Monday, January 30, 2017


I tried to come up with a catchy title, but not that hard .. because the fluffy, buttery delight that is ensaymada lends itself to pictures rather than descriptives.
The sweet, pillowy ensaymada of the Philippines is rather far removed from its Spanish ancestor, which is more like a Latin pan de queso -- as like adobo, where we kept the name but completely co-opted the elements :D.

I come at this from the POV of someone who has a good relationship with yeast's two sides -- the primadonna with exacting parameters, and the loosey- goosey flowerchild that does what it wants, when it wants. Given that, ensaymada falls into the family of bready yeast-risen pastries that includes brioche, challah, pannetone, malasadas, and other sugar-, butter-, and/or egg-enriched tender doughs.

Making the dough is relatively straightforward with a standing mixer, a little less so by hand... developing the gluten takes a good while with all that richness! I favor making a sponge, beefed up with a little sourdough mother for extensibility and ease of shaping.
Make the sponge:
1 tbsp. 16 g active dry yeast
4 oz 112 g water, room temperature
1 tbsp 15 g sugar
12 oz 354 g evaporated milk or half-and- half, room temperature
180 g liquid starter
14 oz 400 g unbleached all purpose flour
Whisk the yeast into the water in a mixer bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk to form a thin batter. Cover and let rise 30 minutes; it will look (surprise!) like a sea sponge, bubbly/foamy with a bit of shine.
Complete the dough:
450-500 g unbleached all-purpose flour
4 oz 113 g unsalted butter, softened but cool
4 egg yolks
2 eggs
150 g sugar
15 g salt
Add the remaining ingredients and combine with the hook attachment on medium-low speed. It will look like a mess for a little bit, but will come together eventually! Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula to get the flour and eggs to absorb completely, and to ensure that the butter doesn't just gather around the hook.  Knead on medium speed until it is smooth and uniform, and does the climbing-up-the-hook you see in the video above. This should take a good 5-7 minutes after there are no more streaks of egg or flour. Test it by taking a little of the dough and stretching it open between your fingers -- you need to be able to get a 1-inch window that you can see light through but doesn't tear.
Cover and let rise in the bowl until doubled; it should take about 45 minutes at room temperature, but the butter will leak out if you make it warmer. Patience -- remember, loosey-goosey flowerchild has its own timeline. If you want, let the dough rise in the fridge overnight. (I tend not to do this since it makes it harder to shape consistently, but if you want, shape only half and save the other half in the freezer for another time.)

To test whether the dough has doubled in size, poke it with a floured fingertip or two, about an inch deep. If the depressions fill in quickly, try again in 10 minutes; if they fill in slowly or not at all, you can deflate and divide.
Push down and pull the outsides of the dough to the middle; this evens out both the yeast activity and the temperature. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and use a knife or scraper to divide it into even pieces -- I divided into quarters, then each quarter into 6, so each ensaymada starts with about 3 oz 85 g.
Tuck the corners of each piece under so they are more-or-less rounded and line them up as you do them; keeping track of the order in which you tucked helps give the gluten time to  rest for shaping. Cover the pieces (with a kitchen towel, upside-down pan, or plastic wrap) to prevent them from drying out as you shape the others.
Shape and fill:
approx. 3 oz 85 g unsalted butter, softened to spreadable
about 3 oz 85 g grated cheese -- I use a sharp New York white cheddar, but you can use Gouda, Edam, or Emmenthal
approx 5 oz 140 g sugar
(optional fillings: chopped ham, ube spread, crumbled chorizo, salted egg, macapuno or coco jam, etc)
Buttered pans of your choice: I use deeply fluted flared-out aluminum molds that hold about 5 oz 140 g., but 4 oz muffin pans, deep tart pans, custard cups or silicone molds work as well.

the shaping is where it gets easier with pictures. With a small rolling pin or smooth glass, roll each dough piece into an oval about 3 in 8 cm wide by 10 in 25 cm long. Spread with butter, then layer on cheese and sugar (and any other toppings; you might find that less sugar is better with wet fillings.)

Start to twist and roll by flipping the bottom left over, then push to make the oval wrap around itself on an angle so you get all the fillings on the inside.

you want to end up with a rope that is fairly even in diameter. Hold on to the end in your left hand and use your right hand to coil the rope around that. Place in the prepared pans, tucking the outside end underneath enough so it doesn't stick out, but not enough so it makes the coil tilt. 
As you shape them, place the pans under another towel, pan or plastic wrap so they don't dry out. Repeat! Let them rise until they feel puffy and light; note that if you use a filling that is very salty, they will rise more slowly. It will take a good 30-40 minutes.
Heat the oven to 350F 175C. When the ensaymada have risen, quickly spritz the oven with some water -- I just use a squeeze bottle, but if you have a spray bottle, aim for the walls and not the floor. While the oven is still steamy, load in the ensaymada and close the door. 
They will rise quickly in the first 15 minutes (this is called oven spring -- something unique to yeasted doughs that is pure satisfaction after you've tried so hard to coddle the diva! ;D), then start to brown because of all the butter, egg and sugar. If they are getting too dark for your liking, cover them with foil so they will continue to cook on the bottom but not the top. Depending on size, this will take 15-25 minutes.

