Noche Buena is the traditional family dinner Filipinos celebrate on Christmas eve, December 24th, right after Midnight Mass. It wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have these buttery Ensaymadas at our dinner table. Noche Buena is the culmination of the 10-day Simbang Gabi (Dawn Masses). Like all Christmas events in the Philippines, the focus is always our faith, traditions and food.
Living in America has not stopped us from celebrating our traditions. No matter how busy the season is, I have always made it a point to cook traditional Filipino food . One mainstay is the ensaymada. This is brioche, Philippine style. It’s a sweet dough packed with butter, eggs,sugar, cheese and two kinds of flours.
The results from the oven were delightful! Buttery and cheesy aromas were all over the house. When my family sensed I was making ensaimadas they eagerly asked “When do we eat?”
This is what holidays are all about… Noche Buena and Christmas morning made more special with ensaimadas… so rich,filled with butter and cheese, sweetly drizzled with sugar. They are light, decadent and divine. And now that I made them bite-sized, then the indulgence does not seem as bad, does it? Merry Christmas, friends !
Ensaymadas- Filipino Brioche
- Fluted tart tins - preferably non-stick; about 3-inches diameter for large ensaymadas
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups bread flour
- 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 2 packets (each with a net wt. 7 g. or 1/4 oz.) instant dry yeast
- 3/4 cup lukewarm milk lukewarm milk
- 3 whole eggs at room temperature
- 9 egg yolks at room temperature
- 1 cup unsalted butter or 2 sticks, softened, plus add a 3 to 4 tablespoons for greasing tart pans
- 3 cups grated Gouda, Edam or Manchego cheese
- 2, egg yolks beaten, for egg wash
- 1 Tablespoon milk to add to egg wash
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened, to brush on top of buns
- 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar to sprinkle on buns
- 1/2 cup grated Gouda, Edam or Manchego cheese to sprinkle on buns
For First Rising:
- In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour and bread flour. Set aside.
- In the bowl of the stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1 cup of the mixed flours with the sugar, salt and yeast. Mix at low speed.Add the warm milk and 3 eggs. Beat for 3 minutes.Add the 9 yolks and softened butter. Mix until fully blended.Add the remaining mix of all-purpose flour and bread flour, 1 cup at a time. Mix thoroughly.At this point, while kneading, you will notice the dough starts to get drier. Turn off the mixer and remove the paddle attachment -- switch to the dough hook -- if using a mixer to knead the dough. Or if preferred, mix and knead the dough by hand on a flat, dry, clean surface of the counter. Keep kneading till the dough is smooth and elastic-like. In the mixer, kneading takes about 8 to 10 minutes. By hand, it will take about 12 to 15 minutes for the dough to be smooth and shiny.Transfer the dough to a clean, large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 1 hour in a warm place.
For the Second Rising:
- After the dough has doubled in size and risen, punch the dough down. Cover with plastic wrap and seal tightly all over. Refrigerate the dough in the bowl overnight. Leave enough room in the refrigerator shelf for the dough to rise upwards. (Note: In the past, I put the bowl in a tight space in the refrigerator and the dough rose high and fell over sideways into the other food. So give the bowl some space.)
For the Third Rising:
- The following day, take the risen dough out of the refrigerator. Pinch off twenty four pieces (about 2 ounces each or 2 inches in diameter) of dough. Or else pinch off 36 smaller pieces (1 inch in diameter) of dough to make mini ensaymadas.Roll each small piece into a ball. Place the dough balls on a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough balls rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
To fill each ensaymada and for the final rising:
- Prepare the fluted tart tins by brushing each with softened butter. Arrange them on baking sheets and set aside.On a flat, dry and clean surface of the counter, sprinkle a few tablespoons of flour so the dough does not stick. Roll out each dough ball with a rolling pin, into a 12 x 14-inch rectangle. On each piece, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the cheese. Roll the dough lengthwise, away from you, like you were rolling a slim burrito. Shape the dough piece into a rope, shaped about 12 inches long and 1/2 inch thick. Repeat the process of filling the dough with cheese and shaping into a thin rope for the rest. You should have 24 pieces for large ensaymadas (or 36 for minis).Hold one end of the rope down. Then wind the rest into a round coil. Twist the dough stick to form a spiral shape. Tuck in the ends within the dough. Repeat doing the coil with the rest of the filled dough ropes.Place each spiral or coil in the middle of the greased fluted tart tins. Place these tins on a baking sheet. The spiral should fill about half of the tin.Cover the cheese-filled spirals with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. The dough should spread out to the sides of the fluted tart tin.
To bake the ensaymadas:
- Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees. In a small bowl, mix the egg and milk to make the egg wash. Gently brush each risen ensaymada dough with a few drops of the egg wash.Bake the ensaymadas for 10 to 12 minutes till lightly brown.Remove from the oven and let the ensaymadas rest on the counter for 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, use a small knife to loosen and remove each ensaymada from the fluted tins. Cool the ensaymadas on a cake rack for about 30 minutes.Brush each ensaymada top with the remaining softened butter. Sprinkle each bun with granulated sugar and the rest of the grated cheese.When the ensaymada buns have cooled after 1 hour, wrap each in parchment paper or plastic wrap if desired.Serve ensaymadas warm.These ensaymadas keep in the refrigerator for a week. In the freezer, they keep for a month, well-wrapped in plastic wrap and resealable plastic bags.
Notes on Nutrition: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.
Did you like this recipe? I have more classic recipes inspired by my late mother’s cooking in my popular cookbook: My Mother’s Philippine Recipes. If you’re learning how to cook Filipino food or a fan of Philippine cuisine, buy my cookbooks and books on Amazon.com sold worldwide in paperback and Kindle format.
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