Pastels are Brazilian empanadas that are deep fried, light, crispy, and flaky. They are blistery and crackly, and that comes from using either lard or vegetable shortening, letting it set for about 20-30 minutes before rolling it out and then rolling the dough out very thin .
I made my pastels last night, but when I fried them up today, I got sidetracked and forgot to take pictures of them. These were all that was left.
Pastels are found all throughout Brazil and are a part of everyday life. They are usually considered a fast-food dish to satisfy a pang of hunger in between meals, or is part of a traditional Sunday activity – going to a local farmer’s market and eating a pastel with a cup of sugar cane juice. Pastels that are round or half circles are the local tapas found in a lot of bars. Pastels that are rectangular are usually the ones found in street markets or vendors. They can be either sweet or savory and are filled with all kinds of fillings, from cheese to meats and vegetables or seafood to fruit and custards. Pastels are found everyday, but it is a tradition to eat them on Sundays, at the local farmers’ market.
No one knows exactly how pastels became so popular in Brazil, but it’s said that the pastel came to Brazil along with Japanese immigration. When the Japanese arrived in Brazil, they adapted the Chinese wontons to sell as snacks at the weekly street markets to earn a living in their new country. Despite time moving on, the pastel has remained the same as it was when it was first introduced and will continue to play an important role in the Brazilian gastronomic scene.
The Pastel Dough
2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup lard or vegetable shortening
1 TBSP white vinegar
2/3 cup warm water
I mixed everything together in my food processor by pulsing the flour, salt and vegetable shortening together first, then adding the water. Pulse until you have a soft dough that forms into a ball.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let set in the refrigerator for at least 20-30 minutes before rolling it out, then let it rest again. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out very thin. Cut the dough with a cookie cutter. I actually made mine like a sandwich and used two pieces of dough that I combined together to make my pastels.
I added 1 heaping tsp of filling in the center of the dough. I placed the other piece of dough on top and then shaped them and pinched the ends with an egg wash and a fork.
I used up the rest of my leftovers from the 4th of July A Feast for the 4th as my filling. I minced sausage, pork ribs, chicken, my corn salad, 1 jalapeno, cilantro, rice and my lemon caper vinaigrette Mediterranean Steak Salad with Caper Vinaigrette and tossed it all together. But you can literally fill these with anything you like and you can make them sweet or savory.
I let my pastels set in the refrigerator over night, and then fried them up when my company came over. Use vegetable oil and bring it to 350* F or 170* C, then carefully place the pastels in the hot oil. Make sure you do not over crowd them. Cook them for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until they are golden brown, then carefully flip them over so the other side cooks too. Once they are done, drain them on a paper towel. Eat immediately. These do not store well when cooked and are most definitely best when eaten hot. You can freeze them before cooking them, though, so you can use them at a later date and time.
Stay cool, stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.