May 21, 2009
"Are you going to make pastelitos this year?" Guillermo asks as we're driving down the street near home. He's driving,. Maybe it's the recent greening of everything (Spring always makes me sentimental)…it's one of those rare moments that he takes a walk (or a drive) down memory lane.
"Well, are you going to teach me?" I ask him. It's funny–if creating this blog and being married to a 'foreigner', experimenting with unfamiliar recipes has taught me anything at all, it's to get over my fear of the unknown. Still, I'm afraid of pastelitos.
"I remember selling them door-to-door as a kid, by the dozen!" He says, pronouncing the word dozen as 'DOH-sen' in an oh-so-adorable way. "Yeah! Like how you guys have, your, you know, lemonade (lay-mohn-AIDE) stands! And then we would raise money for a school trip."
I'm trying to picture him, with the toothy smile I've seen in so many school pictures, selling pastelitos del 25 de mayo door-to-door. And I imagine the real behind-the-scenes work done by my mother-in-law, Florencia, who must have lined up squares of puff pastry dough across the countertop like a mini-pastelitos assembly-line.
The story of the origins of pastelitos del 25 de mayo, like Guillermo's memory of selling them door-to-door, is one of those school-age lessons that fades with time. (Much like my own foggy 5th grade memory of the facts of the American Revolution.)
May 25th in Argentina was the first meeting of the minds that decided to oust then-Viceroy of Spain, Hidalgo de Cisneros, back in 1810. Somehow, a woman selling these little fried pastries in the street became the mascot of the holiday, and the tradition lives on.
And what a tradition: A square of quince paste, wrapped up in a won-ton-esque pastry, fried, and then drizzled in sweet syrup and topped with sprinkles. Barely bigger than bite-size, they are larger than life. Sweet, but not too sweet, and heart-stopping fried puff pastry. But its simple flavor somehow unlocked so much more than that–for Guillermo, a taste–and he was transported back to another era–1810, or the innocent days of the lemonade stand…by the DOH-sen.
Pastries For May 25th
1 package La Salteña tapas for Pastelitos, or 24 small squares of puff pastry (the size of square won-ton wrappers) or 24 won-ton wrappers (which don't have the same yummy puff-pastry effect, but get the job done!)
6 0z. quince paste (available at Whole Foods or at most Latin Markets, also called Dulce de Membrillo)
canola oil, for frying
small cup of water, for sealing the edges
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
sprinkles for cake decorating
Lay out several tapas on the counter. Place a smallish square of quince paste in the center of each square. Moisten the area around the quince paste and also the edges around the square with water on your fingertip. Take a second pastry square and place it over the first one, press lightly around the quince to create a seal and then around the edges of the square, sealing again. Take the two diagonal corners over the index finger of each hand and meet them in the center, making a boat shape. Repeat with the other remaining corners. The result is all four corners neatly meeting in the center, much like a crab-cheese wonton.
Heat 3/4 inch of canola oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place four of the pastelitos in, letting the oil bubble, for a couple of minutes each side, until the shell has turned golden brown. Using tongs, turn the pastries until each side is equally golden. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the sugar and the water until the suagr has dissolved. Let thicken slightly, but not brown. Remove from heat. Using a spoon, drizzle the syrup over the top of the pastelitos and the sprinkle with sprinkles. Eat with abandon.
Step-by-step assembly photos available on my flickr photostream, From Argentina With Love
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