If there ever was a bun from the Philippines that could best portray the nation's diversity, I feel like ensaymada would be on the shortlist. This soft, fluffy, and yeasty bun is something between a brioche and angel food cake. It is usually topped with sugar, butter, and cheese, which makes it a perfect Filipino breakfast or snack.
Update Disclosure: This post has been updated for one or more of the following reasons: easier reading, updated photos, clearer instructions, and just plain ol' improvements to the recipe (as noted).
History of Ensaymada in the Philippines
Its namesake, the ensaimada, comes from European roots in Mallorca, Spain. The 'saim' in ensaimada represents lard used in the original buns. The ingredients replaced the original based on what resources were available, but locals maintained the technique in the Spanish-occupied Philippines. Instead of using sprinkled powdered sugar, Filipino ensaymada showcases a buttercream topping with cheese or granulated sugar.
Ensaymada is also available at any panaderia in Filipino neighborhoods all over the country at any time of year. It is probably one of the top-selling baked goods in the Philippines. If you are near a Goldilocks or a Red Ribbon bakery, two of the major exported Filipino global chains, you can easily get one of these buns at their stores.
Classic vs. Cheese
There are two main types of this Filipino baked good, classic and cheese-topped ensaymada. The classic version derives its looks and texture from the original Balearic ensaimada. It's brushed with butter, then dipped in granulated sugar.
The newer cheese ensaymada is different from the classic recipe. This style can be a rolled bun or a smooth round bun, with buttercream frosting spread all around it. Then layers of grated cheese are added on top.
Cheese Options for Ensaymada
Honestly, these options are to your taste! But using semi-hard cheese will make grating easier for you. Here are some ensaymada cheese suggestions:
- Cheddar: This is the main choice for cheese-style ensaymadas! I used a mild cheddar for one version and it came out with a mild and earthy flavor. It complemented the buttercream and sugar well.
- Edam: This will make your bun a bit nuttier and more savory. You will also notice a slightly bitter taste when using edam cheese on ensaymada.
No Cheese? No Problem!
You can skip grating cheese and make a simple (but just as tasty!) topping. To assemble the classic style:
- Add some granulated sugar to a bowl.
- Spread the buttercream on the ensaymada, but make sure it's a thin layer and coats the bun.
- Roll the bun in the bowl of sugar, and you have just made a classic-style ensaymada!
Now that you've picked your cheese (or not!), here are other ingredients you'll need for this recipe:
- Granulated Sugar
- Instant or Active Dry Yeast
- Milk (whole is better!)
- An egg
- All-Purpose Flour
- Powdered Sugar
How to Make Filipino Ensaymada
This ensaymada recipe takes a while, but you will be rewarded with some of the fluffiest buns you'll ever eat! Jump to the recipe card for full instructions and ingredient measurements.
Here is a quick summary of the steps:
- Make the yeast starter, let it bubble and froth.
- Mix the wet and dry ingredients to make the dough.
- Knead the dough and do the first proofing.
- Roll out the dough and shape the buns.
- Let it sit for the second proofing and then bake the buns.
- Make the buttercream, and grate the cheese.
- Add the topping to the baked ensaymada rolls.
How to Enjoy
The best way to eat ensaymada is as an accompaniment to coffee during breakfast time. You can also eat it as a snack. I love savoring the buns by tearing a small piece at a time and relishing their sweet buttery goodness.
If you made cheese ensaymada, make sure to cover each bun separately because the cheese may dry out. Sugared ensaymadas are suitable for storing in a container unwrapped. All buns placed in a container (wrapped or unwrapped) can last at room temperature for up to a week.
Interested in More Filipino Bread?
Fluffy Ensaymada Recipe
The equipment and ingredients sections contain affiliate links to products I love to use as well as items that I personally believe make this recipe the best version of itself.
- 10 grams granulated sugar for yeast blooming
- 7 grams instant or active dry yeast
- 250 ml milk, warm
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 400 grams flour
- 50 grams granulated sugar
- 70 grams unsalted butter, melted
- 70 grams unsalted butter, softened
- 50 grams powdered (icing) sugar
- 200 grams cheese, grated (cheddar or edam) optional
- 200 grams granulated sugar optional
- In a bowl, add warm milk, 10 grams sugar, and yeast. Stir to combine and let it sit until frothy.
- Once the yeast is bubbly, add the egg and butter to the bowl and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the salt, flour, melted butter, and 50 grams sugar.
- Add the activated yeast mix to the bowl of flour and mix together. Knead for 5 minutes with dough hooks or by hand for 10 minutes. The dough is ready when it passes the windowpane test.
- Put the dough in a bowl and cover to let it rise for 1 - 2 hours. When the dough has doubled in size, punch out all of the air from the dough. Sprinkle flour on a flat surface and place dough on floured area.
- Use a rolling pin to make a flattened rectangle about 10x12 inches then make six equal strips.
- Roll the dough strips to make them round, then curl each strip into itself one at a time. They will look like individual cinnamon rolls.
- Place the buns on a lined baking sheet and proof them again 30-40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
Bake Ensaymada Buns
- Bake the buns in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Pull them out of the oven and brush them with melted butter. Let the buns cool for up to 30 minutes.
- In a clean bowl, add the softened butter and icing sugar and cream them together.
- Spread the buttercream frosting all over the cooled buns except the bottoms.
- If you are making cheese ensaymada, grate your cheese of choice and top each ensaymada with the grated cheese. If you are making the classic version, put the sugar in a shallow bowl and roll the ensaymada in the sugar.
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