Discovering and baking ensaimadas

May 1st, 2011 | Posted by greg in Daily life... | Recipes

After 20 years of baking, I still love discovering and baking new breads. This is part of our daily fuel… we test, we try, we bake, we taste… again and again… until the day we reach perfection; therein lies happiness…

The day I met with the delightful Sonia Graupera – travel journalist, adviser, seasoned foodie AND fellow tweeps – She was having lunch in Lung King Heen and we’ve got straight away immersed in food talk. And to the question “what is your favorite thing to do at work?” My answer was baking bread. She then asked me if I knew Ensaimada, native bread from beautiful Majorca. I have to admit, I felt a little embarrassed not knowing about it at all, but again, was so happy to learn about new bread!

Sonia described them so well that I wanted to step out of work and buy some… that would be possible only if there were any bakeries in Hong Kong baking Ensaimadas; but as far as I know, there aren’t any. Thus, the only choice I had was to make them myself; I took Sonia’s question as a new baking challenge!

Our first try was a dough based on poolish with a massive addition of pork fat (lard) directly in the dough. The result was ok, but it was not looking like the photos we saw on the internet; it seemed to be more of a shortcut recipe. A while later Sonia and myself both found the same website showing the making of Ensaimada.

It’s on Las recetas de Sara that we’ve found the right directions to great Ensaimadas.

The most challenging part of the recipe was to translate it from Spanish, even with Google translate, it wasn’t all easy with sentences coming up as “…that summer we are having more weirdo…” ?!?. I took Spanish at school and I now really regret not having paid more attention to the courses! Well… anyway, I somehow figured it out and made up what I didn’t know.

Because different countries have different ingredients, I had to adapt the recipe slightly to match Hong Kong’s flour, lard and other little touches.

I was also happy to learn that Ensaimadas are popular in the Philippines, yet they seemed to be slightly different than its cousins from Spain. The results obtained following Sara’s recipe was indeed very similar to the photos posted on her blog, yet different from the photos of ensaimadas Sonia sent me (see below). In all fairness I believe it’s only a matter of how they are shaped before proofing.


For the fermented dough:
  • 30 ml of water
  • 30 gm of fresh yeast
  • 45 gm of T45 flour
For the rest of the dough:
  • 1530 gm of T45 flour
  • 330 gm vanilla sugar (that’s me tweaking the recipe!)
  • 530 ml water
  • 45 gm fresh yeast
  • 9 pcs eggs
  • 100 ml olive oil

And a handful of lard to do the layering, plenty of icing sugar for dusting and your best creme patissiere for stuffing…


For the fermented dough:

  1. Mix the flour, yeast and water to form a ball.
  2. Drop it in a bowl full of room temperature water and wait until the dough floats to the surface.
Meanwhile, prepare the main dough:
  • Mix all the ingredients except the olive oil and knead the dough until nice and extensible.
  • Take out the fermented dough from the water bath (it should have been about 20 minutes of fermentation in water) and add it to the main dough.
  • Add the olive oil and knead a further 3 to 4 minutes; your dough needs to look very soft and elastic.

  • Let the dough rest in an oiled plastic container for half an hour.
  • Weigh and form little balls of dough of about 60 grams and let is rest for 15 minutes.
  • Oil your working table and dough and roll it as thin as possible. If the dough breaks a little, it’s ok.
  • Spread the lard gently with your hands all over the dough into a very very thin layer.
  • Fold the dough into a roll and form the snail shape.
  • Place the ensaimadas on a tray with baking paper and allow proofing for about 1,5 hours.

  • Bake with steam for about 20 minutes at 180C.
  • Once baked, allow cooling a little, cut in half and stuff with vanilla creme patissiere.
  • Finally, dust with icing sugar and enjoy!!

Traditionally, ensaimadas are stuffed with angel hairs, made from pumpkin, but they also come in several other combinations, or even in an all chocolate version!

An interesting point about the recipe is that in most of all the recipes I have come across, there is no salt. It is a rare occurrence in bread recipe, but I guess it’s part of the tradition.

