The Puff Pastry Tip That's Crucial For Flaky Chicken Empanadas

Making the ideal chicken empanada requires more than just a tasty, perfectly spiced filling. Home cooks also need to carefully seal up the empanadas in puff pastry, creating a delightfully flaky exterior. One simple trick can ensure this pastry shell stays at its best throughout the process.

Mashed recipe developer Kate Shungu recommends keeping your puff pastry cold for as long as you can until working with it. Don't let it sit on the counter while you prepare other materials; keep it safely stowed in the fridge as you work on the other elements of her Southwest Chicken Empanadas Recipe. Still, you should ensure they're fully defrosted before using them.

The reason for keeping the pastry cold comes down to the butter that's integrated into the dough. Puff pastry is made by folding butter repeatedly into dough, creating a vast number of tiny, separate layers of dough and butter.

When the dough is kept cold until baking, the moisture therein creates steam from the water content of the butter as it reacts to the heat of the oven. This escaping steam is what puffs the pastry. If the dough is allowed to warm up before baking, the butter can melt and integrate into the mixture, resulting in a denser product with fewer air pockets and flakes.

Chill out with store-bought puff pastry

There are also steps you can take to keep puff pastry colder during the unavoidable times when you need to handle it. Ensure your hands are cold, either by handling ice or running them under cold water. In addition, try to touch the pastry dough only with your fingertips, which are the coolest parts of your hands.

Also, don't feel bad about using store-bought puff pastry. It's what Shungu uses, a decision she says she made because it's simply a lot easier than making dough from scratch. That makes it even quicker to whip up a batch of empanadas, whether they're served as a hearty appetizer or light entree. Store-bought versions can also be more consistent than what results from the challenging, labor-intensive home process.

The result, according to Shungu? "Lots of flaky layers to hold the southwest chicken filling." This tip goes far beyond these empanadas, too. Keep it in mind, and you'll unlock the key to all sorts of savory pie recipes you've never tried before.