When I started this blog years ago, the foods of Argentina were foreign to me--I blindly tested a recipe, often without much of an idea of what the end result was supposed to taste like. After all, I was making the dishes in an attempt to replicate the flavors coming from my suegra's kitchen to make comforting and familiar meals for my new husband. The recipes were pieced together from my mother-in-law's emails and my husband's descriptions.
Now, though I'm happy to take the occasional shortcut of canned corn or pre-made dough to get dinner on the table before 9:00pm on a school night (or because real ears of corn are out of season) I've become familiar enough with the recipes of my husband's querida patria that I can make the whole thing from scratch in a reasonable time frame.
One of the things I'm happiest to have mastered is this dough. It's a simple and quick dough for tapas for empanadas or for tartas with any filling, (like Pascualina, Chard or Butternut Squash) in this case Tarta de Choclo. The recipe was inspired by Laylita's Empanada Dough for Baking. What I originally liked about it was the use of butter rather than the lard found in most traditional Argentine dough recipes; for two reasons: as an American, I found it hard at first to get over my fear of lard (which is long gone, now) and also grasa de ternera aka beef lard or tallow can be mighty hard to come by. In Denver, I only know of one small family-owned butcher that carries it, and it's an hour from where I live.
Now I've made this dough so often I feel like it's my own. I've perfected my rolling technique so that in just over an hour I can crank out 3 dozen tapas for empanadas and store them in the freezer, or use them right away. It takes some practice learning to handle the dough, but the recipe is just what a good baked pastry crust should be--flaky when baked and easy to fill and seal beforehand.
The Tarta de Choclo recipe here is more or less like the filling for the Empanadas de Humita but with the time-saving trick of using frozen corn kernels rather than grating the cob, as corn is out of season.
Masa Basica para Empanadas y Tartas Con Manteca
Basic Empanada and Tarta Dough Using Butter
adapted from Laylita’s Recipes
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
5-7 tablespoons water
Put the flour and salt in the bowl of the food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter and process until the dough and flour have combined and look like rough sand. Add egg and water, one tablespoon at a time and process until a clumpy dough forms. After the 5th tablespoon of water has been added, process until a ball has formed. If the dough is too dry and won't unite, add the additional water. If it is too wet and sticky, add a bit of flour. Remove the dough from the bowl of the food processor. Form a disc, wrap it in plastic, and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Rolling it out:
For Empanadas: Roll out the dough into a thin sheet and cut out round disc shapes for empanadas (use round molds or a small plate). Follow the directions below to fill.
For Tartas: Divide the dough in half and form two discs. Roll into two shells that fit the size of your tarta dish. Use one for the bottom, add preferred filling, and use on the top. Seal the edges together using a repulgue.
Use immediately or store in the refrigerator (2 days) or freezer (3 months) to use later. If freezing, the dough can be set on wax paper on the bottom and on the top on a baking sheet and flash-frozen for 15 minutes, then removed from the cookie sheet and stored in a large ziploc bag and stored flat in the freezer for up to 3 months.
using a pasta linda or pasta maker:
For Empanadas: Set up your pasta maker as you would to roll out pasta. (Mine is an attachment for a Kitchen-Aid mixer.) Roll out a small portion of the dough (a ball about the size of your fist) until it is thin enough to fit through the machine's largest setting. Run it through the pasta maker twice, so that a long, uniform strip of dough has been formed. Change the setting to 2, and run it through again. Set the setting to 3 and run it through again. Now set it on the counter and begin cutting, probably 3 or 4 tapas can be made from each strip with a large round cutter.
Remove the cut discs of dough to a sheet of wax paper and arrange in a line. Fold the top half of the wax paper over the top of the tapas. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Cut the paper between each tapa with scissors, additional tapas can be stacked in between so that each tapa is seprated by wax paper. Place the stack in a tupperware or ziplock bag. They can be used within two days in the refrigerator, or frozen in batches of one dozen in the freezer and used within 3 months.
for Tartas: Set up your pasta maker as you would to roll out pasta. (Mine is an attachment for a Kitchen-Aid mixer.) Roll out a small portion of the dough (a ball about the size of your fist) until it is thin enough to fit through the machine's largest setting. Run it through the pasta maker twice, so that a long, uniform strip of dough has been formed. Change the setting to 2, and run it through again. Set the setting to 3 and run it through again.
Once you have two or three strips of dough, place them together on the counter, overlapping at the seams about 1/2 an inch. Gently press the seams together to create one large piece of dough, then cut it to the size of your tarta dish. Repeat with the remaining dough to make the top.
Tarta de Choclo--Corn Tart
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 large white onion, diced
1 large (32 oz) bag frozen corn kernels, or 5-6 cups fresh kernels cut from the cob
¼ cup corn starch
½ cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ cup roasted red peppers, diced
Defrost the corn kernels to room temperature and drain. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the corn kernels and heat through, 5-7 minutes. Mix the corn starch into the whipping cream and add the mixture into the corn and onion mixture, stirring to combine. Add in the salt, cheese, and crushed red pepper and taste. Adjust seasoning as needed. Stir until slightly thickened and cheese has melted. Blend 1/3 of the mixture using a blender, food processor or hand blender. Return the pureed portion to the remaining corn mixture. Fold in the roasted red peppers. Let cool enough to be handled.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
For making Empanadas:
Lay out the tapas four at a time on a clean countertop, lightly dusted with flour. Put out a small glass of water for sealing the empanadas, along with a small glass with one beaten egg, for brushing over the empanadas before baking.Place a heaping tablespoon of the corn filling in the center of the empanada shell. Moisten the edge on the top half of the shell with a little water on your finger. Fold the bottom half of the dough up until the edges meet and seal with your fingers by pressing down. The empanada should have a half-moon shape.
Use the palms of the hands to pack the filling firmly in the center. Next, fold the edges by twisting the edge like so: Using your fingertip, fold one corner of the empanada over, pressing down firmly. Go to the edge again and repeat, pressing firmly each time. Move around the edge of the empanada and you'll get a spiral pattern. You can also use a fork-seal, instead. Place the finished empanadas on the baking sheet, and then gently put a few holes in the top of the empanada with a toothpick to release the heat and prevent the empanada filling from popping out. Paint the top of each sealed empanada with the beaten egg so that when they bake, they have a shiny, golden shell. Put the empanadas in to bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown on top. Take out and let cool slightly before serving, and eat very carefully while hot!
For making Tartas: Line the tarta dish with one tarta disc. Pour the cooled corn filling into the shell. Place another shell on top. Seal with the repulgue method or using a fork pressing around the edges. Cut a few vents round the top. (They can be decorative as desired, if cutting small shapes using cookie cutters, this must be done before the top is placed on.) Put the tarta in the pre-heated oven and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.