Growing up in the Philippines, ensaimada has been a part of our family merienda and even breakfast tradition. My favorite part of having this delicious pastry is the trip to the local  panaderia (bakery), I love going to the bakery..the smell, the array of baked goods and pastries display on the glass shelves are simply divine.

The Filipino ensaimada traces its origins to the ensaimada, a traditional yeast bun from Majorca, Spain, made with pork lard and just a hint of sugar on top. It began to appear in local panaderias during the Spanish period when Filipino and Chinese bakers began to make bread via the government’s Royal Bakeshop in Intramuros. Old-timers remember the ensaimada as a flat concoction, not the puffed up muffin-like versions of today. The traditional ensaimada was merely dusted with powdered or granulated sugar, just like the Majorcan version.

The Filipino ensaimada comes in so many dough variations and toppings, I’ve had ensaymada with cheddar cheese, salted egg, a dollop of whipped butter, quezo de bola, macapuno, ube, to name a few, But it’s the traditional ensaimada brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar that I have always loved. When I think of ensaimadas, I think of cool December mornings and warming up to hot chocolate or luya (ginger tea) and ensaimadas for breakfast. I think of lazy afternoon siestas and waking up to the smell of freshly baked rolls for merienda. I miss the panaderias in the Philippines.

This made me think of baking ensaimada, yes..the sweet memories attached to this pastry made me want to eat one today, at this minute. So, I made one, oh not just one I made 12. I did it, oh the aroma… I’m in heaven!

Ensaimada Recipe
Recipe adapted from Enriqueta David-Perez’s Recipes of the Philippines, makes 12 rolls

1 packet instant dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water with a temperature between 100 and 110 degrees F
6 tablespoons sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature, plus more melted butter for brushing the rolls
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup evaporated milk
canola oil for greasing a large bowl, baking sheet, and brioche molds

Dissolve yeast in warm water with a temperature anywhere between 100 and 110 degrees F. To proof yeast, add one tablespoon sugar and let stand for 10 minutes. If the mixture doubles in volume then yeast is active. It is very important to make sure that yeast is active. Water that is too hot kills the yeast so make sure that the water temperature is around 100 to 110 degrees F.

Sift flour and salt together twice. Add about 1/2 cup of flour to yeast and set aside.

Place butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Turn the speed to medium-low, add yolks, one at a time, beating well.  Add flour alternately with milk, mixing until well incorporated.  Add yeast mixture, beating well.

Replace the paddle with a kneading hook and knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Alternatively, knead the dough by hand on a clean surface dusted with flour until smooth and elastic. Let the dough rest in a bowl greased lightly with canola oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until double in size, about one to two hours.

Punch the dough and divide into twelve small, equal portions. Roll out each piece to a thin sheet, brush with melted butter, and roll sheet like you would a jelly roll. Coil this into a spiral-shaped bun. Either place the coiled dough flat on greased baking sheets or in greased fluted brioche molds. Set aside to rise until double in size, about an hour. When the dough is almost done, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake until the crust turns golden brown. Brush with melted butter and dust with sugar.