27 Feb2006


In the run-up to Christmas 2005, I had fully intended to post an ensaimada recipe. By late last November, I had already tested a recipe several times but still needed to get it tweaked just right. I boldly handed out samples to Marketmanila “eyeball” participants to get their reactions but I was still fooling with the recipe. Then I got distracted by other matters and didn’t get to post the recipe. So when the topic for this month’s Lasang Pinoy came out and Joey over at 80Breakfasts said it was time for “pinoy breakfast fare,” I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to post an ensaimada entry. I love ensaimada for breakfast rather later in the day (though merienda is a close second). But first, some background… The ensaimada recipe will follow in a second post later. Our ensaimada must be in some way related to the bread/delicacy from Mallorca of the same name. Their version is quite large and filled with a sweet cream of sorts rather than smaller individual servings more common in the Philippines. Their version is made with lard and though I haven’t tasted it myself, has been described to me as being significantly different from the ensaimadas now sold commercially in Manila today.

While I have scoured dozens of cookbooks, the internet, etc. for a decent ensaimada recipe, I decided to revert to the family expert, my sister who resides in New York. She grew up “playing” in aensim2my grandmother’s bakery in Cebu and with unlimited supplies of butter, eggs, flour, sugar, several experienced bakers as her mentors, and a proper wood fired oven, she was the best bet for a really good recipe. Her initial answer? She didn’t have a written recipe and basically does it from memory. Yikes, is right. Thankfully, she hunkered down one day and baked a batch and tried to measure everything for me so we could have the recipe in print. She agreed that I could share this recipe with all of you and I hope you are able to master it over time… it will take several attempts to get it right based on the flour, yeast, butter, humidity and other factors in your neck of the woods. Perfecting this is a labor of love, you will truly understand the “feel of the dough” when it is just right.

My sister’s email to me that accompanied her recipe is informative as well as poignant and thus worth quoting extensively so those who are really truly interested get a more comprehensive understanding of this fantastic bread… She says:

“What one considers a proper ensaimada depends on one’s frame of reference. If you were born pre-WW II chances are the taste you are looking for will be that of an ensaimada made with lard. Large and flat, single coil, very close to the Mallorcan original, formed freehand and baked on a sheet pan. The everyday ensaimada of Lola’s Bakery was made that way, without eggyolks, “espesyal” had added eggyolks, and sometimes raisins, and the grated cheese topping for “orders” or for our home consumption as well as for the holidays. It had a shelf life of several days, even without added preservatives. Fiesta versions were sometimes baked in a 6 inch tart pan lined with papel de japon for a perfectly round shape.

Some remember ensaimadas made with canned Danish Brunne butter, a distinctive flavor, and others recall the flavor of Star margarine, commonly used in the 1950’s and 60’s to imitate the color of butter. I make my ensaimadas with unsalted butter, but will occasionally use lard if giving the ensaimadas to the pre-WWII generation. Ensaimadas made with lard have the best texture and have a longer shelf life, important when they had to be made prior to a fiesta. If you have to worry about cholesterol, an ensaimada is out of the question. My personal preference is an ensaimada made with unsalted butter, without the cheese topping, for a delicate flavor and an affinity for jam.

As a teenager, I spent many days making ensaimada, trying to please Mom, who yearned for her own mother’s ensaimadas with a longing I could only imagine was for a life that the war had fractured forever. I never saw Mom even attempt to make a single ensaimada, but she clearly had a definite ideal that I could only guess at, for her mother and father were both killed by the Japanese at the end of WWII, years before I was born. She would say, after trying the sample, “It’s good but it doesn’t taste like Mama’s”. It was only when her brother brought me an ensaimada from Spain that I realized it was the taste of lard she was after, not the tons of butter I had been using, in my quest for an ensaimada that would please her and bring back her childhood. Her last request, when I called from New York on her 70th birthday, was that I instruct the maid over transatlantic telephone, how to make a proper ensaimada. It was not to be, she passed away shortly thereafter.

