Ensaimada – Filipino Cheese Brioche

Ensaimada - Filipino Cheese Brioche Crust

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.

Bread Baking Day #16: Bread with Cheese hosted by High on the Hog

Ensaimada (Snail-Shaped Brioche)
Filipino-Style with Edam Cheese

makes 4 ensaimadas (about 6 inches in diameter)

Ensaimada - Filipino Cheese Brioche Edam
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):

softened butter
granulated sugar
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.

Ensaimada - Filipino Cheese Brioche Grated

                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.

Ensaimada - Filipino Cheese Brioche Shaped

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)

Ensaimada - Filipino Cheese Brioche
The fourth one didn’t make it for the shoot.

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64 Responses to “Ensaimada – Filipino Cheese Brioche”

  1. maris says:

    I love the shape of these! You make them sound so easy!

  2. Lien says:

    I just can’t believe you ate the red skin of the “Edammer”, did the rest of your family too?? Poor you, I can understand why you didn’t like it then (but bravely kept on eating it!) Funny that you over there in the States use Dutch cheese and I here in Holland use Italian cheese for the event…
    Lovely shaped bread, makes sense that the fourth was already eaten ;-)

  3. Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella says:

    Oooh love the look and sound of these! I’m crazy for Brioche but have never made it. Maybe now is the time with this recipe?

  4. javapot says:

    I really like how you shape these! Very beautiful. Brioche with cheese, great combination. Will definitely give these a go soon :)

  5. Rosa says:

    That speciality looks really good! What pretty little coiled breads! Wonderful.



  6. Dana McCauley says:

    Lovely buns! I didn’t know that Edam cheese was used in Filipino baking (or cooking for that matter). Thanks for the education!

  7. Pigpigscorner says:

    cheese brioche…yumm….they look so cute rolled out like this.

  8. zorra says:

    *lol” You really ate the red skin? No wonder you didn’t like the cheese. Anyway your ensaimadas are beautiful I just knew the Spanish sweet version, filled with “Angel Hairs”.

  9. raquel says:

    oh..jude! you just made my day. i have been wanting to make ensaymada for a loooooong time but most recipes i have seen require a million egg yolks!! i have to try this. it really looks so good.

  10. Squawkfox says:

    I love how your recipes come with an educational component. Like other commenters I had NO IDEA that Edam cheese was used in Filipino baking. BTW: You have nice buns. ;)

  11. noble pig says:

    It’s a work of art!

  12. Manggy says:

    Oh, I love both versions. This one is missing the star margarine slathered on top, hehe :)

  13. Gera @ SweetsFoods says:

    Hi Jude!

    How strong is the Spanish influence in the food customs in the Filipinos, here so far, we’ve pan de leche & sal too :)
    Your brioche cheese is sublime!!

  14. Soma says:

    Ooooo such cute snail like shapes. You describe every step so well.

  15. Caroline says:

    Have been wanting to make this ever since the Saveur issue but that uses up so much eggs. Your recipe is more manageable so I think I’ll just borrow yours. :)

  16. Susan/Wild Yeast says:

    If the cheese was one of your 13 spherical fruits then of course you had to eat the skin — isn’t the skin the fruit’s most nutritious part?

  17. CookiePie says:

    Hmmmm, what could make yummy brioche even better? I know – cheese! Gorgeous!

  18. MyKitchenInHalfCups says:

    Oh my heart be still. . . Awesome! Beautiful!
    Please pass me one.

    One didn’t make it to the shoot! Love it.

  19. grace says:

    so…did the paraffin ingestion have any side effects, instant or delayed? :)
    i like edam a lot, and i love your brioche even more. very nice.

  20. rainbowbrown says:

    Yum, a bread brimming with butter and cheese. I’m so totally sold.

  21. Tanya says:

    I looooove brioche! It sounds even better with the cheese. Your story was so funny with you eating the red wax – no wonder you didn’t like it! Just curious – you never got sick from eating the wax? Lovely photos by the way. :)

    I’m sorry I never got the chance to really visit your blog – it’s wonderful! I’m subscribing to it in my reader!

  22. JennDZ_The LeftoverQueen says:

    These are absolutely beautiful, Jude! I love any bread containing cheese!

