Protected Geographical Indication
Mallorcan Ensaïmada

An Ensaimada de Mallorca is an item of confectionary made of sugared dough that has been fermented and baked, with bread flour, water, sugar, eggs, starter dough and pig's lard as its ingredients. It is a highly traditional example of Mallorcan confectionary that has been made and eaten on the island over a consistently long period of time. The first written references to ensaimadas de Mallorca date back to the 17th century. At this time, even though wheat flour was mainly used for baking bread, documents confirm that Mallorcan ensaimadas were made for festivities and celebrations.

From the 18th century onwards, eating ensaimadas de Mallorca became popular among the middle and upper classes and it was a typical snack, accompanied by a cup of hot chocolate. During the 19th century ensaimadas achieved great popularity and became known outside the island. Numerous publications appeared, such as compilations of recipes, works on pastry making and travel books, which referred to ensaimadas de Mallorca, either explaining how they were made or else describing them as a typical Mallorcan product. In Mallorca, between 1869 and 1891, Archduke Louis Salvator of Austria carried out important investigational work, making a documental compilation of Mallorcan traditions called Die Balearen in wort und bild geschildert (The Balearics: oral descriptions and records).

This includes numerous mentions of the ensaimada de Mallorca, describing it as a typical item of confectionary in Mallorca, usually eaten by the middle and upper classes for breakfast, as a snack or as a dessert at lunch. Historical references show that ensaimadas de Mallorca form part of the island's cultural and historical heritage, clearly constituting a reference among local island confectionary. Even today ensaimadas still conserve all their traditional characteristics. The ensaimada de Mallorca is a typical example of artisanal craftsmanship, and the experience of the person baking it is fundamental in ensuring that it acquires all the necessary characteristics. Mallorca has a long history of bread and pastry making, and this is one of the oldest guilds, dating back to the 14th century. The sector's long traditions are evident if we analyse the average age of bakeries in Mallorca, since over 50% of them have been in operation for more than 150 years. In addition, many are run by fifth-generation pastry makers. Today ensaimadas de Mallorca are the island's most emblematic pastries, and they are very popular among society. In this respect, thanks to the island's tourist industry, they have achieved international recognition. The specific use of the name ensaimada de Mallorca was protected in 1996 and, in April 2003, the Government of the Balearic Islands approved the current regulation that recognizes it as a protected geographical indication. Two types of Ensaimadas de Mallorca can be distinguished, depending on whether they have a filling or not:

  • Ensaimada de Mallorca, a name implying that it has no type of filling. Its ingredients are bread flour, water, sugar, eggs, starter dough and pig's lard.
  • Ensaimada de Mallorca de cabell d'àngel, made with the same ingredients as before and filled with pumpkin jam.

Once made, if desired, both types of ensaimadas can have icing sugar sprinkled over them.


The baking process

Ensaimadas de Mallorca are made with the following ingredients in the proportions indicated alongside:

  • Bread flour: between 45 and 55 % vol.
  • Water: between 18 and 20 % vol.
  • Sugar: between 16 and 20 % vol.
  • Eggs: between 6 and 10 % vol.
  • Starter dough: between 4 and 6 % vol.

The pumpkin jam is made by cooking the pulp of pumpkins (Curcubita moschata) with sugar. Ensaimadas de Mallorca with pumpkin jam must have a minimum jam filling of 40 g per 100 g of dough. The ideal wheat flour for making ensaimadas de Mallorca must produce dough that is strong yet stretchy, i.e. with a maximum tensile strength and high capacity for retaining the gas produced during fermentation. To make ensaimadas de Mallorca, a long fermentation period is required of at least 12 hours, and so flour with a high gluten content is needed.