An ensaimada should be like a croissant married to a brioche, flaky and well aensim3browned on the outside, layered and moist on the inside and not like the “mamon” version found everywhere in the Philippines these days, which have not been properly stretched out, buttered, and rolled up prior to coiling, a shortcut that eliminates the traditional airy layers but saves on labour. It wasn’t until the 60’s that bakeries started putting them into muffin pans, reducing them to a sponge-like texture, undercooked so as to remain moist and overly sweet.

I learned how to make ensaimada in the late fifties, with Vicencio and Mariano, brothers, and each head baker of the two shifts at Lola’s Bakery. A small volcano of primera flour would be poured on the hardwood table, a hole in the middle made and into that the a piece of lavadora was dropped, sugar and water and egg yolks, all that worked with the fingertips until well mixed, flour gradually incorporated and lastly, salt and whatever fat was to be used added. It was kneaded right on the table, formed into a ball and allowed to rise under a clean flour sack. Later after rising and shaping and rising again, they would be baked in the massive brick ovens, after the pan de sal but before the pan Americano (loaf bread). My head was about even with the table when I first started playing in the bakery and the layout, sounds and smells of that bakery will forever be burned into my memory bank. Whenever I have family visiting a request is invariably made for some ensaimada, a delight from one’s past, totally bastardized by bakeries and slowly lost to time.”

With that as an introduction, you will perhaps understand where I am coming from and the ensaimada I was seeking to recreate. I didn’t want an “easy” recipe. I didn’t want to emulate the fluffy sweet commercial versions that are for sale in the malls. I wanted an honest to goodness mid-20th century version, but still reasonably doable today. This should perhaps be described as one of our family’s finest recipes (an heirloom of sorts) since it really harks back to our lola’s bakery in the 1950’s…and the name of that bakery??? Too incredibly appropriate to be true but if I named it many folks from our hometown would definitely nail our identities… So we will leave you guessing about the name and from our family to yours, courtesy of my sister mostly, we hope you enjoy and appreciate the ensaimada recipe coming up in the next post.



  1. Jean says:

    Awesome MM! You’re my hero! :)

    Feb 27, 2006 | 11:50 pm


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  3. Mary A. says:

    MM, I noticed perfectionism is a trait that runs in the family. I remember you mentioned that you are not political, but if only you can apply such dedication into politics as you do in your food blog, the Philippines will be in a much better place politically and economically. The Country is in great need of intelligent, smart, honest and dedicated individuals like you to run the goverment.
    Anyway, back to the “ensaymada”, I have a recipe that I’ve used since I started baking it last year, and my family just loves it. But being here in Ohio with nothing to compare it with, they don’t know any better. So I am really looking forward to trying your recipe.

    Feb 28, 2006 | 1:49 am

  4. CWID says:

    What a wonderful write up on the humble ensaimada. Your sister has a beautiful way with words. Her email reminded me of Gilda Cordero-Fernando’s food essays. More, please!

    Feb 28, 2006 | 2:02 am

  5. acmr says:

    Mary A., Would you kindly share your recipes as well. Being in L.A., I would imagine that I could more closely replicate a recipe that uses more “local” ingredients.

    MM, Look forward to your next post. I am a new reader, but already a very avid one!

    Feb 28, 2006 | 5:30 am

  6. sha says:

    looks like I will be on ensaimada baking this weekend….yes am excited.
    Better hurry soon before they will stop selling eggs (avian flu)

    Feb 28, 2006 | 5:44 am

  7. sha says:

    looks like I will be on ensaimada baking this weekend….yes am excited!
    I have been waiting for this.
    and your sister’s email is truly wonderful.

    Feb 28, 2006 | 5:45 am

  8. kong wi says:

    Back in the 80’s, we get this big, plate-sized ensaimada from El Pasig Bakery. Very different indeed from the “super-melt” types. Your sister is right, one’s ideal ensaimada would depend on when he was born, and how he associates it with his childhood.

    Feb 28, 2006 | 5:49 am

  9. sha says:

    PS just confirmed with the Swiss he can get me lard!

