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.
View Ensaimada Recipe - Filipino Cheese Brioche »