The Original Mallorcan Ensaimadas…


Are you kidding me??? That’s it??? THAT IS AN ORIGINAL MALLORCAN ENSAIMADA?!? This was not only my initial reaction to the ensaimadas we found in Spain but my lingering personal opinion after tasting a few of them. I have rarely, if ever, disparaged an “original”, and I am perhaps stepping out of bounds by doing so, but I was greatly disappointed with the original ensaimadas…they were nice and fluffy and delicious and all, but nothing like I would have expected. Normally, you would expect that the original would far outshine its evolved or is it mutated relatives…I simply don’t think that is the case here. After several man days testing the ensaimada recipe I put on the blog several months ago, and all of the discussion from dozens and dozens of readers, I think we should CHANGE the name of our ensaimada and make it uniquely our own. Yes, we can acknowledge its ancestry, but no, no, no… ours is no longer anything like the original and we should baptize it again. Frankly, I think the ensaimadas we make from the 1950’s or 1960’s are far superior to the original and here’s why…

First, what did I find in Spain? Okay, I will admit I was in Barcelona and NOT Mallorca. ensima2However, the larger ensaimada photographed here was purchased at the food hall of El Corte Ingles and you would expect that they would carry a decent version of the delicacy. It was also quite pricey at say Euro 9 for the box or roughly PHP600!!! It came in a big octagonal box with a packet of powdered sugar to sprinkle on the top. It had a custard filling. The second version I found in a suburban patisserie and they baked it themselves and sold them in these more individual sized servings, already sprinkled with powdered sugar at perhaps 2 Euro or PHP130. Let me describe the smaller version in detail… it was incredibly fluffy, and had probably been left to rise for at least 8-10 hours (though this great write-up suggests that the best bakers leave it to rise for 24 hours!). It had a little bit of custard or pastry cream baked within ensima3and it was in a single coil and rather lightly baked. It was also quite flat and sprinkled with powdered sugar. It was light, sweet, airy, cottony and didn’t seem as lardy as I would have expected… It would be a terrific breakfast bread with a nice cup of hot chocolate… The larger ensaimada was more substantial and was baked to a “tanner” complexion. It was soft, and doughy and I will admit that since it was several days old, must not have been the best incarnation of the bread…

The ingredients list sounds pretty straightforward – flour, water, eggs, “mother dough” (with yeast and flour and sugar) and lard. And the process of making it sounds pretty easy albeit takes 24 hours to rise as described in this interesting source. I suppose that’s it. That’s the original version. ensima4Our Filipino ensaimadas, on the other hand fall into two broad categories: the “older” version that is more bready, larger, richer, denser and more substantial or more like the 1950’s version that I tried to approximate with this recipe, and the more “modern” version (commercial ensaimadas) that are nothing like the older version or the original from Spain in that they are far more cakey, sweeter, airier and saltier due to the copious amounts of cheese placed up top. I think the easy solution is to rename the delicacy so that we can be proud to call it our own and take the credit for possibly having improved on the original!


33 Responses

  1. Hi,
    Looks like the Mallorcan original given to me in the 80’s which was very lardy. Lola’s bakery made ensaimadas that were flat like the one pictured. That is still the old fashioned way, muffin pan and torta versions are definitely Philippine derivations developed in the 60’s. Who said we couldn’t improve on the original?

  2. told you about that orig ensaimada months ago, MM. Funnily enough, your strong reaction upon tasting the mallorcan ensaimada is more or less equivalent to my Spanish brother in law’s upon first tasting our philippine version: ” eww, too rich, and what’s all this yucky cheese?? terrible! ” and so on.

    I suppose it’s what you grow up with.

    So think of a new name then.

  3. I think Market Manila should hold a contest to come up with the best name… then we can take it to the Philippine Bakers Board of Standards to get it approved… hahaha, like we really have one of those. Then we can contact all of the bakeries in the archipelago to change their names for the bread. Add the major dailies, a few radio spots, and maybe get the President to proclaim the new name on National television… heeheehee. You can tell I am amused by this.