Let the ensaymada cool in the pans until they are just warm, then carefully loosen with your fingertips and a butter knife or small spatula -- the bits of cheese and cooked sugar will make them stick a bit, so don't wait until they are completely cool, but if they are too hot the ensaymada will deflate as you try to get them out of the pans.  Let them cool on a rack while you make the topping.

Traditionally, a slather of butter, sugar and cheese is the finish for these; in the last 30 or so years though, most ensaymada you see have used some form of buttercream. It makes sense to combine the butter and sugar into an emulsified, stays-where-you-put-it frosting, and it adds an element of smooth lightness. I use a Swiss meringue buttercream, because it fluffs up nicely and isn't too sweet.

 2 egg whites
4.25 oz 120 g sugar
pinch salt
6 oz 180 g unsalted butter, in small cubes
Bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer. Have the eggwhites, sugar and salt in a mixer bowl, and set it in the simmering water. Heat the mixture, whisking all the while, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot. Take it off the water and whip on the mixer on high speed until the meringue is cooled off, tripled in volume and very white. When you touch it, it should feel room temperature at the most. Add the butter and beat in until completely incorporated and very fluffy.

Spread the buttercream on the completely cooled ensaymada, then add more sugar and cheese. I like to mix a bit of the cheese in the buttercream, then finish with a light grating, rather than the cheese helmet that often garnishes the ones in packages. If you have other fillings, it's helpful to garnish with some of those too -- like a dot or stripe of ube or coco jam, or some bits of chorizo, so people know what they're getting. 
Then eat away! Really these are best the day of baking, but they can also be frozen the day of baking, then defrosted without much loss of quality. Some people like them cold, but I just can't -- you miss out on so much of the flavor of the actual bread part.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Regular clothes are the best costumes.

Meet Sans from Undertale and DC's Catwoman. Yes, those are a hoodie, shirt and leggings made from cotton interlock. Yes, i did think about their costumes ahead of time, and so did they.
A catsuit? Totally makeable but not not very comfortable to spend a whole day at school in.
Big hard helmet-type mask? Again, makeable but not practical either. So instead, regular, can-wear-them-all-the-time clothes with just a bit of detail, and some iconic accessories.
A zip-up hoodie with pockets and fuzzy edging (it's the same stuff from Abomasnow two Halloweens ago), is by far the most recognizable thing about Sans' getup. I realize now that it could be longer -- must get longer zipper and replace it for another two or three years' wear!
The hat/mask is a tube of white cotton knit, closed at the top. I had him put it on to mark the placement of eyes and nose. Very thin nylon/cotton knit patches were basted in place, then i cut out the holes with tiny snips before hand-stitching around the edges -- voila, a comfortable, lightweight mask that he can breathe and see out of (in good light!) That's him putting on the rest of the details (Sans' smile especially) with a permanent marker.
She gets a mock-neck t-shirt with some cats'-eye gems, and some leggings, in French terry. Cat ears, made from paper hot-glued to a headband, are all she needs. She decided she needed a glittery lariat.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

summer dancewear

Some new dancewear for the warmer months -- 

one based on this Ikatbag tutorial for a racerback dress grafted onto the tweaked shortard bottom; 

one based on Jalie 3138, with a high neckline, decorated with a fun rhinestone g-clef; 

one black stretch pleather and cotton lycra (lesson learned: stretch pleather is not as stretchy as other stretch fabrics...but it does look cool and edgy!)

  and one cerulean stretch velvet Jalie 3241, with some rhinestone flowers from Top Trimming (the dance shorts are scraps of brown stretch pleather: I added a Oliver + S Nature Walk waistband on shortened Playtime leggings to get the stretch running in the correct direction.) 

and the last one is a bit of a cheat for colder weather -- does anyone remember the Bitten line Sarah Jessica Parker did for H&M  many years ago? This tuxedo-ruffled top ceased to fit me awhile ago, but it made for an almost instant hack to re-cut the shape as for the snapless shortard, retaining that cute button front.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Orphaned blog!

My poor neglected blog!!! I've all but forsaken you for Instagram and Pinterest. I promise to post all the summer sewing soon.
In the meantime, have some pretty pictures of what's been baking this summer:

Peach pie!

Plum - apricot biscuit cobbler (did you know it's still a cobbler if it's cake batter?)

Using dental floss to cut a log of cinnamon rolls

As luck would have it, I taught a kids' baking camp for a week this summer but didn't take any pictures (anyone reading this from that?). So maybe we'll revisit some of the things in that menu package, with my own non-school spin on them.

