If you’re wondering where I’ve been this past week, I’ve been in the hospital. I got sick with the dengue fever and had to be confined for seven unfortunate days in the hospital, four of which were spent fighting off recurring high fevers. It was my first time being hospitalised and I hope I never have to go back for many many many years to come. I find it ironic how I never get seriously sick ever and the one time that I do it lands me in the hospital. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience, but I’m thankful to be home now.
Today I’m going to share with you what I feel is one of the best things that ever came out of my oven: the ensaymada. I’ve made a handful of bread since I started blogging, and most of them have been good bread. However none of them have made me feel this particular way. The moment I saw how perfect these ensaymadas looked fresh out of the oven, I began gushing over them like I have never gushed over bread before.
I was excited, giddy, but most of all, I was proud. I was proud of myself because this felt like an accomplishment. I was proud of myself for choosing and succeeding in making something truly close to home. For all the foreign breads I’ve made and loved, this one definitely takes a special spot in my heart.
The ensaymada, or the Filipino brioche, is arguably one of the more positive things that came out of being a former Spanish colony. It’s been more than 400 years since the Spaniards introduced this bread to the Filipinos and yet it remains to be a favourite. Each bakeshop (and even the hole-in-a-wall bakeries) has their own version of this classic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all of them are good. There are still those that are too hard, too dry, too sweet, too buttery; and that’s all too bad because it’s a great disservice to this wonderful staple.
To break it down, the ensaymadas should be these fluffy yellow breads that are almost cloud-like in their softness. When you pull them apart, the scent of butter that escapes the silk-like crumb will make your mouth water. The butter flavour is light when you eat it, but it creates a perfect complement to the usual margarine, sugar and cheese toppings that come with the typical ensaymada.
Filipinos have this habit of giving food items and pastries every time they visit someone else’s home, and one of the most common things to give are ensaymadas because everyone loves them. It’s appropriate for any occasion one can imagine, though personally it feels a bit more heart-warming to receive this during Christmastime. And it’s quite a lot of fun to make too.
You have to trust me on this one.
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water, 100 to 110° 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 proofing bowl, baking sheet, and brioche molds
- 1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. To proof yeast, add one tablespoon sugar and let stand for 10 minutes. The mixture should foam up and double in volume. This means the yeast is active. If the yeast does not foam and double, discard and repeat.
- 2. Sift flour and salt together twice. Add about 1/2 cup of flour to the yeast mixture and set aside.
- 3. 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.
- 4. Turn the speed to medium-low, add yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- 5. Add flour-salt mixture alternately with milk, mixing until well incorporated.
- 6. Finally add yeast mixture, beating well.
- 7. 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.
- 8. 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. Meanwhile, brush 12 brioche molds lightly with oil.
- 9. Once risen, punch down the dough and divide into twelve equal portions.
- 10. Roll out each piece to a thin sheet, brush with melted butter, and roll it like you would a jelly roll.
- 11. Coil this into a spiral-shaped bun. Either place the coiled dough flat on greased baking sheets or in greased fluted brioche molds.
- 12. Set the dough aside to rise a second time, until double in size, about an hour. When the dough is almost done, preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).
- 13. Bake until the crust turns golden brown, checking from the 15-minute mark. Brush with melted butter and dust generously with sugar. **
- Storage: The rolls will keep for about a day or two at room temperature. Refrigerate to make them last for up to 5 days and simply reheat before eating, if desired. Remember that bread is best eaten fresh.
- * Water that is too hot kills the yeast so make sure that the water temperature is around 100 to 110 degrees F.
- ** You can also top ensaymadas with margarine, a sprinkling of sugar, and some grated cheese, if desired.