Edam cheese is essential for making ensaimada. Filipinos know it best as queso de bola, bowling balls of cheesiness covered in a protective shell of red wax. These big-as-your-head cheese balls always made our dinner table during christmastime. We have this tradition of rounding up thirteen different types of spherical fruits to symbolize prosperity for the new year, so queso de bola fits in quite nicely, if I do say so myself.
No one ever told me that the waxy coating on queso de bola was, in fact, actual wax. Other kids voluntarily ate glue; I unknowingly ate paraffin. Copious amounts of it. Needless to say, I hated queso de bola with a passion, but continued to eat it anyway because everyone else seemed to enjoy it.
Now that I know better, I always keep a wedge on hand. I find Edam plain and inoffensive as far as cheese goes, but finely grated and baked with sweet brioche dough, we end up with a well-loved Filipino bread along the ranks of pan de sal and pan de leche. There are many other ways to enjoy queso de bola, of course.
Storebought versions are more like sponge cakes heavily topped with sugar, cheese, and butter. This breadier version has a fluffy interior, deeply browned flaky crust, and a nice buttery finish. I prefer to keep ensaimada plain because there’s enough cheese, butter, and sweetness in the bread itself, but there’s nothing wrong with a light dusting after baking. I listed a number of optional glazes and toppings.
This recipe for ensaimada benefits from an overnight rest in the fridge mainly to maximize flavor development. It really makes a huge difference in taste and texture. The dough is filled with cheese and coiled into snail-shaped rounds, so chilling also makes shaping easier, fun even.
Ensaimada (Snail-Shaped Brioche)
Filipino-Style with Edam Cheese
makes 4 ensaimadas (about 6 inches in diameter)
Dutch Edam cheese. Red wax is not good eats.
Ensaimada Dough Ingredients:
Ingredients Volume Ounces Grams bread flour 2 2/3 cups 12 340 whole milk 2 tbsp 1 28 large eggs 5 8.8 250 instant yeast 1 1/4 tsp salt 1/3 tsp granulated sugar 1/4 cup 2 56 unsalted butter, softened 1/2 cup 4 113 grated Edam cheese about 1 cup
Optional Glaze (before baking):
egg wash (1 egg + 1 teaspoon water)
Optional Toppings (after cooling and baking):
grated Edam cheese
Mix Stir the flour, milk, eggs, yeast, salt, and sugar. Mix until evenly hydrated and a shaggy ball of dough is formed. Rest 15 minutes Knead Add the butter about a tablespoon at a time, kneading to incorporation with each addition. Continue kneading until all of the butter is incorporated and a smooth ball of dough is formed. Refrigerate 12 to 24 hours Prepare a sheet pan lined with parchment or silicone. Divide Remove from the refrigerator and immediately divide into 4 pieces. The dough will be stiff and may have risen slightly. Rest 15 to 30 minutes. The dough should be slightly softer but still cool to the touch. Shape Pat the balls of dough into a rectangular shape, about 4 inches by 12 inches. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of grated Edam cheese over the dough. Roll tightly into logs and pinch the seams to seal.
Coil the rolled dough into a tight spiral and tuck the outer end underneath the dough. Proofing the shaped dough in appropriately sized brioche or tart pans is nice but not necessary. Place the shaped ensaimada on the lined sheet pan.
Final Proof About 2 hours at room temperature Preheat Oven 350ºF / 175ºC Glaze Glaze with egg wash (optional) Bake Bake for 20 to 24 minutes at 350ºF / 175ºC, rotating the pan halfway through baking. The center of the loaf will register 185ºF / 85ºC to 190ºF / 88ºC when done. Cool At least 30 minutes Toppings Top with any combination of softened butter, granulated sugar, or grated Edam cheese (optional)
The fourth one didn’t make it for the shoot.