“Bolivia is famous for the football-shaped salteñas made with slightly sweetened, annatto-tinted dough. They encase savory stews made with beef, chicken, or both (called jigote). The fillings, which always include potatoes and peas, are so moist that they must first be thickened with gelatin so that they can be stuffed into the dough. Once baked, the gelatin melts and the fillings become soupy. Salteñas have flat bottoms that help them stand on their own. Their edges bake to a deep caramel (sometimes black) color, while the rest of the dough develops a golden hue. The proper way to eat a salteña is to bite off one of the ends and to drink any juices before cutting into the filling. Note that the dough must rest for a long time before you can roll it out. This time allows the gluten in the flour to relax, and makes it easier to roll the dough without too much shrinkage.
Cut into one of these football-shaped chicken pies, and enjoy a sweet crust and savory filling: Bright yellow crusts with brown edges hide a moist stew inside. The stew is held together with gelatin, which makes it easier to stuff in the dough when it’s cold. The discs will shrink a bit as they sit; flatten them out with your hands (or use a rolling pin) before filling the salteñas. The dough itself is elastic and will stretch generously over the filling to encase it. Chill the salteñas for at least 20 minutes (but better if longer) after you fill them, before baking. These must be very cold or the filling will seep out as it bakes. Serve them with your favorite hot sauce.”-Sandra Gutierrez
- 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
- 2 1⁄2 cups (600 milliliters) cold chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup (120 grams) finely chopped white onions
- 1 cup (100 grams) finely chopped green bell peppers
- 1 tablespoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón)
- 1 tablespoon annatto paste (achiote) or bijol
- 2 cups (280 grams) peeled and finely chopped yukon gold potatoes
- 2 cups (280 grams) packed shredded poached chicken
- 1 cup (120 grams) green peas
- 1⁄2 cup (20 grams) finely chopped fresh parsley (tender stems and leaves)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 11⁄2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 11⁄2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 recipe salteña dough (below)
- egg wash, made with 1 beaten egg and 2 teaspoons water
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) melted lard (or vegetable shortening)
- 1 tablespoon whole annatto (achiote) seeds
- 9 1⁄2 cups (1.2 kilograms) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1⁄2 cup (100 grams) sugar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3 cups (720ml) hot water (115°f/46°c), plus more as needed
- For the Dough: In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine the lard and annatto seeds and heat until they begin to bubble slightly, about 2 minutes. Immediately remove the pot from the heat and steep the seeds for 15 minutes. Strain the lard into a medium bowl; discard the seeds. Cool the lard completely.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the egg yolks and cooled lard. Using a wooden spatula, begin to mix everything together while slowly adding enough of the hot water that the dough holds together (it will be wet and sticky). Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it for 2 to 3 minutes (adding more flour as needed), until the dough is smooth, comes together into a ball, and springs back when gently pressed with a fingertip. Return it to the bowl; cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap and let it rest for 45 to 60 minutes.*
- Make the Filling: In a large, heat-resistant glass bowl, combine the gelatin and broth; stir to mix it together and let it sit for 2 minutes. Heat the gelatin mixture in the microwave on high for 1 1⁄2 minutes, until the gelatin is dissolved (or over medium-low heat in a double boiler for 3 to 4 minutes); set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and bell peppers; cook until they are softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the paprika and annatto or Bijol; cook for 30 seconds. Add the broth mixture, stirring until the spices are dissolved. Add the potatoes, chicken, peas, parsley, sugar, salt, cumin, oregano, and black pepper; bring the liquid to a boil and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender, about 6 minutes. Transfer the stew to a medium bowl and set it over a large bowl of iced water to cool it quickly. Cool the stew completely; cover it with plastic wrap and chill it for at least 6 hours or overnight (the mixture will jell).
- Assemble the Salteñas: After the filling chills, make the dough as directed and let it rest, covered with plastic or with a damp towel, for 45 to 60 minutes at room temperature. Dust two baking sheets with flour; set them aside. Divide the dough into 26 to 28 equal portions (about 3 ounces/85 g each). Roll each piece into a ball, folding the bottom of the dough onto itself so that the ends are at the bottom and the tops are smooth (the way you’d shape rolls). Place them on the pre- pared baking sheets and cover them with a clean towel; let them rest for 20 minutes.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set them aside. Working one at a time on a lightly floured surface, flatten each ball slightly into a disc. Line a tortilla press with a zip-top freezer bag that has been cut open on three sides so that it opens like a book. Place the disc in the middle of the tortilla press and press the dough into a 6-inch (15-cm) disc, about 1⁄8 inch (3 mm) thick (or roll it out with a rolling pin). Stack the discs with parchment paper in between to avoid sticking. Place 3 heaping tablespoons of the jelled filling in the middle of the disc; bring the edges of the pastry together, letting the dough stretch over the filling. Enclose the filling (press the filling down with your forefinger to compact it). Form a half-moon and, holding it by the top edges, stand the salteña on its bottom, flattening it so it can stand without toppling. Pinch the edges tightly, and press to form a small rim, about 1⁄2 inch (12 mm) wide. Then pinch and fold sections of the rim decoratively to seal it well (as you would a dumpling, by gathering the dough starting at one end and pressing it together at 1⁄2-inch/12-mm intervals, until it’s all sealed). Stand the salteñas on the prepared pans and chill them for at least 20 minutes (or up to 2 hours). Do not crowd the salteñas together in the baking sheet, or their sides will stick and the juices will ooze out.
- Bake the salteñas and serve: Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Brush the salteñas with the egg wash. Bake them for 35 to 40 minutes, or until they are golden (rotate the pans in the oven halfway through baking, back to front and top to bottom, to ensure that all of the salteñas bake evenly). Transfer the salteñas to a cooling rack. Let them cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
*Note: This dough cannot be frozen and is best used after resting for 1 hour; once baked, the empanadas freeze beautifully. Freeze the salteñas in a single layer after baking. When solid, transfer to containers and freeze for up to 4 months; reheat them in a 350°F (175°C) oven until hot, 15 to 20 minutes.