Ensaimada is a traditional rolled pastry from Mallorca (Spain). It’s made with lard (instead of butter) and it’s aboslutely delicious. It’s texture is a cross between a light brioche and a laminated dough. Irresistible!
(for 1 large Ensaimada)
- 250g strong white flour
- 80g sugar
- 70g water (approx.)
- 55g egg (weight without shell)
- 25g pork lard
- 7g fresh baker’s yeast
- 200 g lard
- Icing sugar
Kitchenware needed to make Ensaimadas
It is essential to have a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook (KitchenAid type) to make the ensaimada dough which, as you will see, needs a very long kneading. A manual kneading would be too laborious and would lengthen the process a lot. If you make bread and pastries at home and you have more professional equipment (like the Grilletta IM5 kneader), you’ll get better results. The downside of domestic stand mixers is that they tend to overheat the dough, whereas the motion of semi-professional machines allows for a smoother and more uniform kneading, thus achieving an open crumb. I have tried making ensaimadas with both machines and I can tell the difference. But you know I’m a perfectionist… So don’t worry, with a standard stand mixer you’ll get it too!
Smooth surface for stretching
For the amounts I am giving you, it is necessary to have a working surface at least 100 cm long x 70 cm wide. If it is larger, all the better – you will be able to stretch the dough to its maximum capacity. It is advisable that this surface is made of marble, silestone or a similar material, or even wood (treated for food use) so that the dough does not stick and can be stretched without problem. It is also recommended that it is rectangular; although it could be perfectly done on a round surface (the rectangular shape marks how we have to stretch and makes it easier to form). Needless to say it must be pristine! I am lucky enough to have XTONE slabs by Urbatek (Porcelanosa group) at home, which are just perfect because they are very resistant, hygienic, waterproof and easy to clean. Those of you who follow me know that I tested them live during my latest showcooking in Nantes (France) last November, and the truth is that I was amazed. If you don’t have such a big surface, you will have to divide the dough into several portions and form individual ensaimadas.
The roller pin allows to stretch the dough into a rectangle evenly before we start stretching by hand.
The ideal way to bake the ensaimada is to use an iron oven tin, though not all of us own this accessory. The tins have the advantage of heating up very quickly and reaching a higher temperature, which helps toasting the base and create a laminated puff-pastry-like texture. Of course you can use an ordinary baking tray or, like me, a round pizza tray lined with greaseproof paper or baking paper, which is very practical because of its shape. However, if you use baking paper, you have to remove it immediately after baking and let the ensaimada cool down on a rack so that the base doesn’t soften and remains crisp.
Scraper, bowls & cloths
The scraper will allow you to gather the sticky dough from the bowl of the stand mixer during kneading to get a perfectly kneaded dough. You should use a large bowl and a clean cloth to let the dough rest, and a smaller bowl to get the lard ready.
Notes on ingredients
To make Ensaimada, it is necessary to use a strong flour. Firstly, because as I mentioned before, Ensaimada needs intense kneading; you’ll need to develop gluten to the maximum but without damaging the glutinous mesh. And secondly, because Ensaimada contains a high percentage of fat (like Croissant). Since fat weakens gluten, we need the dough to withstand fermentation and remain vigorous after developing gluten.
You should be taken into account the following when it comes to choosing the flour: strength (W-value in Spain), percentage of protein and P/L factor. Please read the notes about flour in my Croissant recipe to better understand these values.
For Ensaimada, I use the Brioches flour from Molino Pasini (W360-380, 13.5% protein and a P/L between 0.55 & 0.60). It’s just the perfect flour for this recipe!
The above amount of water matches the type of flour I use. It is very likely that you will have to adjust the amount of water according to the characteristics of the flour you are using. Although the Ensaimada dough is quite sticky at first, you must add water progressively, without reaching the specified amount in the recipe (start, for example, with 50 g). If the dough is too dry, add more water very slowly until you get the right texture. It is always better to err on the side of caution.
Baker Daniel Álvarez recommends using some milk to help getting an elastic dough. Personally I do not use milk. I think that if you use a suitable flour you don’t need to.
Pork lard was largely used in Spain before, when people could not afford buying butter. It is still used now in some dishes and pastries like Polvorones and of course Ensaimadas. Use a quality pork lard (pure Iberian, if possible). Lard must be taken out of the fridge before starting kneading the dough. To use it during stretching, lard must be in ointment.
Some people have asked me on Instagram if butter can be used to make ensaimada. Well, you could, but then it would not be Ensaimada but some sort of snail-shaped brioche. Lard and butter neither have the same texture, nor the same percentage of fat, same taste, same melting point… So just follow the traditional recipe with pork lard!
Better fresh than dry. In my opinion dry yeast has two drawbacks. Firstly, the dough takes much longer to ferment. You’ll see that fermentation of the Ensaimada dough is quite long and we just do not want to make the process longer. And secondly, I find it difficult to check the quality and condition of the dry yeast, since some of it has been packed for a long time and lose a lot of strength. Fresh yeast is much easier to use and you can immediately check its freshness just by smelling it.
Sourdough for Ensaimadas?
The use of sourdough is essential for many breads, as it provides a special texture and helps extending the lifespan of the product (as in the case of Panettone, for example). However, Ensaimada (like Croissants) is prepared for immediate consumption and, in this case, sourdough barely provides benefits in terms of texture and flavor.
How to make Ensaimadas step by step?
GETTING LARD READY
Take the lard out of the fridge, weigh it and leave it in a bowl at room temperature so that it is ready to use.
Put all the ingredients of the dough in the bowl of the stand mixer with the hook attached, except the yeast. Knead at minimum speed for about 30 minutes. The kneading time depends on the flour you have used. Keep an eye on your dough and do the windowpane test to see if it is ready.
