Cheese Ensaymada: A sweet Filipino delicacy

Cheese ensaymada

A certain traveler made headlines and pissed off a handful of Filipino readers when she posted I Would Rather Go Hungry Than Eat Filipino Food Again! on her blog.  The article generated a lot of comebacks from displeased and apparently irritated Filipinos from all around the world. I was actually more than pissed after reading it, and I can understand why Filipinos would react the same way. Given that she was entitled to her own opinion, but her rant totally pierced through my heart and soul, especially when she said “No wonder why, in the north, the vast majority of Filipino kids and young people are overweight. This is something we have noticed straight away. People in young age are huge and it’s due to poor quality of food.” 

I have been overweight all my life and I blame it on my mom’s awesome cooking and my perceived lack of success at working out, but I wouldn’t say it’s because I have been stuffing myself with “oily, fat and sugary” Filipino foods.   The blogger obviously went to the wrong places while in search of “authentic” Filipino food, but she clearly blamed that they can only spend $25 a day hoping to get a piece of authenticity by going to “local” establishments. Sad to say, she wasn’t pleased. Instead, she suffered from stomach aches and dizziness after eating those foods.  Poor kid.

Cheese ensaymada

As a full-blooded Pinay, I wouldn’t even go to those places because of the unsanitary conditions, and I know most Filipinos would agree that fares offered at these places will not compare to their mom’s or tita’s cooking.  But you know what? some people in my county can only afford so much, and one of them is to have food on the table, regardless of its authenticity and taste. She clearly had those kinds of food.  I just wish I could show her the way to our local bakery so she could have a go at their hot pan de sal and this buttery and soft cheese ensaymada bread. 

Ensay what? Inspired by Spanish “ensaimada”, this sweet brioche is baked with butter and topped with sugar and shredded cheese.  Other versions would have margarine spread on top or filled with some kind of filling like ube or cheese.  They have this in every local bakery in the Philippines, and tasty enough to satisfy locals and tourists alike. Plus, they are cheap.

Just writing this post brought me back to a memory of a younger me on a lazy weekend afternoon – hungry but too tired to face the stove.  I asked my parents for some money and walked out of our red gate, headed uphill to visit our local bakery. “Limang pisong ensaymada po” (Five pesos worth of ensaymadas please) and eagerly watched the tindera grab some ensaymadas under the counter and put them inside a clear plastic bag. If you are lucky, they might even give you freshly baked ones from the tray.

 Back to reality and far away from home, I tried a bunch of recipes for this sweet brioche I miss so much, and I am sharing you the one that hit close to home.  Hopefully my description “buttery, soft and sweet” will make you want to try it, or even just checking out a Filipino bakery you always pass by on your way home but never had a chance to check it out. Or if you live in Seattle I will be more than happy to share mine. 

Get the recipe here.

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