Ensaïmada, the sweet spiral in Mallorcan confectionary
The Ensaïmada is a highly traditional example of Mallorcan confectionary, an icon for Mallorcan gastronomy that has been made and eaten on the island over a consistently long period of time. Defined by Josep Pla as the "lightest, airiest and most delicate thing in this country's confectionary" .
Its origins are unknown. Some says it has an Arabic ascendant and some links it to the Mallorcan Jews. But they all agree that it is one of the tastiest and most unique pastries in the world and that it has been made and eaten on the island over a consistently long period of time (the first written references date back to the 17th century).
They are 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. The dough is shaped, fermented, baked and finally sprinkled over with icing sugar. This is the traditional type. In the last years bakers have managed to fill them with cabell d'àngel (pumpkin jam), cream, almond, chocolate, fruit... which make them even more delicious.
There are many sizes and weighs. The biggest ones are usually eaten at big family gatherings as a dessert.
You'll find Ensaïmadas in almost every bar and cafeteria in Alcúdia. Many bakers produce them in their own ovens. If you want a big one, they make them especially for you but you've got to order them a day in advance.
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.
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A traditional confectionery
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 just have a look at the wide range of sweet and savoury products which are eaten during many of our traditional religious festivals.
Bakeries offer an assorted variety of savoury cakes filled with meat, vegetables and fish empanades, coques, cocorrois, espinagades de col o d'anguila ... they're just delicious.
Among the sweet cakes some of them come from the Arab and Jewish tradition like the cespells. Especially delicious are the pa de figa (a desert served on fig leafs), the gató (an almond cake), the mallorcan doughnuts, the tortells (pastry rings with pumpkin jam), the coca de torró at Christmas and foremost the Ensaïmada.