    Feb 28, 2006 | 5:49 am

  10. Marketman says:

    Mary A.,funny you should make the political side comment. While I am not political in this blog I have made my attempts at contributing to the nation as it were. I have advised two Presidential candidates on economic issues on a purely pro-bono basis and without accepting any positions offered post-election. I was also involved in other efforts that are best not put in print… My father served on the cabinets of several different Presidents all in areas targetted at the masses…population, nutrition, community development, etc. that were not the “fancy positions” but that would hopefully have an impact on the wider population. But having said all that, and in light of current events, I must say that GREAT folks with brilliant credentials have tried to help but have been overwhelmed by the tsunami that is best described as a “wave of group stupidity”…enough said. Several recent cabinet members gave up when they too felt ineffective and unable to really effect change…so I think it’s best I stick to food for now…

    CWID, more to come soon! acmr, welcome on board and glad you are enjoying the site. sha, I hope the recipe works for you, it’s a bit touchy feely, kong wi you are correct in saying that the ensaimada one likes is the one he or she is familiar with!

    Feb 28, 2006 | 6:20 am

  11. millet says:

    MarketMan for President! Seriously, I tried my hand at making ensaimada last week, and was very disappointed with the results. It turned out exactly like the airy pretenders found in airports and malls, crowned with half a kilo of pseudo queso de bola. everyone was saying it was a success, but no…it was a far cry from the “genuine” ensaimada that my parents have been looking for, and which i remember from childhood. waiting for the recipe with half a kilo of lard ready, and i don’t care about coles… chollest… kolesterroll…..err…what you can’t spell won’t hurt you!

    Feb 28, 2006 | 6:24 am

  12. Hchie says:

    Thanks for making your blog much better reading than our daily newspapers. Looking forward to your ensaimada recipe and unlike our country’s political situation, at least I’ll be seeing results in my dough kneading.

    Feb 28, 2006 | 7:15 am

  13. linda says:

    I”m impressed,future Mr.President! Looking forward to your family’s heirloom recipe on ensaimada.

    Feb 28, 2006 | 7:43 am

  14. Rampau says:

    Wow, you and your sister can write wonderful prose. I know what you mean about layered ensaiymada. It has to be. I know how difficult it would be to bake this. I’m willing to give it a try.

    Feb 28, 2006 | 7:52 am

  15. Mila says:

    Were you able to come up with a consistent ensaimada after the eb? I enjoyed tasting those you gave out.

    Feb 28, 2006 | 8:43 am

  16. bettina says:

    WOW is what I can say about how your sister writes, beautiful! You must be one hell of a family (I meant that as a huge compliment!)

    Feb 28, 2006 | 8:44 am

  17. celiaK says:

    Oh I love your sis, you should let her guest in your blog more often. :) I’m so looking forward to that ensaimada recipe. Funny she mentioned raisins in the old ensaimada – it brought back a lot of memories. I remember eating those type with raisins back in the 60s but by the 70s they have almost all gone. I guess no one does that now. :(

    Feb 28, 2006 | 9:05 am

  18. Ana says:

    Can’t wait with that very engaging intro… Although I prolly won’t bake it since I’m not really adept at baking (just yet!). I’ll just enjoy reading it for now.

    Feb 28, 2006 | 9:55 am

  19. Mary A. says:

    MM, sorry about the political comment. Being so far away, it is frustrating to hear all the bad news coming out of the Phil. We as a Country can’t seem to dig ourselves out of this political mess. Anyway, the food blogger’s world is richer and a lot more interesting with your contributions.

    acmr, here is my “Ensaymada / Cheese Brioche Recipe”. To simplify, I presented the ingredients & instructions in 4 easy steps.
    Step 1:
    1/2 cup milk
    1 Tbl or one packet of active dry yeast
    2 Tbl sugar
    1/2 cup flour
    Heat milk 105 degrees (lukewarm), stir yeast, sugar, and flour, until mixture is smooth. Set aside in a warm place for 5 minutes.
    Step 2:
    1/2 cup butter
    1/2 cup sugar
    3 eggs
    3 cups flour (add more as needed, depending on the weather)
    Combine butter, sugar and egg in mixer until smooth. Add yeast mixture (by now about double in size). Gradually mix 3 cups flour (or more) until dough is smooth and easier to handle. Place dough in lightly floured bowl, cover with kitchen towel, and let rise for 4 hours until triple in bulk.
    Step 3:
    3 Tbl butter
    1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (more according to preference)
    Turn dough onto floured board and roll out into a rectangle about 10”x20”. Brush with butter and sprinkle with parmesan cheese evenly on top. From the long end, roll up jelly roll style. Divide the dough into 12 to 16 equal portions (size depending on preference. Roll each piece into long cylinders and coil onto individual buttered molds. Let rise 6 hours. Bake in pre-heated 275 deg F oven for 30 min (or longer until it browns to desired color).
    Step 4:
    3 Tbl butter
    1/2 cup sugar
    3/4 cup or more of grated Edam cheese
    Brush with butter, sprinkle with sugar and top with lots of grated Edam cheese.
    The result depends on the right temperature for the rising. During winter try to find a warm place either in a pre-warmed oven or in the laundry room on top of a warm dryer.

