Sugar Rush: Mallorcan Ensaimada at Fiola, Washington DC
While on their annual summer vacation to Mallorca, Fiola owners Fabio Trabocchi and wife, Maria, regularly partook in the traditional Mallorcan brioche known as ensaimada. Ensaimada is a breakfast staple made with flour, water, sugar, eggs, and—this is the important part—pork lard instead of butter. If that sounds magical to you, you're not alone. Upon their return, the couple immediately approached their pastry chef, Tom Wellings, to recreate the Mallorcan treat for Fiola's menu.
Having never tasted an ensaimada himself, it took Wellings three weeks of experimentation to produce one to Fabio's satisfaction. That's also because the ensaimada is a particularly labor and time intensive dish. At its core, the ensaimada is a croissant like pastry formed from layers of spiraled dough. After proofing the lard-varnished dough for upwards of 24 hours, bubbles produced from the spirals and steam from the heated lard lightens and expands the dough until it's a large, puffy cloud. Once baked, Wellings fills the center with a toasted vanilla pastry cream and dusts it with confectioners sugar and serves it with a side of Tahitian vanilla gelato.
The end result is a large but delicate pastry that is as lightly sweet as it is rich. The texture produced by the extensive proofing and lard is startling light for something that appears so dense. The ensaimada comes quartered in small and large sizes ($12/$15) and is great as a shared dessert.