Ensaymadas are one of my foods of memory. Taking up residence in mind and emotion, it’s one of those things that I’m highly opinionated about. (That I’m opinionated about almost everything I put into my mouth is besides the point). My standard for ensaymadas are those I had growing up: buttery-yellow and plate-large, preferably eaten with a slab of ham from a can. Characteristic of the type common in my mom’s home province of Pampanga, they were hefty and posed absolutely no threat to floating off the table. Because of this, I view light and lofty ensaymadas with grave suspicion – I dislike eating flavored air. And flavored ensaymadas??! Preposterous! It’s plain or nothing at all.
So when I first meet Pearl de Guzman at a food bazaar, I admit to cringing when I’m told, “Pearl’s flavored ensaymadas are the best!” There they are, rounds of dough carefully covered in crepe paper, ornaments bedecking her table in multi-colored hues. Ironically, they remind me of Christmas lanterns (parols), though it’s nowhere near Christmas.
Patiently answering my questions, Pearl is soft-spoken and so kind. She has a curious name for her business, Baby Pat, a tribute to her mom, “…Mama Pat, as we fondly called her,” says Pearl, “… and my two babies, Patrice and Patrick.” Mama Pat had a bakeshop in Cavite City called, naturally, Pat’s, and Pearl grew up tending to it and honing her love and skill for baking. When her mom passed on five years ago, “…I began my home-based bakeshop in Santa Rosa, Laguna [where we live] and baking with a passion for excellence is my way of keeping my mom alive in my life,” she shares.
A Baby Pat ensaymada is a thing of wonder. Only the crepe paper’s color hints at the flavor beneath and my excitement crackles like the cellophane that lines the precious round of dough. Depending on what flavor it is, its glaze or smear peeks up from its transparent sheath, a lodestar for pleasure most imminent and significant, too: each ensaymada weighs 130 grams on the average. Hefty and heaving with happiness indeed.
I begin with the Classic because I’m a purist. Miles of butter melded by memory roll and roam in dough, golden and fragrant. Shreds of cheese and grains of sugar, glitter, and are solidly tethered to butter, whipped white into submission. Soft is every bite, every swallow a memory remembered from the ensaymadas of my childhood.
Steeped in sentimentality, I choose the Tablea next because it’s what I most often pair with ensaymada. Ensaymada + Tablea = Christmas in July. Lazy swoops of melted tsokolate trace the coils of dough, swirling and staining a landscape of lush. A bite is still buttery but emboldened now by the brooding tones of tablea.
Every ensaymada is borne from a master dough, one that Pearl has perfected through the years. Pearl describes them as “… buttery softness that melts in the mouth.” She also employs specific techniques to achieve this, including “… room air conditioning to cool and control the moisture of the ensaymada.” As every baker knows, a successful sweet is the succession of little steps done correctly.
Ube, the purple one, propels; its fanciful shade smudges the sides. Oh, what a magnificent stage to portray this root crop’s earthiness and pleasant grit. As is evident in the cross-section above, Pearl has an innovative way of forming her ensaymadas. She doesn’t seem to utilize the traditional turban-coil as the cavern-like spaces can attest to: receptacles for receiving will and whimsy!
Now here we go with the more “outré” tastes – tales I never thought could be told in an ensaymada. Pearl admits that her “untraditional” flavors come about at the urging of those she calls the “Food cognoscenti. Thus, the Nutella, cocojam [spelling hers], salted caramel, and tablea. When my creation tastes and looks delightful and is liked by food cognoscenti, I launch it.”
There’s cookie butter, the so-hot-it’s-cool / so-hip-it’s-almost-hideous, flavor of the moment; Pearl calls it Speculoos. Creatively repurposed, lavish licks of it creep in doughy corners and gush out of others. My sighs of satisfaction sink into the fragrant folds of buttery bliss.
Then there’s the Nutella, whiffs of its familiar hazelnut-chocolate aroma friendly and enticing. The paste pairs and peels off with a sugary glaze that gilds each roll. Inside, more of the same, chocolate on chocolate on whisper-soft sweetness.
Tradition anchors me to my taste memories but when food is fashioned like this to reflect the taste of the times, how can I not help but fall in love?
Specialty Ensaymadas by Pearl de Guzman of Baby Pat
Sold by the box:
A box of four (4) Speculoos Ensaymada – P600
A box of four (4) Nutella or Tablea Ensaymada – P500.
A box of six (6) Ube Ensaymada – P 550.
A box of six (6) Cocojam or Salted Caramel Ensaymada – P600.
A box of six Classic Ensaymada – P450.
Box of assorted ensaymadas available upon request.
(02) 775 1231 / (0923) 975 9777
On Facebook: mybabypat.
Orders can also be picked up or sent via courier for a minimum fee.