Hello everyone. I am a new member. I've enjoyed very much reading the various posts so I thought I'd jump in. I am looking for advice from anyone and everyone. I'm trying to recreate a recipe I tasted as a kid. A little old lady on our block made these taco-like things, shells that you could basically stuff with anything. But the shells were amazing! They were somewhat tortilla, yet somewhat pastry. Nice and flakey, but not sweet. I also know that they were not just deep fried tortillas, she made the dough. I've made several batches of home made tortillas which have turned out well. But they are just tortillas. Anyone have any ideas of how to proceed in my experiment? Thanks so much, in advance.
howdee newcomer and welcome!
my guess is some type of empanadas...they are basically a turnover...filled with either meat or vegetables or whatever you got....and given little old ladies, they were probably something quite special...
food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all Harriet Van Horne
A little more more information could help really nail it down for you.
Empanadas aren't just basically turnovers, they are exactly turnovers. They're made with a wheat-flour dough that's like a savory pie dough (you could use pate brisee, no problem) and completely unlike "tortilla dough."
Tortillas on the other hand are made from a type of dough called masa -- which is also the name of the flour used to make it. Spanish is usually unambiguous. Usually. Pero lo siento, no siempre.
Sopadillas aka sopapillas are crispy beignet, sort of. They are South American, not traditionally Mexican (although you can find them in Mexican restaurants here in el Norte) are very seldom made with corn flour, and the dough is nothing like the one used to make tortillas -- whether corn or flour. Sopapillas are usually, but not always, sweet; and served for snacks or dessert.
So, while both are very good, I doubt either is what you're looking for.
I'm guessing sopes (SOH-pays) -- which would be a fried, stuffed, low-sided shell. Here's a pic, if that helps:
These are from King Taco in my part of the world. They're typical, but some sopes have higher sides and look more like a cup.
You can buy pre-made, raw (you buy, you fry) sope shells if you have access to a good Mexican market. They're extremely easy to make -- especially if you have access to a good Mexican bakery and can purchase great pre-mixed masa. Otherwise, it's no more difficult than making great masa at home. Which is mostly, but not entirely a matter of whipping the lard into the flour just right. If you weren't taught by your grandmother and haven't been doing for at least a couple of generations yourself... Good luck with that.
There are lots of variations of sopes -- sometimes but not always regional -- each of which has a different name. Or not. Were the ones you're asking about baked or fried? Open or closed? A stuffed shell with sides, or everything laid out on top? Round or oval? How many to make a meal?
One thing that's fairly constant: Sopes are almost always made from corn masa, not wheat. So if your neighborhood abuela's "pastries" were made from corn, there's a good likelihood we're talking one type of sope or another.
Also, sopes are by no means the only option. Any additional information you can give could be helpful.
Can I get an "Orale!"?
Edited by boar_d_laze - 7/26/11 at 7:44pm
Orale! Thanks BDL. First off, they weren't of the sopapillaspersuasion. The lady would rollout the dough, put in meat filling, fold it in half (taco-like) pinch the edges together and deep fry it to golden brown. You then crack it open and fill with veggies, cheese etc. You did say something that was very intriguing BDL that empa's are pastry turnovers. I apologize for my ignorance but are empa's baked, normally? If so, how do you think the empa's dough would hold up to deep frying? Thanks so much for putting in the effort in your reply. Really appreciated.
Pardon the harangue, but I forgot to say that if you're doing it yourself you want to whip a lot of air into the lard, and make a very soft dough -- kind of between tortillas and tamales. There's actually not much, if any, difference -- so don't obsess. Just... lots of air.
It's important to work with soft, pliable dough. You need to be careful not to overwork it, as you're not looking for any kind of "chew." Roll the dough gently into small balls. Make a cup in the palm of one hand, put a ball into it, and press a well into the center with the thumb of your other hand. Using the thumb and fingers, form the dough into a shallow cup with a flat bottom and walls as thin and high as you can manage without making the dough too thin and weak. Then deep fry.
Some people pre-bake the bottoms on a griddle to help them hold together when they go in the fryer. Many restaurants fry in advance, hold, then re-heat on the griddle. That's not very abuela like though.
When I want sopes I go to a taqueria, preferably a funky taqueria where nearly everyone can speak English and no one does and they have lots of "variety meat" choices. Sweetbreads on the menu are an excellent sign, even if all you want is al pastor.