  23. Natashya says:

    Those are the cutest little buns I have ever seen! I am surprised only one got gobbled up before the picture.
    I have never made brioche before, I do love a buttery bread though, I should try it soon.
    ps – to answer your question – Nordic Ware, Violets. :)

  24. clumbsycookie says:

    Funny how they do the same thing in Spain without the cheese (they do it with pastry cream I think) and also call it ensaimada. They look delicious!

  25. Lien, Zorra – Just me, as far as I know. I was eight and that’s my excuse.

    Dana, Squawk – Dutch Edam is probably from our Indonesian neighbors to the south.

    Manggy – I really wanted to include margarine in the recipe but I just can’t do it.

    Gera, Clumbsy – Ensaimada is definitely from Spanish influence, as is most of our baked goods. I have no idea where the cheese addition came from, though.

    Caroline, Raquel – I thought that Saveur’s ensaimada recipe can’t be right with 22 egg yolks, but it doesn’t seem like it. I think other recipes are a bit ridiculous at 2 to 3 yolks per loaf, although they are more “authentic.” This recipe has one whole egg each.

    Susan – Didn’t appreciate it when the wax got stuck in my teeth, though. Yum.

    Grace, Tanya – No side effects (yet). Wax consumption might explain, uh, a few things, though.

  26. Tangled Noodle says:

    Beautiful ensaimada! My husband fell in love with these during our PI trip so I promised to make some – you must have read my mind. And you’re spot on – leaving it plain allows for variety per eater. BTW, I handcarried 3 balls of Argentinean Edam (Magnasco) for my dad in Makati – you can guess that airport security was quite interested in three dense, round-shaped masses in my carry-on!

  27. Barbara says:

    Oh my – this look amazingly delicious!

  28. Nicisme says:

    Ha ha, thanks for the laugh! I can just imagine you with red teeth!!
    I’m surprised that only 1 failed to make it to the photo shoot because they look absolutely delicious Jude!

  29. snooky doodle says:

    you re still alive and that’s what counts :) this bread looks so nice I can smell it from here or am i imagining it ? Anyways its spectacular !

  30. The Duo Dishes says:

    Someone brought these to a holiday party this past December, and they had topped it with extra cheese, butter and sugar. To. Die. For.

  31. lisaiscooking says:

    Great looking, and they sound delicious! I love the spiral shape.

  32. Maya says:

    This would be wonderful just about anytime of the day!

  33. Caitlin says:

    I love the last comment – I don’t believe any of those would have made it to *my* photo shoot. They look wonderful.

  34. Jackie says:

    “Other kids voluntarily ate glue; I unknowingly ate paraffin.”

    Haha I guess I erred on the safe side and did not know you could eat the rind of Brie and Camembert until maybe two years ago?

    Great spiral shaping!

  35. Miri says:

    What absolutely wonderful looking buns! The recipe sounds easy but I’m sure thats just you – I will anyway try to attempt this. Thanks for the detailed instructions!

    Can I used refined flour instead of bread flour?


  36. Joelen says:

    The spongy ensaimada with butter, sugar and cheese is my fave! Do you happen to have a recipe for that? :) This breadier version looks delicious and I just may try my hand at it!

  37. sweetbird says:

    Hmmm…hopefully paraffin’s not, like, super poisonous. It appears you’ve turned out well, regardless. Perhaps if I start eating loads of paraffin at my pedicures I’ll become a bread-baking bad-ass like you…

  38. Lori Lynn says:

    It is all so great. What I especially love is learning this name Ensaimada I have never heard before!

    on eating wax…could be worse…

  39. noobcook says:

    Love it when u feature Filipino cuisine and pastries. They look so exquisite!

  40. debinHawaii says:

    Yum! I used to eat emsaimadas in Manila when I went there for work several years ago. I haven’t had one in ages though. Now I am craving them again thanks to you

  41. Aparna says:

    I just learnt about another new bread. Those are the prettiest snails I ever saw. :)
    I shall try these out.

  42. Hannah says:

    Wow, what gorgeous, plump swirls! I’d love to try this technique with something like a cinnamon bun filling… Mmm!

