Author Notes: Argentine empanada dough is as varied as the fillings it might encase. There’s ‘masa criolla’, which is supposedly more authentically homemade-ish (‘criollo’ is the adjective that most frequently accompanies Argentine homecooking). Or, there’s ‘hojaldrada’, the equivalent of puff pastry. And then there are the oven or frying-specific varieties of each. A classic Argentine cookbook will call for “grasa”, which to the cookbook author means lard, but could be vegetable shortening or butter or a combination. I know, you’re thinking: how hard can it be to make some dough? This is my tried-and-true CRIOLLO recipe, developed in my Tía’s kitchen in Santa Fe (not California!). It’s easy to handle and versatile (though I almost always on principal bake my empanadas, this works as well for frying). I normally opt for leaf lard, unless I need a veggie version, in which case I use the fun non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening that Whole Foods has started carrying (butter makes for a harder dough). You can also make a lot of dough one day, separate the discos with wax paper, wrap tightly and freeze until you’re ready to make empanadas. If you’re buying dough, I recommend the “criolla” version that Goya makes – it comes in packets of a dozen discos, in an orange and clear plastic box. There are two varieties, one for baking and one for frying. Goya makes a few different kinds of dough (even a weirdly dyed-yellow one, which I definitely steer clear of). If not, whatever empanada discos you come across in the corner bodega are probably fine! —yclaraquesi
Makes: enough dough for one dozen discos, about 5 inches in diameter
generous tablespoon of ‘grasa’: lard, shortening, butter, plus a little more
A few tablespoons of warm water with salt
- Crumble your generous tablespoon of grasa into the flour until well-incorporated. Add a little more grasa if you feel you’re left with too much dry flour. Add tablespoons of the warm, salted water until a smooth, elastic dough forms. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
- Roll out your dough until very thin, but not transparent. Rub a scant layer of grasa across the top of the dough, and sprinkle very lightly with flour.
- Tightly roll your dough along the longest side. Cut sections 1 – 2 inches long. You’ll have to experiment here until you find the length that yields the disco size you want. Stand the section up, and push down on it with a rolling pin – you’ll have a little disco! Roll out in both directions until the dough is relatively thin, and the size you’d like.
- Add your favorite filling, and crimp closed. If your dough is dry, you might need to wet the edges with a little water to help them seal. There are many ways to seal an empanada. The photo above shows the classic Argentine crimp. You could also use a fork to seal the edges, or crimp along the top of the empanada rather than along the side as above. Be creative! Just be sure to seal the dough well, so your filling doens’t leak out in the baking process.
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