The Mallorcan Pastry.
A Mallorcan specialty, the Ensaimada, with its coiled shape could easily be confused with an escargot. Is it a pastry? A cake? A bread? Think the love child of Brioche and Croissant, with a crunchy crust that gives way to a dense yet soft, flaky inner. Perfect consumed warm for breakfast with coffee or hot chocolate, as an afternoon snack or perhaps even dessert.
Roughly 12 inches in diameter – ideal for sharing – typical ingredients include strong bread flour, water, sugar, eggs, a mother dough, and saim (the Arabic/turned Catalan term for reduced pork lard). Traditionally only sprinkled with sugar, the Ensaimada oozes decadent simplicity, reflecting Balearic cuisine. Variations do exist, such as an almond nougat or the popular cabello de angel.
Mallorca, part of the Balearic Islands, is a vibrant, bustling tourist destination. Balearic cuisine is a subset of Catalan, yet the Ensaimada is believed to have Jewish or Arabic roots – derived from bulema or bulemes dolces. Harking back to the 17th century, the extortionate cost of white flour meant it was originally only prepared for special occasions. The Austrian Archduke Ludwig Salvator’s book Die Balearen, considered the best documentation of Mallorcan culture, references Ensaimada. Hordes of tourists depart Mallorca clutching boxes of Ensaimada to distribute among friends and family, a token of their ‘cultural experience’. Food is a medium through which cultural capital can be obtained and superiority of taste exhibited (Pujol 2009), an intriguing concept for the budding sociologist.
In February 2004, the Ensaimada was granted PGI status, deemed emblematic of Mallorcan culture and cuisine. Traditional measures – almuds and ounces – are still used to prepare the ‘snail’. Previous Spanish colonies, such as the Phillipines have their own take on the Ensaymada. Individual portion sizes, a richer dough and cheese topping are characteristic of this wildly popular delicacy. Although transformed into an inherently Phillipino dish, the history of the Ensaymada reveals the imperial relationships between Spain and it’s colonies with the resultant fusion of cuisines (Ashley 2004). In Australia and England butter/oil replaces pork lard, or puff pastry the traditional dough, making it more accessible for vegetarians, those from different faiths and the home cook. The enriched-dough scroll graces Australian bakeries in many forms…make your mission to source one of the Spanish ilk!