3/4 cup warm water (105-110 degrees F)
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, softened and divided
4 1/4 unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cheddar or gouda cheese, grated
Sprinkle yeast over warm water in bowl of stand mixer. Let stand for 10 minutes. Stir until yeast is dissolved.
Add 1/2 cup sugar, salt, 1/2 cup butter, eggs and 2 cups flour. Attach paddle and combine on low speed until a thick batter forms.
Switch to dough hook and gradually add remaining flour. Knead dough on medium speed for 5 minutes. Dough should be soft and a bit sticky.
Turn dough out onto lightly floured counter and knead by hand for about 5 minutes or until dough is smooth.
Place dough in a lightly greased large bowl turning dough to coat. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a draft-free place until double in size (about 2 hours).
To make large ensaymada: Generously butter bottoms of three 8"round baking pans. Turn dough out onto lightly floured counter. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll dough into 1/8" thick rectangle (6" by 24"). Spread with 1/3 remaining butter. Roll dough jelly-roll style starting with the long side of dough. Coil dough into baking pan twisting dough at the same time. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in bulk (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours). Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Let cool in pans for 15 minutes then turn out and cool on racks.
To make small ensaymada: Shape dough into long snakes as for large ensaymadas. Cut each snake into 6 pieces. Stretch each little roll of dough and form into a snake. Shape this into a coil or simply tie it in a knot and place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough spacing ensaymadas 3" apart on baking sheets. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hours. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Cool on racks.
Spread cooled or warm ensaymada with butter. Sprinkle evenly with sugar and grated cheese.
To freeze dough: Form small ensaymadas and place on baking sheets. Freeze until firm and pack into freezer bags or containers. To bake, place ensaymadas 3" apart on baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap. Let defrost and rise for 8 to 9 hours. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.