consistency and not a fluffy cakey sweet thing. I have the family recipe detailed here (intro) and here (recipe proper). You may even want to read about the “original” ensaimadas from Mallorca, here. And many folks have written in to say Marketmanila’s older style recipe works for them. But I totally understand that it won’t work for everyone; particularly those who like the light fluffy airy versions. So the bread of the Diamond ensaimada actually starts off with good prospectsâ€¦ it is more like a bread-like consistency than fluffy cake, but the one I tried was downright dry! And it goes downhill from there. They had no plain version, only ube and bacon. That would be like being unable to order a spaghetti pomodoro at an Italian restaurant, a BAD SIGN if you ask me. And the ube swirl in the ensaimada distracted from the main event, despite my liking ube (plus I might wager a small bet that the ube jam wasn’t made from scratch the hotel, most likely a commercial purchase with food coloring).
Worse, piled on top of the ensaimada was a TON of creamed butter that was then covered with an excessive amount of grated soft cheese of an unknown kind. It wasnâ€™t queso de bola, it wasnâ€™t velveeta, but it was somewhere in-between. And it looked like a bad smushed toupee with pomade, totally unappetizing, if you really want my blunt opinion. I took a big slice of this ensaimada and tasted it, and was so disappointed that I had Mrs. MM taste it as well. We never finished it. And I donâ€™t think even the crew would eat it. Maybe I am being excessively critical, but this is not an ensaimada that deserves so much apparent attention, and at PHP100 a PIECE, it is absurdly overpricedâ€¦ Frankly, it reminded me somewhat of a BIG version of the Bizu ensaimadas that I didnâ€™t like either (they too had the excessive topping syndrome)â€¦ What is it with fancy pastry shops screwing up such an icon? Are they just overthinking it? And are consumers so bowled over by the make up? This is so similar to people my mother’s age that have light foundation that ends on their neck..which then goes seriously darker on the way South!
Finally, I also purchased a beautiful looking mini apple tart for PHP 150. With about 8 small slices of apple (maybe half an apple worth) and a sweet caramelized sugar syrup, the apples were pretty good, but the pastry underneath it all literally could double for some wet cardboard. Now perhaps this experience can be explained as it was on off-site sale, and the stuff tastes better at the hotel, but I wouldnâ€™t sell any pastries if they didnâ€™t travel well. The apple tart tatin couldnâ€™t have cost more than PHP25-30 to make, and it was so NOT worth the PHP150 priceâ€¦ for that price I could almost buy enough apples for a small apple pie that would serve 8! I will even try to make a mini tart tatin at home in the weeks ahead to see if I am right about this…
P.S. The Diamond ensaimada is pictured above compared with a Medina ensaimada just for comparison. At the moment, besides our homemade ensaimadas, my current list of preference among commercial ensaimadas looks something like this:
1. Medina Ensaimadas
2. Waiting to be filled
3. Pastelleria Mallorca Ensaimadas
4. Waiting to be filled
5. Waiting to be filled
6. Cunanan Ensaimadas (with new-age reservations)
7. Mary Grace Ensaimadas (with new-age reservations)
Any other commercial ensaimadas you guys think I should try before the holidays??? :)