The Ensaimada from Mallorca Has Jewish Origins

The Ensaimada from Mallorca Has Jewish Origins

The ensaimada may be the best known pastry from Mallorca. It’s a deceptively simple, sweet but not too sweet, bread found in bakeries throughout Mallorca and in mainland Spain.

In El País Gastronotas De-Capel José Carlos Capel interviews Mallorcan pastry maker and antropologist Tomeu Arbona, owner of the bakery Fornet de Sa Soca (Palma de Mallorca). Arbona says that the ensaimada is of Jewish origin, not Arab as some have posited. Before the Spanish expulsion of the Jewish people beginning in 1492 the ensaimada was likely made with olive oil. In order to escape the claws of the Inquisition, Mallorcan Jews who had converted to Christianity began to make the ensaimada with lard to show that they were “true Christians”. Today ensaimadas are typically made with lard, and in the case of Tomeu Arbona’s ensaimadas, with organic flour and lard (manteca) from the Mallorcan Black Pig (Porc Negre Mallorquí).

The pastry chef has made two videos filmed in the dark in his underground workspace. A haunting harvest song and ancient rhythms. Worth watching.

We will be visiting Tomeu Arbona in Palma this spring to taste his ensaimadas. We hope to add a visit to his bakery to our upcoming Mallorca trips. Stay tuned.