As I said it is quite a sticky dough, so dough will probably stuck to the bowl and the hook. Therefore, in order to get a uniform kneading, you’ll have to stop the machine from time to time, remove the dough from the hook and from the bowl, put it together and resume kneading. Do not try to increase the speed to get the dough together as you may break the glutinous mesh that is being formed.
Personally, I prefer continuous kneading than alternate several micro-kneadings with rests. Since it is a sticky dough, I think it needs a more intense kneading to develop gluten. The dough will not overheat and/or start to ferment as we will only add yeast at the end.
Once the kneading time has elapsed, add the crumbled yeast and keep kneading at same speed for 2 or 3 minutes.
Even if I use a stand mixer to knead the dough, I always take the dough out of the bowl to check if it’s ready, as it may need a quick manual kneading. Once the dough is on the working surface (without flour or oil) I knead it as if it were bread dough.
If at first the dough was sticky and shapeless, now it looks smooth, elastic, silky, strong and doesn’t stick to the surface – it’s ready!
Shape the dough into a round ball and put it in a bowl smeared with a little extra virgin olive oil. Cover it with a clean cloth and let it rest for 1 hour at room temperature (do not let it get too hot either, about 21-22 degrees Celsius).
This resting time is essential for the dough to relax before stretching it. During this time it will not rise.
Lightly oil the work surface with extra virgin olive oil. Place the dough in the centre of the surface and start stretching it with the roller pin in a rectangle shape. When it is about 3-4 mm thick, spread the dough evenly with all the lard over the entire surface.
You have to spread the dough with lard before it becomes too thin, otherwise the dough will break. It may seem a lot of lard but once you start stretching the dough with your hands, lard will spread and almost disappear.
Once all the lard is spread, start stretching the dough with your hands. Stretch each corner to keep the dough into a rectangle shape.
Starting from the centre, take the dough off the surface, place the palms of our hands underneath and stretch it, from the centre towards the corners with utmost care. If the kneading has been done correctly, your dough will stretch perfectly without breaking.
Be careful with long nails! There will come a time when the dough is so thin that any gesture or sudden movement could break it.
Stretch to cover the entire surface.
Please remember that for this amount of dough, the surface needs to be quite large. If you don’t stretch the dough to the maximum, you will not get an open crumb. Once stretched, the dough has to be translucent like a thin membrane without breaking.
Once the dough is completely stretched, start rolling it up on itself starting from the longest side.
For the sake of photography I have turned the table, but I confirm that I am rolling from the longer side!
Roll up all the dough little by little, pressing slightly to avoid air bubbles until you get a cylinder the length of your surface.
This process usually takes a while because you have to handle the dough carefully so that it does not break.
Once the dough is rolled up, cover it with a clean cloth and let it rest for at least 30 minutes to relax.
You now have to carefully stretch the dough cylinder to make it longer and even (during the rolling phase, some parts are thicker than others, it’s just normal).
Starting from the centre of the cylinder, gently stretch with both hands towards the ends, without putting too much pressure, just to make it even and longer. Your cylinder should be about 2-3 cm thick.
Put the tip of your dough cylinder at the center of the baking tray and then roll it over itself in a spiral shape making sure to leave room for the dough to grow.
If you have lined your tray with baking paper, you will have to somehow fix the paper to the tray so that it does not move when shaping the dough (especially if you haven’t done any Ensaimada before, it is likely that you will get the perfect spiral shape and have to remove the dough from the paper and start again). Anyway, try not to handle the dough too much.
After several proofing tests at different temperatures, my conclusion is that I get better results with longer proofing at lower temperatures.
We are usually not very patient and often want to speed up the process by rising the temperature so that our dough ferments faster. We think that dough needs to be «warm» to grow well. But this is not entirely true. Excessive heat speeds up the process to the detriment of the structure. For the dough to develop all the aromas and have a light, airy texture, it needs to grow slowly and steadily. So be patient! We gave the dough a lot of tension during kneading and rolling, so the Ensaimada dough needs to rest for a long time.
I usually proof the dough for 15 to 18 hours at 20ºC/21ºC inside the oven, with the door closed so that no air enters. It all depends on the quality of the flour/yeast you have used, the kneading method, the room temperature, the humidity rate, etc. There are many factors so keep an eye on your dough. At the temperature I indicate, it will proof very slowly; do not try to rise the temperature (i.e. by preheating the oven), especially at the beginning of fermentation.
If you notice that after 12-13 hours the dough has not risen much (it has to triple its initial volume before baking), you can either open the door of your oven to turn on the light or place a bowl of hot water at the bottom. The light/water bowl will rise the temperature to 24/25ºC.
Once I tried to leave the dough at a constant 24ºC temperature and it took only 8 hours to ferment, but the final result was not so good – the ensaimada was okay, but I did not get the laminated and airy texture I was expecting.
Preheat the oven at 180ºC (heat up and down but no air). We will not use steam either, although we can put a bowl with a little water on the bottom of the oven to create a slightly humid atmosphere, but it is not essential.
Once your Ensaimada is fully proofed, bake it as is (without no egg brush) for about 20 minutes. The baking time depends on your oven so keep an eye on it. The Ensaimada has to get a beautiful brown color and rise. When it is ready, take it out, remove the baking paper without breaking your Ensaimada and place it on a rack. Let it cool down completely so that the dough settles and loses part of its moisture (it is normal that Ensaimada loses a little volume when it cools down).
Once the Ensaimada has cooled down, sprinkle it with icing sugar (preferably homemade – the industrial type usually uses starch).
When cutting it, Ensaimada must be very light, spongy, open crumb and flaky, especially in the upper and lower layers.
I hope you liked the recipe. Please let me know if you do and do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions.
Enjoy and thank you!