This is a story about old-fashioned ensaymadas, the ones that time and margarine and modern manufacturing processes have forgotten.
This is about ensaymadas that are bright yellow. They're yellow because of the immense quantity of egg yolks used to make them, contributing also to the bread's tenderness. It's about ensaymadas that are soft, the weight of teeth compresses the crumb of a single bite. Lastly, this is about ensaymadas that taste like butter. These are not — like I've had the misfortune of trying — bread rolls that have been sprinkled with margarine and processed cheese food then labeled "ensaymada." NO. Proper ensaymadas should have so much butter that they practically heave with their heady aroma hitting you as they're being unwrapped, that perfume then quickly translating its unmistakable flavor on your tongue. This is my nostalgia talking, but I think it also goes without saying that ensaymadas should be large, large enough to inspire a landscape of optimism and gratitude that there are still people in this country who bother to make them properly.
Addie Wijangco is a baker who makes this type of ensaymadas. The recipe she uses is an amalgam, a product of one recipe from each of her lolas, who are the foundation of her most delicious, memorable life that "…was non-stop, no-break from cooking at all." There's Lola Gloria, whose pantry and refrigerators were as fully stocked as the nearest supermarket. "I'd do the groceries with her and I could stuff my cart with whatever I wanted without any questions from her," Addie details almost breathlessly. Lola Gloria was also quite the culinary adventurer, making traditional snack items from scratch that included halo-halo and fishballs. The other lola, Lola Bets "…wasn't as gastadora as Lola Gloria, no experiments allowed… but everything was picked from the garden," Addie says, reminiscing about the "best and freshest ingredients [and] I learned how to make fresh pasta from her."
Addie's ensaymadas are fluffy turbans: they are edible reminders of my childhood Christmases in Pampanga where dinner plate-sized ones were the stars. Little did I know then that they were to become the standard for future ensaymadas that came my way. I'm aware that one's choice of ensaymada is a subject of impassioned debate and loyalty, me included. I'm rather unstinting and inflexible with my ensaymada criteria. For the record, I'm not a fan of the famous Hizon's and Cunanan. I've outlined (above) what I look for in an ensaymada so if your criteria are like mine, then you'll like Addie's ensaymadas as much as I do.
The ensaymadas that I prefer all come from Pampanga, or have their roots there, which leads me to ask Addie if she'd describe her ensaymadas as Capampangan. She can't give a definitive reply however. But if there's one thing Addie is decided on, it's that her recipe is "… old, old style from an old, old recipe." She adheres to the methods, ingredients, and amounts for those that were used to teach it to her, including the nine (!) hours it takes her to make just a dozen. It certainly gives me pause, opening up a wider dimension of respect for one's food, or in this case, one's ensaymada.
Ensaymadas by Addie Wijangco
0917 85addie (23343) / (02) 586 7615
Prices available for 1 dozen (small, 100 grams per piece; or big, 200 grams per piece)
Editor's Note: Do you also love ensaymada? Where do you go for your favorite ensaymadas?