Ensaimadas!!!
July 31st, 2009

One of the most frequent questions I’ve answered concerning my book and blog is about the source of my inspiration. “Everywhere” as an answer is the slightly boring, *yawn*, yet it hits the nail on the head. Magazine pictures, market vendors, blog articles, TV shows and – most importantly – people talking about food in my everyday life including friends and family.

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Most recent example: Maike is the good fairy of my publishing house’s cooking portal Küchengötter (German). She had just returned from traveling and while we nibbled away on some chocolate bars and fresh red currants, she raved about a certain Mallorcan pastry she had enjoyed numerous times on her trip, called Ensaimadas. Being obsessed with all things yeasty (and lard!), her description alone made me salivating: soft and flaky, slightly sweet pastry, made from long fermented yeast dough, lots of powdered sugar and greasy fingers from the used lard … ENSAIMADAS!!! – I quickly doodled down their name in my little to cook-notebook and added extra exclamation marks to make sure not to miss it.

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Back home, I scanned the baking as well as the Spanish section of our cookbook shelves, but neither Elisabeth Luard nor the recipes I found online could jump-start my endeavor. You know, the sort of impressive picture that just gets you on first sight or an inspiring, confident step-by-step description that sends you straight to the kitchen. Until I stumbled onto Eliza’s recipe (in German). Eliza and I have met before at a cooking class last year and have followed each others footsteps (aka recipes) closely. Her recipe had the right mixture of simplicity and details and before I knew, I entered my neighborhood bakery for a fresh yeast cube.

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I don’t have a clue if this is the most authentic Ensaimadas recipe (there are quite some regional differences), lacking first hand experience of the real thing from Majorca. All I can say is that my results exceeded my expectations by far. Perhaps their soft flaky-fluffiness, the lard’s typical taste or their unbelievable aroma once you take out the baking tray – these are very likely to become my favorite sweet pastry prepared from yeast dough EVER. The preparation is easy (ok, I still have to work on their looks…) and it’s wonderful to watch this dough rise, the relatively high amount of yeast makes for a super speedy rising. If you’ve eaten a real Majorcan Ensaimada, try this recipe and let me know, what you think… And a heartfelt Thank you goes out to Eliza ;)

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Add the flour together with sugar and salt into a large bowl (I used my KitchenAid bowl) and mix well. Make a hollow in the center, add the crumbled yeast as well as a decent pinch of sugar and pour over just enough of the lukewarm milk until the yeast is covered. Stir the yeast milk once or twice, then cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 15 minutes or until the surface of the yeast milk looks bubbly.

Add the other ingredients (the remaining milk, eggs, olive oil) and knead well, either by hand or with your kitchen machine until the dough comes together nicely. I used less milk in the beginning (200 or 220 ml, while the original recipe suggests 250 ml) and my dough still turned out pretty sticky, I therefor added a tad more flour and let it knead at medium speed for 3 minutes (just for the record: my dough still felt sticky). Let the covered bowl rest again in a warm place for at least 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled.

Punch it down softly, then flip the dough onto a well-floured surface and sprinkle with flour. Cut into about 10 equally sized portions and form into neat little balls, before letting them rest – sprinkled with flour, covered with a kitchen towel – once more for at least 30 minutes.

Shaping the Ensaimadas: Flatten one doughball, then roll out with a rolling pin (use flour as needed) until you get a pretty thin dough circle and brush it generously with the softened pork lard. Roll up cautiously, then let rest for a couple of minutes and continue with the other dough balls. (Meanwhile line the baking sheets with either parchment paper or silicone mats.)
Coil up each dough piece until it resembles the house of a snail (tuck the outer end under), ideally very loosely, because any spaces will fill up as the dough rises further. Place about five Ensaimadas on one baking sheet, making sure to leave enough space between them. Lightly brush with lard and cover up again.

The final rise is supposed to last overnight, yet I baked mine in three different batches (with rising times of 1 hour, 4 hours, 13 hours) and we preferred their look and taste with shorther rising times (1 and 4 hours). But do as you like.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (~390° Fahrenheit) and bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden brown. Take out and let them cool down on a wire rack for a couple of minutes, then generously dust with powdered sugar and enjoy while still warm. Greasy fingers included!

Ensaimadas

Recipe source: inspired by Eliza's recipe

Active time: about 45 minutes, rising: several hours, baking: about 15 minutes

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Ingredients (yields about 10 Ensaimadas):

500g all-purpose flour (plus additional as needed )

75g sugar

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

40g fresh yeast (= 1 cube)

200-250ml lukewarm milk

2 eggs (M)

2 tbsp olive oil

150g soft pork lard

powdered sugar for dusting

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