  43. Sandie says:

    This brioche is seriously divine—a must make in any kitchen.

    I’m so glad to hear you are not eating paraffin anymore. Looking back, I’m sure I took an inadvertent bite or two myself.

  44. monzie says:

    i’m so excited you posted a recipe for ensaimada… my family has been trying to talk me into making them since Saveur featured ensaimadas in their Philippine Days of Feasting December 08 issue. After my success with your Lenguas de Gato, which everyone loved… i can’t wait to try these. you made it easier by eliminating the brioche molds, which i didnt have!


  45. [eatingclub] vancouver || js says:

    ROFL about eating wax. Well, having bitten into one eating those mini-Baby bels on the 31st, it does taste oddly compelling.

    Have to try making ensaimadas soon. The only ensaimadas we have here are those from Goldilocks and I’m starting to get scared of them because they started “packaging” it more, to get more shelf-life out of it, I’m guessing. Besides, sometimes they are too oily.

  46. yasmeen says:

    Pretty looking brioche stuffed with an exotic cheese,will mozzarella work?

  47. Marc @ NoRecipes says:

    These sound/look great! I wonder where I can get the cheese around here.

  48. Dragon says:

    I love the shape of these brioche. So lovely.

  49. lalaine says:

    Ohhh! Just in time…had Nino Muhlach’s ensaimadas today brought back from the Philippines by a co-worker. I am going to try my luck and see if I can successfully make some at home using your recipe. Great photos and bookmark-worthy recipe as always, Jude!

  50. anudivya says:

    Oh boy! Are those cute or what! Lovely… What would be a good substitute for Edam cheese if I am not able to find any?

  51. Oggi says:

    Beautiful and yummy!

  52. erin @ dessert girl says:

    I love the shape! And I love the word brioche, for some reason. :-)

  53. Jescel says:

    you made me chuckle about that “eating wax” story. poor you, but i’m glad you got over that! lol… and you made me miss home now.. I love ensaimadas!

  54. Tangled – Glad to hear they didn’t “confiscate” it.

    Jackie – I still go for the rinds sometimes but I definitely learned my lesson. Cheese rinds can be interesting.

    Miri – If it’s from strong wheat flour then the flour will probably work do just fine. The dough might be a bit tougher to handle because it will be stickier. I’d start off with half the amount of butter and see how the dough feels.

    Joelen – I don’t have a recipe for the spongy type of ensaimada but there’s a few in my cookbooks that I haven’t tried yet. We’ll see.

    Sweetbird – I don’t know how it works but dipping my hand in wax felt great. Got a gift certificate for a man-grooming.

    js – Haven’t had a goldilocks ensaimada in a while. Sounds like they’re being sold as twinkies and hohos now.

    Lalaine – Nino Muhlach makes ensaimadas? That’s interesting :)

    Anudivya – parmesan, cheddar, or manchego might make for nice variations.

  55. Glenda says:

    These are so beautiful!!! Love how they look, you did a great job!

  56. Elizabeth says:

    This bread is beautiful. I love the shape!

    I used to enjoy chewing on the red wax from gouda but I don’t think I ever swallowed any (except the tiny amounts that got stuck on my teeth as I chewed). It was always very satisfying to fold too as I recall. Amazing what we do as kids (and hey!! we’re still alive!) when we can’t/don’t read the “warning, this part is inedible” label.

  57. Madam Chow says:

    These look wonderful. In Hawaii, I used to get these Filipino buns that were covered in butter, and sometimes sugar, too. Do you know what those are called?

  58. Madam Chow says:

    Never mind – they were these! Except that I never found them with cheese in Hawaii. Once again, cheese + bread = awesome!

  59. Glenda says:

    Most beautiful bread I have ever seen, thus far!!!

  60. nina says:

    I tried saveur’s recipe which is actually an heirloom recipe from medina family. I was nervous when I tried it because it’s my first time to bake bread/use yeast and I don’t want to waste 22 eggs!!! Next time, I would like to try your version!

  61. joyce says:

    hi jude, is there alternative of edam cheese?i cant find edam cheese where i live in australia, so is there any alternative instead of using edam cheese?pleaseee help..im dying to eat this..its been a long time..thanks a lot

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