Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Start Your Day the Mallorcan Way: Ensaimadas

The travel guides we took with us to Mallorca insisted we try ensaimadas, a local specialty for breakfast. I’ll be honest, some of the descriptions left something to be desired – “a larded swirl pastry” served full of cream for breakfast? I prefer to start my day lardless; my heart hurt just reading the description! But on our first morning, delicious buttery wafts lured us into the local patisseria where we were staying in Palma de Mallorca. There, in the display case, were dozens of perfectly golden, puffed pastries curled delightfully on their side. They looked too delicious to pass up. . .

Ensaimadas are the traditional breakfast fare of Mallorca. By some accounts, written mention of the pastry dates back to the 17th century! The use of lard in ensaimadas ties them to the island’s farming heritage, since they’re usually made with homemade pork lard in Mallorcan kitchens. It’s also historic – the pastry’s name comes from the Arabic word for pork lard, saim. Making ensaimadas is practically an artform - a Regulatory Council actually certifies certain bakers around the island for making "ideal" versions of this Mallorcan delicacy!

Sarah and I actually found ensaimadas to be great, light starts to the day – not as heavy or unhealthy as their lard-based recipe suggests. They’re like a cross between a croissant and sweet bread, puffy with a slightly crisped outside, but melt-in-your-mouth sweet and soft on the inside. They were a nice local replacement for my morning croissant and bagel – and perfect with a strong cup of coffee.

The pastry uses simple ingredients - strong flour, water, sugar, eggs, and lard. The trick to making perfect ensaimadas, though, is in the kneading and rising stages of the recipe. I wasn’t lucky enough to see any master pastry chefs work their manual magic, but I did my best to collect some tips from local bakers. A variant is served with thick cream in the middle, but I’ll stick to plain ensaimadas (my favorite) to keep things simple. And, for the more health conscious among us, I’ve also substituted butter for the traditional lard. If you have any advice or modifications to what I suggest in the recipe below, please share them!

4 tspn dry yeast
1 cup milk
½ cup sugar
1 tspn salt
4 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 eggs
2 tbspn olive oil
1 ½ cup butter, for coating
sugar for dusting
½ cup grated edam cheese (optional, for topping)

1. Warm milk slightly in microwave. Dissolve yeast in the warmed milk and set aside.

2. Combine sugar and salt in a large bowl. Gradually add the flour and warm milk mixture, interchanging each. Blend thoroughly. If using an electric mixer, mixture should just separate from sides of bowl.

3. Break and beat eggs together lightly in a separate boil. Mix in olive oil. Add egg and oil mixture to flour mixture, mix well, and knead until soft and well-blended.

4. Cover with a damp cheese cloth or paper towels and leave to rise in a warm place (just above room temperature) for about an hour, until dough doubles in volume.

5. Remove cloth, knead the dough again. Dust a clean, flat counter surface with flour to prevent dough from sticking. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough as thin as possible over a floured surface (1/4 inch thickness). Brush the entire surface of the dough with softened butter. Be generous!

6. Start rolling the dough, bit by bit, from one side all the way to the other, as though you were rolling up a sheet of paper – fairly tightly. When the dough has been rolled up, allow it to rest, covered again, for 1 hour.

7. Remove cloth and coil the risen dough loosely horizontally, making a snail shell shape. Transfer the coil to a greased baking sheet.

8. Cover one final time with an extremely large inverted bowl, large enough to ensure that the dough will not stick to the bowl's surface when it rises. Allow the dough to rise for 3-4 hours.

9. Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Uncover and bake the dough coil for around 45 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown. Brush the surface with melted butter and sprinkle generously with sugar. Add cheese if desired.

10. To serve, cool slightly till warm and cut into cake-like slices. Serve with a great cup of coffee!


Maya said...

Why didn't you bring me some back? Next time I see you, you better make me some of that shuga...

Gita said...

Sounds great and the photo looks yummy!

Judy said...

We went to Mallorca back in 1985, when we were stationed in Germany. It was a great vacation - but I don't remember these pastries. Thanks for bring back some wonderful memories of a wonderful week in sunny Mallorca.

dukemd69 said...

I watched Mario Batali (Cooking Channel) as he visited a bakery in Mallorca. The chef made a traditional ensaimada. The dough had been made to rise for several hours. Then it was rolled very thinly with an oiled rolling pin. It was very pliable, like pizza dough. He rolled it into a rectangular shape. Then, he spread a thick layer of pork lard over the entire surface. The filling was called Cabello de Angel, a sweetened mixture of spaghetti squash marmalade. He added a pile of the squash onto one edge of the dough. Then he rolled the dough over the filling, making a ling tube. He coiled the tube snugly around itself. I don't recall whether he painted th surface with an egg wash. He placed the pastry into a brick oven and baked it for 45 minutes (?? degrees) until golden brown. After sprinkling the surface with a generous amount of powdered sugar, it was consumed while still warm. I would like to try to make it at home. I'm afraid that my oven won't produce the same results. Mario said he was going to substitute butter for the lard. This will definitely change the flavor and consistency. Good luck!!

Donna Amira said...

Being a travel lover,i often travel across the world and love to eat,Thanks for such a nice post..

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