On those extremely rare occasions I make them at home, I buy the shells pre-made from one or another of the many excellent mercados/panacerias around here. As I said in my previous post, if you can buy already made masa from a panaceria or better yet a tortilleria, you're way ahead. If you can't get good tortillas in your area, you can't get good masa either.
Edited by boar_d_laze - 7/26/11 at 8:09pm
Almost sounds like an Indian Fry Bread like these:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
1 cup milk
Oil (for deep frying)
Mix together dry ingredients. Cut in shortening and then add milk. Shape dough into a long cylinder and cut into 8 equal parts. Use flour to work the pieces into 6-inch tortillas. Fry in oil until golden brown. Top with taco fixings.
"The moral of this story is not everything that's slick is non-stick, and not everything non-stick is slick."
— Alton Brown
Hey BDL. Appreciated your point about whipping the dough. (No I can give my dog a break. Just kidding!!!) Looks like I never mentioned the little old lady was Mexican. Do you think the empamada dough can hold up to rolling out, fill with meat, fold over and then deep fried?
Sneaking out of town for a few days with the family tomorrow. Can't wait to get back and try some of this. I'll check email on my trip in case you wake-up in the middle of night screaming "I got it!" LOL. Talk to you soon.
Thanks deepfryerdan. I doubt it's an indian recipe. I mentioned to BDL the lady was Mexican. Guess it could have been helpful had I mentioned that. Just one tablespoon of shortening with 2 1/2 cups of flour? Doesn't sound like much. But I am a total amateur when it comes to baking so what do I know. I'm after flakey, not alot of chew but not a hard taco shell by any means. Needs to hold together and taste so delicious you'd enjoy just eating them without any filling. Thanks alot for contributing Dan. Heading out of town but will jump back in on Monday. Thx again.
Yes. Empanada dough may be deep fried, and often is.
What you're friend made was not empanadas. Empanadas are filled before cooking. Now that we've got more detail, she was probably either making arepas or gorditas, and more probably gorditas -- which I love. Arepas are more meso and south American, while gorditas (little fatties) are more Mexican. That's a gross generalization, it's not like there are rules.
Are you located anywhere were you can find good taquerias? Or even a good taqueria? By "good," I don't mean a place with tablecloths which serves strawberry margaritas. I mean an inexpensive, working-class place with a good selection of organ meats and no liquor license. Those are the the best places to ask and experiment.
BDL An Arepa down here is a corn meal cake that is fairly thick, put on a grill and mozzerrella cheese on top. Is it that way where you are? Sounds to me like a Cannolli dough and it is mostly fried, but around a S/S dowl, but can be done flat.
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume).
Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...
oh geez i just love arepas and, haven't had one for ages...love them from the street carts with lots of melted cheese.... serious cheesegasm!...think you may be spot on with the gorditas as i think the dough is lighter than that of empanadas...no? maybe just an illusion...i thought because the op said the dough was filled,folded in half and pinched that is was an empanada, but i do think of them as heavier fare than gorditas.....just to clarify though...gorditas and arepas are basically made the same, no? just from different countries....se?
food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all Harriet Van Horne
Hey BDL. I'm back, mini vacation was fun. You've pointed out yet something else I made unclear. She did add the meat before cooking. Only after cooking she would open them and add the veggies. So based on that, where are you leaning? Empanada or Arepas? Thanks again for all your help.
An empenada is a turnover. If you didn't recognize it as a turnover, it probably wasn't an empenada. Trebly unlikely if she used corn masa. Now if you say, "no, it was regular white flour," I'll reassess.
Like pupusa, arepa is a kind of open term -- and not one commonly used by Mexicans. Pupusa is more Salvadorena, and Arepa more South American and Caribbean. Either could be right depending on what part of Mexico your little old lady came from, but more likely both are wrong. FWIW, in some parts of Mexico, "pupusa" can be a coarse, anatomical reference.
I'm sticking with gordita.
At this stage we're talking about language in general and Mexican/Spanish linguistics and cultural semantics, and not really talking about food. We may never be able to pin down the right term, but it seems like you're getting an excellent handle on what la abuelita made and how she made it.
If you speak Spanish, the next thing might be to start Googling recetas. I do a fair bit of my cooking research in Spanish and French (don't speak French, but read just enough kitchen French to get by),and can say it's not without charms.