    Btw, I hear rumblings that some chefs/groups are trying to “standardize” a few of the country’s most basic recipes like adobo, etc. Heard this in passing and had no further information. That sounds like a gargantuan and contentious process if you ask me.

    Okay, let me start with a few suggestions for the re-baptized ensaimada:

    Pan de Taba (both in fat content and result for consumer)
    Enbriosant (cross between ensaimada, brioche and croissant, heehee)

  4. Not bad, not bad at all… enbriosant. that’s a keeper. haha.

    as for standardizing adobo, that’s about the dumbest thing i’ve ever heard. there are as many adobo recipes as there are filipino families. Sounds too much like the McDonaldization of our cuisine. Very creepy.

  5. Thank you for all your posts on Barcelona. They couldn’t be more timely as I am planning a trip in the fall. Will print out and bring all your posts with me so I don’t miss anything! By the way, and I know this is not directly related to the discussion on ensaimadas or should I say “Enbriosant”? Would you have a recipe or perhaps a source here in manila for a good Torta?

  6. Alicia, funny you should ask. It was a favorite of my mom’s and her family who were from Bohol but I have never made it and neither did she… will have to hunt for one. I am assuming you are asking about the sweet cake torta and not the savory eggy dish by the same name…

  7. Reading that article made me question my previous respect for some of those women. What was MS thinking when she said that we’re the only culture that eats bananas with our meals? Has she never eaten Cuban or Caribbean food?

    And while I can see why they’d want to place some standards on what Filipino food stands for, I don’t think turning all our adobos into one recipe is the way to do it. The Italians have specifications on the kind of Parmesan or balsamic vinegar they produce, but they’re not dictating that all bolognese has to be a certain texture or color.

    Will this mean that San Miguel will be the pinnacle of taste for all Filipino food?

  8. “I think Market Manila should hold a contest to come up with the best name… then we can take it to the Philippine Bakers Board of Standards to get it approved…” That would be a fantastic endeavor MM. I think you’ll stir up the hornet’s nest from all the foodies and quasi-nationalistic politicos when you go all the way with this, and probably people will appreciate their culinary history more.

    we can call it “ensaymada filipina” or “pan de cielo” (heaven’s bread ha-ha)

  9. chrissy, THANK YOU for that link, I must have been away when that was published. I read it and frankly, the hair on my neck is still standing. Will take a few hours before I re-read it and comment as I would come across as frothing in the mouth now if I continued…but I will say, did you read the list of items they brought for merienda closely??? Half the bloody things weren’t even Filipino in the we ate it at least for ONE generation sense…ridiculous. More on this after I have calmed down and write something to mull over…

    juls, “hita ni lola” had me in stitches…

  10. it looks a bit like the ensaymada you can buy at a neighborhood grocery…

    your disappointment to a so-called “original” reminds me of the sacher torte we had at the sacher hotel in vienna– then top it off with a snooty waiter (no tip for him). the torte was parang bitter na maasim (like bad coffee). my mom and i were like, “that’s it?” so disappointing…

  11. read the inq7 article… standardization of filipino food? according to them 4 ladies lang?

  12. lee, don’t you think it should include at least a Marketmanila representative as well? Heehee. I am still frothing…

  13. As according to Gonzo, it’s really an adaptaion to one’s taste buds and availability of ingredients. The original ensaimada was the simple form..we Filipinos like to spice it up with cheese. Just like the “cocido” madrileno, we add bananas and call it “puchero”. I like both versions.

  14. yes, have been looking for a torta recipe, too, but all the recipes i’ve seen so far call for something like a laton of lard, 25 kilos of flour, and all the eggs that 50 hens can lay in a month! or something like that. makes me think that maybe torta was originally fiesta food. the way the bol-anons do it – they have dozens of torta on the table for the feast, and dozens more in paper bags for the guests to take home.

    and yes, good to hear i’m not the only one disturbed by this crazy idea of standardizing our sinigang, kare-kare, adobo, etc. i am getting hot flashes/flushes at the mere thought….