Ensaimadas are excellent for breakfast or tea time – definitely some serious contender to croissants! :)

Sonia sent me a few photos of different varieties of ensaimadas from Barcelona – they do look delicious!


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21 Responses

  • Rachelle says:

    Oh myyyyyyyyyy I can almost taste it. Looks so yummy! I’ve had the Filipino version, but it looks a bit different, like a brioche. Your pictures make me crave breads and pastries again. I’m supposed to be on a diet after gaining 10 lbs (literally) after a month in Paris!

    • Anonymous says:

      Glad to know you made it back safely! :)
      Only 10 lbs extra in Paris?! LOL… just kidding… Thanks for the comment and welcome back Rachelle!

  • I’m completely smitten by this post chef, the handwritten recipe is priceless. Thank you so much! Can I layer with butter instead of lard as I sometimes bake for Muslim friends who require Halal food?

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks Pick Yin!
      Good point… I guess it’ll work with butter – just like in making croissant. I think the main point then is not to proof them at a too hot temperature or else the butter will melt and layers won’t be created. Let me know if you try! :)

      • Normally I would proof my breads at room temperature (you know our weather), unless I want to speed up the proofing. Also, if I use active dry yeast, what’s the correct amount?

        • Anonymous says:

          Active dry yeast is dessicated fresh yeast where about 30% of the weight has been taken out as water, so for example: 30 gm of fresh yeast is equivalent to 10 gm active dry yeast.

  • this is such a beautiful bread!!!! about T45 flour, might be a bit tricky for us to get over here in Singapore. What do you think would be something close we could be able to obtain easily e.g. “Cake flour”?

    Add to what Pickyin had asked, anything difference we should watch out for when proofing the dough if dry yeast was used?

    thanks again Chef!

    • Anonymous says:

      Good morning Alan and thanks for the compliments :)

      T45 can be replaced with cake flour, yes. Although I am sure it would work with stronger bread flour, I think it is more suitable to use a weaker type for such sweet and brioche-type bread.

      Using dry yeast will be fine – you can keep the same recipe, except the yeast amount to divide by 3. (i.e.: 10 gm in the fermented dough and 15 gm in the main dough)

      Happy Baking! :)

  • Fina Yang says:

    Please share your recipe for making vanilla creme patissiere.

    • Anonymous says:

      There you go Fina :)

      150 ml Fresh Milk

      160 ml Fresh Cream

      1 pc Vanilla Bean

      3 pc Egg Yolks

      45 gm White Sugar

      15 gm Cake Flour

      25 gm Cornstarch

      Boil the milk, cream, vanilla bean cut lengthwise and sugar.
      In a separate bowl, mix the cornstarch and flour with the egg yolks. Add a
      little hot milk to the egg yolks mixture and pour back the egg mixture into the
      pot of hot milk. Mix well and cook the mixture again, until it reaches 82°C.
      Cool down and store in the fridge.

      For the ensaïmadas, I loved it warm inside and ate it right away!
      Otherwise, once the cream is cold, you can whisk it smooth and add an hefty
      amount of whipped cream!

  • Rebecca says:

    hi chef,
    I’ve never tried the original version of ensaimada but have tried the famous Philippine version. Loved it.
    . looking forward to try this. .

    would like to find out how many ensaymadas does this recipe yield?

    • Hello Rebecca! Yes, I have heard of the Philippine version which probably originate from Spain too, but it is quite different I believe, although both are super delicious!

      Depends on the size of the breads, but if you scale the dough at 300 g you will get around 10 pieces. That’s quite a lot! :)

      • Rebecca says:

        thanks for replying chef :)
        also forgot to ask how would I store/keep these?
        Am thinking of putting some chocolate creme patisserie :)

        • You’re welcome! I think if you bake a few, you can freeze them and then take out what you need, put it back in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes to “revive” it and then stuff it with freshly made chocolate creme patissiere! :) But of course, the best will always be freshly baked!

  • Liliana says:

    Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge with us. I wonder whatdo you think about this dough for cinnamon rolls?

  • Montserrat says:

    The original and best ensaïmadas are made with lard, never ever olive oil.

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