"Ensaimada," the traditional sweet bread of the island of Mallorca, is a delicious pastry. The origin of this cherished bread is debated but is most assuredly from the Middle East. It is shaped in the form of a coil and sprinkled with a heavy coat of powdered sugar. Ensaimadas are enjoyed as a breakfast treat dunked in hot coffee, or as an afternoon snack or dessert.
They aren't difficult to make but require a bit of patience since the dough must rise several times. Originally, ensaimadas were just sweet bread sprinkled with sugar, but in the past century, they began to be filled with cream, "cabello de angel" (pumpkin jam) or almond nougat.
This traditional ensaimada recipe was adapted from a recipe posted on El Aderezo, a cooking blog associated with El Norte de Castilla newspaper in Spain, and follows the traditional version. Plan to start the recipe the day before as it is best to allow the ensaimadas to rise overnight.
- Mix the yeast with lukewarm milk in a glass measuring cup until dissolved. Place half of the flour into a large mixing bowl. Gradually pour in the milk-yeast mixture while stirring. Mix until the ingredients form a dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot. Allow rising until the dough has doubled in size, approximately 1 hour. While the dough is rising, remove the eggs from the refrigerator to come to room temperature.
- Once the dough has risen, add the eggs to the dough, one at a time. Use a large spoon or your hands to incorporate the eggs into the dough. Then, add the sugar and stir until the dough absorbs the sugar. Mix in the remaining flour, kneading the sticky dough with your hands for 4 to 5 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise 30 to 45 minutes.
- Lightly flour a board that is approximately 24-inches square. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough very thin. It should stretch to cover the board. Using your hands, rub the vegetable shortening on the top of the dough.
- Roll up the dough as if you are making a jellyroll. Cut into rounds about 1-inch thick. (It should make approximately 18 rounds.) Transfer rounds to a plate.
- Lightly flour the cutting board again. Roll each piece of dough into a long coil or rope, using your hands. Then, roll up each of the coils like a snail shell, making the traditional shape of the ensaimadas.
- Cover cookie sheets or a baking stone with parchment paper. Place ensaimadas on the parchment paper leaving lots of space between them because they will expand. Allow rising until they have doubled in size, preferably overnight. The overnight rising time allows further fermentation to occur, adding flavor and size. In fact, the ensaimadas may triple in size.
- Heat your oven to 350 F / 180 C. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes on the center rack, until browned on top. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!