  15. yeah marketman… they should have also done random sampling based on a the total Philippine population.

    headline year 2010: Marketmanila ordered to stop his blog for violating the SALSA (Standardized Adobo Law Section A).

  16. They call it “Kulinarya” (standardization of filipino food). I don’t think they will succeed (lol). Filipinos are very regionalistic.

  17. “Normally, you would expect that the original would far outshine its evolved or is it mutated relatives…”

    I’ve never really been of this belief. I make a differentiation between mere imitations and evolved versions. Simply copying the original doesn’t usually yield a better result, it’s true — especially when inferior ingredients or shortcuts are used; but tweaking the recipe here and there often produces something much better. Personally, I prefer the newer version of ensaimada, because I love butter and quezo de bola. I tried the “original” Ma Mon Luk siopao and did NOT like it at all. (And don’t get me started on the restaurant’s AWFUL smell! I never intend to return.) And as for adobo, I’ll take the less traditional adobo flakes over the original any time — in fact, it’s one of the Filipino dishes I’d crave if I lived abroad.

    …Should I brace myself for the attack of rabid food purists now? ;-)

  18. All I have to say is, a great many things have been bettered by Asian minds :)

  19. Amen to that, MasPinaSarap. One thing that does disturb me about all this American influence worldwide (and especially these last 100+ years on us Pinoys) is that some of us think that doing things the tight-a..ed (pardon the language) puti way is always better. Puh-leeese! Filipino food is the last thing over which people should start being control freaks. Why don’t they just write their own cookbooks, call their recipes THE traditional ones and be done with it. Let the rest of us go our merry, culinary way. We Pinoys love our freedom in all its expressions.

  20. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, the best ensaymadas I’d ever tasted (to the point of dreaming about the next one I would get to sink my teeth into with a nice cup of espresso or hot chocolate) were small ones with just the right amount of cheese on top. It was perfectly textured—not too dry, not too gummy, achieving the happy medium between bready and cakey. It had just the right levels of butteriness and egginess (sorry for mangling the English language) to be sublime. They were made by a lady whose southern Tagalog bakeshop my colleagues and I haunted for meriendas everyday. Sadly, the bakeshop is no more. I hope to track her down someday and get her recipe for it. The Muhlach ensaimadas have nothing on hers.

  21. came back to this page just to see what everyone has to say about the standardized adobo ek-ek. SALSA is the funniest thing to come from an outrage!

  22. Great. I didn’t say a word when my Catalan friend, my host offered me a piece of ensaimada. Just being polite….of course they asked me how did I like it! emmm yeah, good…
    I personally prefer our (filipino) ensaimada. It’s more tasty for my sweet gums.

  23. Yes our ensaimada is an entirely different product, evolved to our own tastes. A smilar process occurred with wanton evolving into our incomparable Pancit Molo, and I much prefer our tamales to the original Mexican ancestor.

  24. I was born and raised in Ozamiz City, and we had Sam’s Bakery ensaymada or pan de lukot (twisted bread). Since Sam was Chinese, his ensaymada was fusion: it had a black mungo filling. And since this was the 60s, it was topped with margarine and sugar; no cheese. But it was a delight. Sadly, Sam’s master panadero died, and along with it, his inimitable version of the (commercial) ensaymada I grew up with (my lola’s ensaymada/torta was a special treat on special occasions, and sadly, my mom lost my lola’s recipe).

  25. Does anyone knows where you can get the original ensaimada (1950’s). It is plain, darker, with only sugar on top but taste so gooood that you need no cheese filling to feel delighted. Its meat is flaky similar to croissant but firm. Really simply delightful.

  26. Strange, but I seem to be the only Pinoy who has posted here that likes the original better. I had an opportunity to try the original back in 2001 on a trip to Mallorca. The cafe I visited was supposedly the oldest in Mallorca and was famous for its ensaimadas. I tell you– the original for me was PURE HEAVEN! Crisp, light, fluffy….In fairness to Philippine “ensaimadas” I still enjoy them on occasion when made well, but they are nowhere close to the Mallorcan ones. I agree we should change the name of our local version already. “Enbriosant” of Alicia is actually a pretty good name.



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