The ensaimada takes its name from the word saim, or lard in Mallorquin and Catalán, so it means larded. The first known mention of the ensaimada was in the 17th century although its origins are not clear. These light and sweet coiled buns, dusted with powdered sugar and measuring around 12.5 cm (5 inches) in diameter, are eaten for breakfast or as a midmorning snack.
Larger ensaimadas, around 24 cms across, are usually cut horizontally and filled with a sweet jam made from angel hair squash, whipped cream or even a creamy sobresada (mallorcan sausage) before being dusted with sugar and placed in their distinctive octagonal boxes. The boxes are a familiar sight in Palma’s Son San Juan airport, as visitors to the island carry them home, often several at a time, tied together with string. A newcomer to the island could wonder what was in those strange boxes.
In 2004, the Mallorcan ensaimada was given a protected denomination of origin or IGP status, Indicación Geográfica Protegida, awarded by the European Commission with the name Ensaimada De Mallorca to protect its distribution by unauthorized sources which did not comply with the strict artesanial production method.
Ensaimadas are not easy to make and require an experienced handling of the dough and two overnight fermentation periods. The ingredients are: flour, sugar, eggs, water, yeast and lard. Once the ingredients are mixed together, the dough is divided into soft balls and left to rise. Each one is later rolled out into a tongue shape, slathered with lard and carefully stretched into a thin layer of dough which is gathered into a sausage shape, coiled and left to rest for a minimum of 24 hours in the refrigerator.
Smearing the dough with lard.
The next day, after the dough has rested and fermented, it is uncoiled and stretched out again into a long sausage shape. The dough for the small buns is stretched to about 25 cm and for the large ones up to 2 meters in length.
Rolling the thin dough into a sausage shape.
These long sausages of dough are then coiled onto oiled baking sheets, with space between the coils, and are again refrigerated for a minimum of 12 hours by which time they have risen and the dough has filled the spaces. They are then baked, cooled and either sliced and filled or dusted with powdered sugar.
Coiling the dough for the final rise.
In the city of San Pedro, north of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the art of making the ensaimada was introduced in the last century by immigrants from Mallorca.
Here is a link to a video (commentary in Spanish) made in a San Pedro bakery, “La Ensaimada”, which demonstrates how ensaimadas are made.
There are also good photos on the link of illes balears qualitat, from where I have adapted their photos of making the ensaimada.
Continue on to Chapter 7......Around Palma 1968
Go back to Chapter 5......Son Armadams & The Colmado