“Brazilian fried empanadas made with this lard-based dough are called pastéis (pronounced pahs-teys). The dough is supple and fries up blistery, crispy, and with a light and flaky texture, very much like that of egg roll dough. The dough itself can be made easily in a bowl, but you’ll need a little bit of time and patience to roll out the dough and to cut it into squares. In order to get crackly, blistery dough when fried, it must first be rolled out very thinly. The dough needs to rest before you roll it, so that the gluten in the flour can relax and allow it to stretch thinly; otherwise your squares will shrink into small, fat rectangles. If at first you find it hard to roll out the dough thinly, don’t worry; the pastéis will still be delicious. Once the dough is cut, you can layer it between sheets of parchment paper on a baking sheet and let it rest for 20 minutes (or refrigerate it for up to 2 hours) before filling and frying the pastéis. Always place the filling on the sticky side of the pastry (one side will be drier than the other) so that the edges will stick together and seal tightly. In a pinch, you can substitute this dough with egg roll wrappers, but you’ll need to moisten their edges with egg wash in order to make them stick.
These crispy pillows, stuffed with bananas and bejeweled with sugar, make a scrumptious dessert any day of the week. They’re sweet, but not too sweet. My neighbor Janine told me that her mother made these for her when she was a little girl. Like any fried dough, pastéis are good to eat all by themselves, but I love to serve them with a scoop of vanilla or dulce de leche ice cream. Bananas that are past their prime mash easily and work great in this recipe. The dough takes some time to master, but if you use egg roll wrappers instead, these are easy to whip together on the spur of the moment. However; the blistery texture of the pastéis dough makes them particularly crispy and flaky; thus, I find it’s worth spending the time making the dough yourself. Plus, frozen, uncooked pastéis can be fried to order whenever you’re craving them. For this reason, I make several batches of dough at a time. With a little planning, one afternoon in the kitchen can bring you innumerable moments of sweet bliss.” – Sandra A. Gutierrez
- 1 recipe pastéis dough
- 4 large bananas, mashed
- 1⁄4 cup (50 grams) sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- vegetable oil for frying
- 2 1⁄2 cups (315 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1⁄3 cup (75 milliliters) melted lard (or vegetable shortening)
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 2⁄3 cup (165 milliliters) warm water (100°f/38°c)
*Note: This dough cannot be frozen and is best used after resting for 20 minutes; once shaped, the empanadas can be frozen raw. Freeze them uncooked in a single layer; once solid, transfer them to freezer bags and keep them frozen for up to 3 months. Fry them without thawing (to prevent splatters) for 3 to 3 1⁄2 minutes, or until they are golden and crispy; roll them in the cinnamon-sugar and serve.
- For the Pastéis: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center. Add the lard or shortening and vinegar. Begin to mix the wet ingredients into the flour with a spoon as you add the water in a stream. When all the water has been added, switch to your hands and knead the dough until it comes together into a ball. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth, about 1 minute. Roll it out into a rectangle about 2 inches (5 cm) thick (this will make it easier to roll out fully) and wrap it in plastic; let it rest for 20 minutes.*
- Assemble the Pastéis : Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set it aside. Divide the dough in half. Roll out the first half to 1⁄16 inch (2 mm) thick (like for pasta). Using a pastry cutter or very sharp knife, cut it into 5-by-6-inch (12-by-15-cm) rectangles. Re-roll the scraps together, wrap them in plastic, and allow them to rest for 20 minutes.
- In the meantime, repeat with the other half of the dough, cutting and re-rolling the scraps (while allowing the dough to rest in between), until you have 12 rectangles. You may have to do this a third time, until all are cut. The bottom side of the rectangles will be sticky; the top should be dry.
- Place the bananas on a large plate; set it aside. On a medium plate, combine the sugar and cinnamon; set it aside.
- With a shorter side toward you, and the sticky side facing up, place 2 tablespoons of the bananas on the bottom half of each rectangle, leaving 1⁄2 inch (12 mm) all around. Fold the top over the filling and seal all of the sides well by pressing them together with your fingers. Crimp them shut with the tines of a fork. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheet.
- Fry the pastéis and serve: Fit a large baking sheet with a metal cooling rack; set it aside. In a large skillet with high sides, heat 1⁄2 to 1 inch (about 2 cm) of oil to 360°F (180°C) or use a deep-fryer according to the manufacturer’s directions. Working in batches, carefully slide the pastéis into the oil. Fry them until they’re puffy and golden, 1 1⁄2 to 2 minutes, turning them over halfway through. If the oil gets too hot as you fry and they’re browning too quickly, lower the temperature and let the oil cool slightly before frying any more. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on the prepared rack to drain. Let them cool for 1 minute before rolling them on all sides in the sugar mixture. Cool for 5 minutes before serving them.