masa criolla para empanadas.

We make a lot of empanadas here at ¡dpm does! In the Before Times, when Brooklyn was a city, not a brand, and folks experimented with small batch cooking in church basements and at art parties, we had an artisanal empanada biz. We may not have the biz anymore, but we never need an excuse to make empanadas. To be honest, we always have a stack of store bought discos in the freezer, given the good options we can get in NYC. {We’re partial to La Salteña brand, which we buy at the Cherry Valley Marketplace on Corona Avenue in Queens, across from our favorite Argentine restaurant, El Gauchito!} But every so often, we go all in. It’s a fun project for a weekend afternoon.

Here’s our go-to recipe for “criolla” dough. (“Criolla” is what Argentines call home-cooking.) It’s passed along by Clara’s aunt in Santa Fe, Argentina. Check out her alternate prep method below, too. This dough works equally well for baking and frying, though baking is the more traditional Argentine method (and the only one we’ve truly tested.)

Bonus: if you make this dough with vegetable shortening (which we almost always do), it’s vegan!

masa criolla para empanadas.

(homemade empanada dough)

For 4 dozen (48) empanadas using a biscuit cutter that’s 3 inches in diameter. 

1 kilo all purpose flour

20 grams kosher salt 

200 grams vegetable shortening or lard, plus more for rolling. (NB: butter will make for stiff dough. Opt for vegetable shortening or high quality leaf lard if possible.)

370-400 grams of water at room temperature

1. Whisk the salt into the flour, then crumble in the fat until well incorporated. Add a little bit more fat if you feel the mix too dry, and you have a a lot of flour left unincorporated. You want the mix to feel like a bowl of small pebbles–not sticky clumps.

2. Slowly add the water, mixing by hand, until you have a smooth dough. Turn it out onto a clean surface and knead until the dough is soft and elastic, about 5 minutes. (NB: If your surface allows it, avoid adding flour to this step. Adding flour to the surface inevitably adds flour to your dough, which will make for a stiff dough.) Set aside to rest for an hour at room temperature.

3. Cut the dough into quarters. Take one piece, and roll it out roughly into a rectangle, about 4 mm thick. Spread a scant layer of fat across the top, covering it completely, then fold the dough into thirds. Roll it out a second time, spread a scant layer of fat across the top, and fold the dough in thirds again. Roll out a third time, just enough to incorporate the last round of fat, and set aside. Repeat with the remaining quarters of dough.

At this point, you can wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a day before using (or freeze it.) Simply bring it up to room temperature an hour before you start making your empanadas.

Assembling your empanadas

4. When ready to make your empanadas, take a quarter of dough and roll it out thinly, about 2 mm thick. Cut out circles using a sharp biscuit cutter that is 3 inches in diameter. Each quarter should yield about 10 discos. Roll out each disco a bit more, to create a thinner, slightly elongated oval. Fill with your desired filling, and crimp closed. You may want to wet the end of one edge of the disco with a bit of water, to help with your seal — experiment with what you find easiest to handle. Re-roll the scraps once. (NB: As with above, if you can, avoid using flour on your surface here. The dough should be elastic enough to not stick.)

5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and lay your empanadas out in rows. Refrigerate the trays for at least an hour, to help rest the dough and firm up the fat. Baste the empanadas with a beaten whole egg before baking, and bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes until golden. If baking multiple trays at once, rotate the pans in the oven at 20 minutes.

By the way, here’s a slightly easier and somewhat unorthodox method, that my aunt in Santa Fe, Argentina recommends. {This replaces step 3, above.} Roll a quarter of dough out thinly, about 2 mm. Spread it with a scant layer of fat. Tightly roll the dough along the longest side. Cut sections that are about 1.5 / 2 inches long. (You’ll have to experiment here until you find the length that yields the disco size you want.) Stand a section up, cut side down, and push down on it with a rolling pin to make a little disco. Roll each disco out in both directions until the dough is thin, and the size you’d like.

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