Ensaimada is one of those baked goods that effectively splits Filipinos into two opposing camps: the one that likes ensaimada and the one that hates it like the plague. My family has had a long-standing membership in the former: we love our ensaimada, but this craving also has a certain caveat. The ensaimada has to be good; well, not just good, bit it has to be very good.
My father’s side of the family hails from the Central Luzon provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga, two regions with a lively culinary culture. Bulacan, in particular, is known for a vast array of sweetmeats: a long litany of confections and baked goods of outstanding quality and are known dangers to the figures of unheedful gourmands.
In Bulacan, they take their ensaimada seriously as it has to be baked in the classic Mallorcan manner: strips of brioche dough are dipped in melted lard (saim in Spanish, hence the name ensaimada – larded) or butter before being coiled for baking. Prior to insertion in the oven, the buns are basted with more butter (!) and generously sprinkled with granulated sugar and grated Cheddar or Edam (queso de bola) cheese. Some families actually use grated Parmesan on their ensaimada, but even that is a tad too much. Other families actually push the envelope as far as the richness of their ensaimada is concerned by slipping slices of ham into the buns before baking or topping the finished product with slices of salty, rich-yolked duck eggs.
Of course, in these hustle-bustle days, not everyone has the time to dip individual strips of dough into scalding-hot melted fat, let alone do any baking on a weekday morning! This is where Eurobake, one of the oldest and most prominent commercial bakeshops in Bulacan, comes in.
For Bulakenos who miss the rich flavors of home, Eurobake sells such niceties as pastillas de leche (little bits of milky fudge rolled in granulated sugar), caramel-ly cashew tarts, turrones de casuy (cashew nougat wrapped in thin white edible wheat paper – the same stuff used to make Communion hosts), and inipit (a custard sandwich made with dulce de leche and fluffy sponge cake). But it is their Malolos ensaimada that keeps patrons coming back for more.
Each bun appears as a miniature sun – made shimmery with granulated sugar and golden with butter, cheese, and a thickish slice of duck egg in the center. Every bite is rich, filling one’s mouth with sheer unctuousness and bursting with salty-sweet flavors. Such buns need no embellishment: seriously, I don’t think anyone would be crazy enough to add more butter or cheese to these babies – that’d be spoiling for cardiac trouble! :p
Warmed in a toaster-oven for about three minutes, these buns are perfect for chilly rainy mornings. Paired with either a hot or chilled caffe latte, they are a sublime way to start one’s day.