Updates soon!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Heirloom sewing and perfect weekends

The time of sewing reckoning had arrived! I had been thinking about this time for over a year, nebulous plans and Pinterest-gazing giving way to actual sketches and ideas on her part, and fairly courageous fabric choices on mine.

I decided on princess seams and a full circle skirt, with long sheer sleeves. The main fabric is silk dupioni, fully lined with soft, soft cotton voile. I used regular serged and sewn seams on the voile on the wrong side, (which I put against the outer silk so it would be nothing but comfy against her skin.) and French seams on the dupioni to ward off fraying. 
I also got some silk organza and had planned to do the embroidery myself, but found some leftover embroidered polyester organza that was enough for both sleeves and veil; I used the actual scallop on the bottom edge, and created a new shallow scallop edge all around the veil piece. 
The final result: comfy, unique, luxurious and special.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Precious cinnamon rolls too pure...

These are the stuff of cozy daydreams and tearful Tumblr posts. Contrary to what those say, they are not too good for this world. In fact, it may be through making and consuming these that the world becomes a place good enough for them... :D
If you want these for breakfast, you'll need to start a day ahead; they rise well enough at room temperature but the dough is messy to shape if it's not cold.
1 ½ tsp dry yeast (7.5 g) 

2 oz  water (57 g)

1# ¾ oz all purpose flour (475 g)
1 tsp salt (5 g)
2 oz sugar (57 g)

8 oz butter (227 g)

4 oz milk (113.5 g)
2 oz starter (57 g)
1 tsp vanilla (5 g)
1 egg+ 1 egg yolk (85 g)

Shaping: 4 oz butter (113 g), 8 oz sugar (227 g) mixed with 2 tbsp cinnamon (15 g) and a pinch of salt and nutmeg
Icing: 4 oz (113 g) confectioner's sugar, 1 oz cream, 1/4 tsp. vanilla, pinch salt 

Have everything at cool room temperature; it makes for a more easily blended dough and a happier yeast environment if the dough is not too warm. 
In a measuring cup or medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast onto the water and let it sit. 
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixer bowl and add the butter; mix with the hook until it makes coarse crumbs. 
Add everything else to the yeast water and whisk together. Pour this mixture into the bowl of crumbs with the mixer going. 
Mix on low speed until the dough pulls away from the sides (and makes a satisfying fwap-fwap sound as it gathers around the hook and hits against the bowl).
Butter or cooking-spray a large piece of plastic wrap. Turn the dough out onto it, trying to get it into a more-or-less-even thickness. Use the greased wrap to enclose the dough in a rectangle, then open it up and re-wrap loosely.
Let rise in the fridge overnight. (As the dough gets cold enough, it will stop rising. It will take about 3 hours if you're counting, or doing this during the day.)
Without letting the dough fold over, turn it out of the plastic wrap onto a floured surface. Press and roll it out into a rectangle about 12x18 inches. 
Spread softened or melted and cooled butter all over (all the way to the edges, except leave an inch bare on one long edge) then heavily dredge with cinnamon sugar. (If you like, you can just mix everything together in a bowl and spread it on like that.) 
Roll up tightly toward that bare edge -- it will seal together better. Pinch up. Mark the roll into 4, then each quarter in 3. Cut where you've marked -- my favorite way is with dental floss. (For smaller ones that fit in a cupcake pan, cut in 18.)
Space them out, cut side up, in a buttered 9x12 pan, 3x4 rows. (you can also do 6 in a 8x8 pan, and freeze the other half of the rolls for another time.)
Cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and let rise until they look puffy and doubled in size.Bake at 350 until they look yummy and browned where they meet. Let cool slightly so they firm up a bit..
Smear with icing; it will fill in the spaces as it melts. NOmmmms.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Finally another baking post!! the quintessential roll.

There are few things nicer than a good dinner roll, but too often they are plain and flabby, no flavor just fluff. These have a bit of heft, and a toasty undertone from the brown sugar and eggs. The original makes 100, so this is just a tad more manageable quantity. They make a great slider bun as well.

Albert Kumin's Dinner Rolls 
makes 24 at 35 g, or (slightly bigger) 20 at 42 g.

227 g milk
7 g yeast + 5 g water
45 g. lt brown sugar
45 g butter
45 g eggs
45 g starter
454 g bread flour
8.5 g salt

 Either warm the milk and sand the butter into the combined dry ingredients or melt and cool the milk and butter together -- if you have more time, do the former for a cool dough that rises slowly with more flavor. Warmer dough means a faster rise.
Ferment; divide into 4 presses and round, then each into 5 or 6 and round tightly. Set 4x6 in a buttered 13x9 pan. (In the pix, there are 8 in a foil 4x7 pan...) Proof, brush with milk and bake without steam for about 20 minutes.