I love Francis Mallmann’s recipes. In one of his cookbooks, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, he refers to the empanada as not only “the glorious empanada” but also the most typical food from Argentina. The thing is, though, every culture has its own version of the empanada. From the pastel in Brazil to the samosa in India, you can find these delicious turnovers in every corner of the world. And while the fillings vary tremendously even within different regions in Argentina, a good empanada starts with great dough.
This dough recipe is not Francis Mallmann’s; it is my mother’s. And it’s perfect. I grant you, it’s quite a bit of work to make. But the result is definitely worth the effort.
When you make empanadas, you make many. So if you’re in the mood, double this recipe. The measurements below will yield about 20 disks.
- 3 cups flour (plus extra for kneading)
- 1/3 cup melted lard
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp salt
Warm up the water and add the salt, stirring until it dissolves. Place flour in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the warm water and the melted lard, mixing with your hand.
Knead for a few minutes on a flat surface. The dough should feel soft and slightly oily. It should not be sticky or too wet.
Make little balls of dough the size of Ping-Pong balls, flatten them a little and put back in the bowl. Cover with a towel and let them rest for at least one hour.
With a rolling pin, spread each piece of dough thin (less than 1/8 of an inch if you can).
Cut with a 5-inch round cookie cutter, jar lid, or anything round of about five inches in diameter. Let them rest again for about one hour. The resulting dough should be elastic but not shrink back.
Fill with your favorite filling and cook. This dough is best when fried. But it cooks nicely in the oven as well.