I suppose everyone who has a favourite, tried and tested ensaymada recipe will claim that theirs is the best. I know I would. I grew up eating only one kind and naturally, it was the standard by which every other version was compared to.
To me, the best ensaymada is soft but not too airy or cake-like. Golden (from a generous amount of eggyolks and butter) and not pale yellow. Buttery, sugary, and balanced off with some saltiness from a strong, tasty cheese topping.
I've learned that to achieve this perfect ensaymada, there can really be no shortcuts. I have tried other recipes with shorter processes and different proportions of ingredients but the results didn't quite make it to the standard I was used to. I once tried a recipe with mashed potatoes. It yielded pillow-soft ensaymadas but to me, although they were good, they were more like cupcakes in texture.
So, yes, I have decided to stick to the real thing. It is more tedious to make, requires more patience but the end result is definitely worth it.
A few notes:
1. If the yeast doesn't foam, discard then start again.
2. The proving (rising) times listed in the recipe are just guides. These will vary mainly due to the temperature of your environment. Rather than depend on time, concentrate more on how your dough looks like.
3. If the weather is cold, try proving your dough inside the oven. Turn the oven on at 200 deg C for 1 minute. Turn off then place your covered bowl inside. (I usually repeat this process after an hour if my dough hasn't risen enough yet and the oven has gone cold again.)
4. To be sure that your ensaymada is fully baked, use a cooking thermometer. A baked roll should have an internal temperature of about 88-93 degC (190-200 deg F).
5. To make half the recipe, use 8 eggyolks (4 each for Stages 2 and 3).
SPECIAL ENSAYMADA (makes 20-24 medium-sized ensaymadas)
|From top left (counterclockwise): Newly-coiled dough; risen dough; just out of the oven; buttered and sprinkled with sugar; cut in half; ensaymada with cheese topping|
In a small bowl, combine:
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast1/2 cup warm water (about 100-110 deg F or 38-43 deg C)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Let stand until it bubbles, about 15 minutes.
1/4 cup room temperature or slightly warm whole milk
3/4 cup bread flour
Mix thoroughly then let rise to about double in volume, about 30 minutes.
|LEFT: Foamy yeast mixture; RIGHT: yeast mixture with the addition of milk and bread flour, now double in volume|
In a large mixing bowl, combine:
8 eggyolks (at room temperature)
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup bread flour
mixture from Stage 1
Mix, cover, then let rise to about double in volume again, about 30-60 minutes.
|LEFT: with eggyolks, sugar, bread flour and mixture from Stage 1; RIGHT: after mixture doubled in volume|
Add, one by one, to mixture in Stage 2:
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup softened butter
3 cups bread flour
Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix until everything is well incorporated. Switch to a dough hook, then gradually add up to 1 cup more of bread flour until you achieve the right consistency of a soft and quite sticky dough. (You may not have to add all of the extra flour. Do not be tempted to keep adding flour or you will end up with a heavy dough). If the dough is too sticky to handle, leave it for a few minutes then knead again until manageable.
Alternatively (if you do not have a dough hook), transfer the dough onto a slightly floured working surface then knead the mix manually while gradually adding the extra bread flour. Knead until the desired consistency is achieved.
Form the dough into a ball then let rise in a lightly greased bowl, about 1 1/2 hours. Cover the bowl with cling wrap or a clean towel.
|LEFT: with the addition of more eggyolks, sugar, butter and bread flour; RIGHT: after kneading, ready for proving|
Punch down the dough. Divide into equal portions. For medium-sized ensaymadas, a portion would be around 70-80 grams. You will be able to make around 20-24. For muffin-sized portions, about 25-30g is enough.
|From top left (clockwise): portioned dough; flattened and stretched; buttered and rolled; coiled; shaped like an "S"|
Get one portion and flatten with a rolling pin. (Again, if the dough is too soft or sticks to the rolling pin, leave it for a few minutes then try again.) Start rolling lightly then more heavily until dough is fully stretched lengthwise.
Brush dough surface with a generous amount of softened butter.
Carefully roll the dough from one end of the long side to the other end. Shape into a coil with outer end tucked in. You can also form the roll into an "S" shape.
Place in mould.
Once all portions are shaped, let sit, covered loosely with cling wrap, to rise for the last time, about 2 hours.
|Coiled dough after proving. As you can see, the coils look like they have melded. If the coils are separated and distinct, it can mean that too much flour has been added and the ensaymadas might be tough.|
Bake ensaymadas in a preheated 300 deg F (150 deg C) oven for 20-25 minutes.
|Nice and golden!|
|You can tell that it's soft just by looking at it!|
Let cool for a few minutes then remove from moulds. When completely cool, brush with softened butter, sprinkle with sugar, then top with grated aged edam, vintage, or extra tasty cheddar cheese.
If not eating immediately, wrap ensaymadas individually in wax paper.
Before eating, you can microwave an ensaymada for about 15 seconds to warm it up and to melt the cheese.
Enjoy with coffee or hot chocolate!