    Feb 28, 2006 | 1:06 pm

  20. RobKSA says:

    Darn, I thought I can start with MM’s ensaimada recipe, hehehe.

    Feb 28, 2006 | 3:38 pm

  21. bugsybee says:

    MM, I don’t bake but I love ensaimadas. Since you will be sharing your family’s heirloom with us, I am tempted to either start learning how to bake or look for somebody who can bake this for me. Thank you very much to you and your sister. I look forward to your next post.

    Feb 28, 2006 | 5:45 pm

  22. joey says:

    Your sister’s letter was poignant and delicious at the same time…I enjoyed reading it and envy the childhood of “playing” in bakery. Thanks to both of you for sharing a recipe that is obviously a labor of much love and has quite a bit of history attached to it. These are the best kinds I think. Like heirloom jewelry. And although you were still “fooling with the recipe” the ensaymadas you gave out during the eyeball were really good. They weren’t like any of the ensaymadas I tasted before and it was gone in the blink of an eye. I can’t wait for the recipe…looking forward to the second post :)

    Thanks for joining Lasang Pinoy 7!

    Feb 28, 2006 | 11:39 pm

  23. iska says:

    i am not yet into baking but this very informative post makes me wanna start. i envy Joey here who now has an idea how a mid20th century ensaimada should taste as i am one of those who know only the mamon version.

    Mar 8, 2006 | 4:54 pm

  24. Herman says:

    Meeting Ensaimada in Manila is one of my most pleasant trip
    experiences,I met Ensaimada at Hizon’s Patisserie on January
    1993 when I went to Manila for business trip. Then I went to
    Manila for more than 10 times and buy a box of Hizon’s Ensaimada for home every time has become the most important
    issue since 1993.

    4 years later,on end of March,I met Mrs. Milagros R. Roasa
    in her bake shop. I wrote an article for Baking Industry Magazine on May 1997 to tell the full story.

    I wonder why they do not have a website that I can contact Hizon’s more easily?

    Apr 4, 2006 | 10:53 am

  25. marktreaster says:


    I am a pastry chef for a few 5star resorts and country clubs!!! I my 30 years of baking I have seen many trys tp a perfect sweet brioche… you are almost there,but need some fine tuning.. I have done some changes to your brioche that will take it to untouchable by anyone!!! would you like to talk to me when I come to manila???


    Jul 27, 2007 | 10:45 am

  26. lenitte lewis says:

    i am looking for a recipe on how to make an ensaimada.that bread is really taste so good,any body can please give a rrecipe for me?thanks

    Aug 26, 2007 | 7:19 pm

  27. Marketman says:

    lenitte, part II of this post was the recipe, it is in the archives, just type ensaimada recipe and keep scrolling down until you get to the recipe.

    Aug 26, 2007 | 10:49 pm

  28. PiPer says:

    I found this post to be such a nice read! So informative (with historical references and all)and with a very very touching sentimentality! Many thanks to your sister, and of course you MM, for making me understand what a true ensaimada is/should be. Can’t wait to make some for my 70-year old Dad. I wish to bring back some good memories for him.

    Oct 15, 2007 | 1:56 pm

  29. Celeste says:

    i tried lots of recipe of ensaimada but none of those got d texture of hizons ensaimada..i badly want a recipe dat taste like hizons…dat kinda dry flaky texture but so good ensaimada

    Oct 22, 2007 | 10:51 pm


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