From Mallorca to Manila: How a Spanish Pastry Became a Filipino Favorite
Plus, did you know that Bulacan ensaymada is different from Pampanga ensaymada?
(SPOT.ph) The holidays are around the corner and in the Philippines, that means being showered with treats both sweet and savory. One of the most popular pastries all-year round, either as gifts or as party snacks, is the ensaymada.
According to Panaderia: Philippine Bread, Biscuit and Bakery Traditions, a book on Philippine
The book describes the ensaymada’s Spanish predecessor as "straightforward." "The dough is made from bread flour, water, sugar, eggs, and a starter dough. It is kneaded, rolled out into a very thin layer and spread with lard, coiled into a spiral by hand, fermented once for at least 12 hours then baked. The crust is dusted with powdered sugar."
What turned this humble pastry from Mallorca into one of the most beloved Filipino pastries? "On the surface, its festive appearance—coil shape, luxurious topping of butter, sugar, and cheese—and rich flavor easily makes it popular among Filipinos. It’s a special
Manileños are most familiar with the kind of ensaymada that’s either just a soft, buttery pastry topped with a bit of sugar
She lists three main types, all based on "the same basic ingredients with bread as its base. The formulation (amount), method (sponge and dough, straight dough), rolling technique, and topping may vary from baker to baker. The variation gives birth to the distinctive marks in the ensaymada."
There’s Bulacan ensaymada, which “has the sliced salted duck’s egg on top that makes it distinctly Bulacan, more specifically from the town of Malolos. (In some affluent families, it is ham slices rather than salted egg)."
Some of the best ensaymada recipes have been lost over time. Orillos’ book talks about the famed Panaderia Villegas of Bulacan, patronized by folks far and wide for its delicious, melt-in-your-mouth pastries, but whose recipe died with its baker.
Then there is the Pampanga-style ensaymada, which is "most often large in size and rich in flavor (lots of egg yolks and butter), judging from the number of
There is also Manila-style ensaymada. "You can trace the roots of Manila ensaymada by way of the Spanish-era bakeries in Intramuros that made it similar to Mallorca in Spain where the
Orillos adds, "In researching for our book...we talked to Manila old timers who remember the ensaymada of their childhood—they described the structure of the bread as having crevices or layers, being flat because it was
According to Orillos, one of the biggest misconceptions Pinoys have about ensaymada is "the more toppings of cheese, butter and sugar, the better the ensaymada" because "If you take out all of these trimmings and you have lousy bread underneath, it kind of ruins the whole ensaymada experience. You end up just nibbling on the top and leaving the rest on your plate," she says. "But there should always be good, honest bread holding the ensaymada together regardless of the preferred flavor (
I asked Orillos what makes for good ensaymada. "Foremost, the ensaymada must be based on a good bread from a well-made dough (long-fermentation period contributes to the flavor of the bread). The texture is tender with a bit of a bite or chew. It shouldn’t be dry or too moist from the butter or oil," she says. "The ensaymada must have that distinctive coil or spiral shape, its most important hallmark. The flavor should be a balance of sweet, salty, and fat (from the butter and eggs) that comes together when you bite into the bread and the topping. Finally, add a hint of nostalgia from your own experiences eating this bread and you got yourself a damn good ensaymada."
Does Orillos have a favorite type of ensaymada? It turns out that she does. “I’m partial to Pampanga-style ensaymada because of its rich flavor and the fact that I can only get it on special occasions makes it a really special treat. I also like ensaymada with queso de bola rather than cheddar because the former gives it a bit more depth of flavor," she says. "But any ensaymada made with devotion and care by a home baker, regardless of the provenance of their recipe, I will gladly welcome [to] my dining table. Likewise, if we pass by a corner
Orillos is currently apprenticing in a traditional bakery to further learn about Filipino
Whatever style of ensaymada you prefer, be it topped with eggs, covered in cheese, or served warm and plain from the corner bakery, take heart in the fact that you’re partaking of a well-loved Filipino pastry, one that traces its roots back to Spain, but over the centuries has, as Orillos and Uy say in Panaderia, "a tropical exuberance in the hands of a colonized nation."