Plate by Roger Baumann. Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
I grew nostalgic for this most common Puerto Rican food when I first moved to Montana. It was then that I began experimenting with different empanadilla pastry recipes. I’ve tried different versions with canola oil or butter, but I find that shortening works best. Carmen Aboy Valldejuli’s recipe in “Juntos en la Cocina” is the one I like best (sorry, i could not find the english translation of this book). It yields a dry but flaky dough. Below is my translation of that recipe. Note: this dough is best used fresh, not frozen.
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons vegetable shortening
3/4 cups cold water
1. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Cut the vegetable shortening into the flour mixture until it forms coarse grains the size of garbanzos. Work quickly to prevent melting the shortening.
2. Add the cold water slowly while using a fork to blend it into the four mixture. Mix well until there is no loose flour left in the bottom of the bowl.
3. Turn your dough into a work surface dusted with flour. Knead just until the dough is well incorporated, smooth and no longer sticks to your fingers. As you knead, add flour when needed to prevent sticking. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a damp cloth and set aside for 30 minutes.
4. Roll the dough into a twelve inch log and cut into twelve 1 inch pieces.
5. Place one piece in a work surface dusted with flour. Work with a floured rolling pin to create a disk six inches in diameter. Set disk aside and dust with flour. Begin to roll the next disk.
6. Once all twelve disks have been rolled, proceed to fill the empanadillas with filling of choice. See the Baked Beef Empanadilla recipe for instructions on how to prepare the filling and assemble them. Cover the unused disks with a damp cloth until you are ready to use them.
Makes 12 disks.