Monday, January 30, 2006

Brazilian or not, these are good!

Today I decided to make some sort of Brazilian savory treats (which I actually believe are not very Brazilian, but anyways…). Very popular in Brazil, Esfihas are sort of a snack that you can find in many places, but mostly at small cafes and eateries in the street. Traditionally these savory pastries are filled with a mixture of ground beef, onions, tomatoes and spices, but nowadays you can find them with different fillings, including chicken, ricotta cheese, and even a type of sausage called calabresa.
I was never very fond of these snacks back in my childhood because the beef version was never very appealing to me, however, a brilliant “esfiha guy” in Tiete had the idea of making them with chicken and then I started to get interested on them.
There are some Mediterranean versions of esfihas that are actually opened, but this version is closed in a triangular shape. The dough is very easy to work with, and not complicated at all to make. The trick here is how to shape them. I took some pictures during the process in an attempt to show how I made them, which is not difficult, but is hard to explain in writing!
First I roll the dough, cut it into circles, and then I put some filling in the middle and close it like a triangle, pressing two sides first and then closing with the third part… see, that is why I took pictures! It is hard to try explaining it, I don’t even know how to write the method!
You can make them as big or small as you want! For my son’s birthdays I used to make them small and would get around 70 from one batch. If you make them bigger, as I did today, you may get about 20.
These freeze beautifully, and are a great snack to have when that “craving for something salty” hits you. Just let them cool, put in a zip bag and stash in the freezer. Whe ready to eat a minute in the microwave will be enough to defrost and warm it up for you.
In the place we get them in Tiete, their chicken esfihas also have a little bit of “catupiry” inside, a type of delicious and creamy cheese that unfortunately I can’t find here. So, to make up for it I sometimes use either cream cheese or pieces of those laughing cow triangles (creamy Swiss cheese thing), and a little dab will do here, don’t put too much or they will explode and you will have opened esfihas.
When we first moved here to the US I wanted to find the perfect recipe for esfihas, and I quickly found it with this one! These are great, easy, simple, and the end result is very good. It is so similar to the real thing we find in Brazil that friends have told me to start a business with my esfihas. Well, maybe someday I will!
Until then I will keep experimenting here in my kitchen space and showing my lovely (and sometimes not so pretty) results with you!
I also made a desert today, but I will post it tomorrow, since we have not tried it yet… wait and see!


The shapping process...
Rolled dough into a circle, filling in the middle

Close the uper portion of the dough, starting to form a triangle...

Close the part that is left and voila, nice triangular esfiha!

Egg wash 'em and into the oven they go!

600 grams flour (or more, as needed)
28 g dry yeast (4 packages)
150 ml canola oil
300 ml warm milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 eggs, separated

To prepare dough: in bowl dissolve yeast in warm milk, let stand 5 minutes. Add sugar, salt, oil and egg whites (reserve the yolks for later use) and mix well. Add 2 cups flour and mix, keep adding flour ½ cup at a time until dough is not too stick and get off your hands (there is no need to knead the dough for too long, just until it comes together and is nice and smooth). Put dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray and let it rise for an hour or until doubled in volume.
Roll dough, cut into circles and assemble the “esfihas” using your favorite filling. Put them seam side down into a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, brush with egg wash (slightly beat the yolks and a tablespoon of milk) and bake for about 18 minutes in a 375F pre-heated oven. (Baking time will depend on size of the “esfihas”).

Traditional meat filling:
500 grams ground beef
1 finely chopped onion
2 small tomatoes, finely chopped (let it sit over a colander to drain some of the liquid before using)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. (this filling is used raw, but don’t worry, it will cook in the oven!)

My chicken filling: Actually I don’t have measurements… sorry!
First, poach some chicken (or use leftover rotisserie chicken) and shred it, reserve.
Then, in a skillet I sauté some onions and garlic; add about ½ cup tomato sauce (or pasta sauce), the shredded chicken, salt and pepper to taste and some seasonings (basil, oregano, parsley). Taste and adjust seasonings as you go. If the mixture seems too watery I add a tablespoon or two of flour just so that it thickens a bit.

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