Origin: Majorca, one of the Balearic Islands, Spain
Ensaimadas are a pastry or sweet bread which is made in Majorca, one of the Spanish Balearic Islands, however it is made throughout the world and is eaten in many of Spain's old colonies including many places in Latin American and the Philippines.
This Spanish pastry from Majorca was first cited in literature in the 17th century. Although at this time flour was used almost exclusively for making bread, there are references to a sweet bread being made for the festivals and celebrations held on the island. The traditional ensaimada was made with reduced pork lard which gives rise to the bread's name. The word for pork lard is 'saïm' hence the name 'ensaimada'.
Nowadays these sweet bread coils are mostly eaten at breakfast and if you order them when you travel to Spain you will most likely find them served with hot chocolate or coffee which is provided for dipping.
The Spanish bread has therefore been around for many centuries and has been spread out across Spain and the world. This also means that there is an endless amount of variations of the recipe. The 'Cabell d'àngel', which literally means Angel's hair, is characterized by the stringy orange strands pieces of pumpkin which are cooked with sugar and make a sweet filling which is rolled up inside the bread. The Tallades variety is normally eaten on lent and is covered with pumpkin and sobresada, giving the bread a bitter taste. Then there are many varieties which are filled with other yummy ingredients such as sweet cream, chocolate or an almond paste called turrón - something which you will definitely see if you decide to work in Spain. Some examples of this Spanish food are also covered in apricot jam instead of sugar.
The traditional, original recipe is impossible to establish as the ingredients and their quantities have never been established correctly meaning that the ensaimada is always different and is best when bought from a traditional shop. But that's not to say that you shouldn't try making your own!
If you have any of the Majorcan sweet bread left over - very unlikely! - you could always considered making the dessert made in Ibiza called 'greixonera' which is made with the left over pieces of ensaimada.
Ensaimadas | Majorcan Sweet Bread
4 tsps active dried yeast
1 cup milk, warm
½ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
4½ cups plain flour
2 large eggs
Plain flour for dusting
1½ sticks (6 oz.) butter, softened
Butter, for brushing
Sugar, for dusting
Dissolve the dried yeast into the warm milk and leave to one side.
In a large mixing bowl, put the salt and sugar and then gradually add the flour and the warm milk and yeast mixture. Mix together thoroughly.
Add the eggs and olive oil to the bowl and mix well and then knead with your hands until soft and well blended.
Cover the bowl containing the dough with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm location for around an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Knead the dough further and then place on a floured surface. Using a roll pin, roll the dough out as thin as possible and then brush the entire surface with some softened butter.
Start rolling the dough a little bit at a time from one side to the other, as though you were rolling a poster. After rolling the dough up, leave it to rest for an hour.
After the dough has risen further, coil the roll of dough up like a spiral or a snail shell. Move the coil to a greased baking tray.
Cover the coil of dough with a very large bowl or bucket - large enough so that the dough will not stick to it when the dough rises. Then allow the dough to rise for several hours.
Preheat the oven to 190ºC (375ºF).
Bake the coil of dough for around 45 minutes or until the top is golden-brown. Once done, brush the surface with melted butter and then sprinkle the top with lots of sugar.
Cut into slices and enjoy!