When I worked in the restaurant industry, I was asked to be the Pastry Sous Chef at a well-known restaurant. I was excited at the prospect and my future as a Chef, but I turned it down. I couldn’t justify feeding and serving people dishes high in fat, sugar, and calories anymore. I wanted to feed people foods that helped them become healthy, not unhealthy. Uncertainly, I left the restaurant and started my own personal chef business dedicated to people who had health issues. It has been years since I ran my personal chef business and family life consumes my time now, but my view of food has not changed and has, in fact, become more focused on health as I have become a mother.
After years of Raw Veganism, I am recently getting back into Cooked Food and have discovered that I still enjoy both cooking and baking (not to mention eating). This past week, I wanted to recreate the Filipino Ensaymada. In high school, our house would smell of these freshly baked Brioche Buns every week. They require hours of time in the kitchen along with sticks of butter, egg yolks galore, loads of white sugar, and more than a handful of cheese. My mother’s recipe creates a golden pastry that is truly decadent and mouth-watering. However, I wanted to create a healthier version using whole-foods and plant-based ingredients for my family. I looked through the dozen Ensaymada recipes in my kitchen and found Pat Limjuco Dayrit’s to have the least amount of sugar, eggs, and butter. I decided it was a good place to start. Thank you Ms. Dayrit! I made changes to your recipe and it worked for this Vegan Mama in the Kitchen!
Vegan Filipino Ensaymadas (Makes 12 buns)
Mix together in a bowl:
- 1/2 c warm water
- 1 tsp coconut sugar, or your choice of sweetener
- 1 tsp yeast
Let stand for 10 minutes. Mix in:
- 1 c flour: unbleached all purpose, spelt or whole wheat pastry flour
Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour until doubled in size. In a mixer, cream together:
- 6 Tbsp Earth Balance butter, you need this buttery taste. If you want to substitute an oil, I would suggest Coconut Oil. This would naturally give your Ensaymada a more coconut flavor, instead of a buttery one. Your choice.
- 9 Tbsp coconut sugar, or your choice of sweetener
Then add 1/4 c at a time to the creamed butter and sugar, this egg substitute mixture:
- 3 Tbsp flax seed meal mixed with 9 Tbsp water (I grind my own brown flax seeds. It’s probably more aesthetically pleasing to use golden flax and to grind it better than I did. You’ll see the whole flax seeds in my dough below.)
Change the mixer attachment to the dough hook and add:
- the flour mixture from above
When well incorporated, add in little by little:
- 2 c flour, all purpose, spelt or whole wheat pastry flour
Allow machine to knead well, around 5 minutes. No need for extra butter. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for 3 hours until doubled in size again.
Divide into 12 portions. Now, grease with Vegan butter or coconut oil:
- working area
- rolling pin
- a long wooden stick, optional
Greasing your tools allows you to work with the dough easily and ensures that your dough doesn’t stick to them. Roll each portion of dough into a thin circle. At this point, you can add the following optional fillings to the dough in small amounts. I choose NOT to add anything to the dough, but if you want to, go right ahead. I love it when recipes are personalized:
- Vegan butter
- coconut sugar, or your choice of sweetener
- grated Vegan cheese, if you like
- other non-traditional fillings could include jam or chocolate shavings or even Nutella, if you will
Carefully roll the dough around the stick. If you don’t have a stick, simply roll it into a very thin and tight mini jelly roll.
Push the dough off the stick (if using) and coil into a tight circular shape inside a well-greased fluted brioche mold. My molds are about 4 inches in diameter. Allow these rolls to rest and double in size again for 4 hours.
Place molds on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven at 350F for around 10 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure they are baked through because baking with flax seeds requires a slightly longer baking time. You can place a piece of foil on the tops of the Ensaymadas so that they don’t burn while their bases bake longer. You can also use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the bread: 180 – 190F is good. Take them out of the oven when ready.
When cool enough to handle, brush with a small amount of Vegan butter and dip the tops in sugar immediately. I use organic cane sugar for looks here but you can go ahead and use coconut sugar too.
These buns will last a few days if stored in a ziplock bag. I keep them in their molds until I’m ready to serve them, at which time I take them out of the mold and pop them into the toaster oven to bake for about 10 minutes until crisp all over. Serve these plain or with jam.
These Vegan Filipino Ensaymadas were a hit at our house. Light, puffy, soft, and not at all heavy and doughy like you would expect whole grain breads to be. If you are looking for a healthier sweet bread to serve your family, then I would suggest you try it. They taste wonderful with jam. Tomorrow I think I’ll dip my bun in hot chocolate.
UPDATE: I have been able to cut down this recipe from 9 hours to 3 1/2 hours by using the bread machine. Check it out here: Easy Bread Machine Vegan Whole Wheat Brioche Buns.