The gluten gives the dough its elasticity, and this retains the gases produced during fermentation. This type of flour, known as bread flour, has a high alveographic dough strength (W) in comparison with flours made of other products. The sugar gives the ensaimada its characteristic sweet taste, whilst also making the yeast act. The sugar content influences the fermentation time of the dough and determines some of the traditional product's organoleptic properties, like its aroma and taste and the Mallorcan Ensaïmada - Balearic Islands - Agrifoodstuffs, designations of origin and Balearic gastronomy golden colour of the crust. The starter dough is made by fermenting cake yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) with a mixture of flour and water. During the kneading phase, this fermented starter dough has a beneficial affect on the whole dough's plastic and fermentative properties and, therefore, on the quality of the end product. In addition, the starter dough contains microorganisms that contribute positively to the product's traditional taste and flavour. The ingredient that the ensaimada's name derives from is pig's lard (saïm). The quantity and quality of the lard used determine the oily appearance of the base, the elasticity of the dough, and the characteristic flaking of the pastry (in the last case playing a decisive role in assessments of the end product's quality). To make ensaimadas de Mallorca, each and every one of the following stages must be followed in exactly the same order: kneading, rolling out, shaping, fermentation and baking.

  1. Kneading: the bread flour, water, sugar, eggs and starter dough, in the aforementioned proportions, are kneaded together.
  2. Rolling out: the dough is rolled out to make a thin layer. It is covered completely with lard, which is spread to make a fine film.
  3. Shaping: the dough is rolled up and then an equiangular spiral is made by turning the dough clockwise (circling it at least twice). The thin layer of fat, from when the dough was spread with pig's lard, binds the three-dimensional structure of the gluten better, thus increasing the dough's stretchiness and making it easier to roll into spirals. Looking at a cross-section of it, alternate layers of dough and fat can be seen, with the number of layers depending on the number of circles that form the spiral.
  4. Fermentation: the shaped dough is left to ferment in fermentation cupboards or rooms for at least 12 hours.
  5. The fermented dough is baked to obtain ensaimadas with the physical, chemical and sensorial properties typical of this traditional product. During the baking process, because the dough is damp, steam is produced and this is partly retained by the waterproof layers of fat, thus leading to a space between each layer that gives the ensaimada de Mallorca its typical flaky appearance.

On the surface of the ensaimada, evaporation is more rapid and intense, thus forming a fine, brittle top typical of ensaimadas de Mallorca. In the case of Ensaimadas de Mallorca de cabelle d'àngel (with pumpkin jam), once the dough has been rolled out, this thin layer is covered with pumpkin jam and the dough is then shaped by rolling over, etc.

Characteristics and forms of presentation

Ensaimadas de Mallorca have a clockwise spiral shape, formed by at least two circles. The top has a wavy appearance, with an uneven convex surface as the dough spirals round. It is golden in colour and fairly shiny, with a texture that is firm, crunchy and brittle. The base has a smooth, compacted surface that looks and feels oily. In both cases this is due to the accumulation of lard. Inside it is soft, not crumbly, with a good consistency and low elasticity. The inner flaky areas are easily visible, as are the different layers of dough formed during the rolling up process, once the dough had been flattened and covered in pig's lard. Inside the dough of ensaimadas de Mallorca made with pumpkin jam, strands of jam are visible. If the top is covered in icing sugar, it acquires a whitish colour. When tasted, what predominates is its sweetness, although the lard is also evident. Its traditional aroma is that of baked dough.

Ensaimadas de Mallorca weigh between 60 g and 2,000 g, whilst Ensaimadas de Mallorca de cabelle d'àngel weigh between 100 g and 3,000 g. Ensaimadas de Mallorca must have a moisture content of between 10 and 20%. Those with pumpkin jam should have a moisture content ranging between 15 and 35%. Ensaimadas de Mallorca should have a fat content of 20 to 45%, whilst for those with pumpkin jam it should range from 15 to 40 %. As regards their weight, the Ensaimada de Mallorca Protected Geographical Indication only accepts commercial weights of 60 to 2,000 g for ensaimadas de Mallorca, and weights of 100 g to 3,000 g for Ensaimada de Mallorca de cabell d'àngel. Small ensaimadas de Mallorca are eaten traditionally at breakfast or as snacks. They are sold to the public in wrapping that provides adequate protection. Larger ensaimadas de Mallorca are sold whole, also in appropriate protective wrapping or packed in the traditional cardboard boxes with a circular or octagonal base. The containers in which ensaimadas with a protected geographical indication are sold have a numerated seal of guarantee and/or back label issued by the Regulatory Council.

Mallorcan Ensaïmada - Balearic Islands - Agrifoodstuffs, designations of origin and Balearic gastronomy
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