Monday, October 20, 2008

Arepas

arepas

I was SO looking forward to arepas. I had read about them before, but what finally pushed me over the edge was this post by Shauna, at Gluten-Free Girl. So, I hunted for the special corn flour you need, waited several months for a good time to make them, and gave it a go. And.. was utterly disappointed. Don't you hate it when that happens?

I think it was my expectations. I had dreamed of something soft, pillowy, chewy - sort of like the English muffins which they look so much alike. Instead, they were.. not at all like that. They do look a little overbaked and cracked in the photo, so possibly the pan was a bit too warm, but when it was cooler, nothing happened. And they were still fairly sticky in the middle. And dry. And boring. And almost tasteless.

I have to try this again, obviously. At least because I still have a pretty big bag of special flour. So, please, any arepas tips for me? Any way to make these delicious, and not just boring? I even thought about adding a little baking powder to make them fluff up - good, or stupid?

20 comments:

Jessika said...

They certainly don't look so, well, overly fun that you'd throw yourself off the chandeliers over them.

The TriniGourmet said...

Hi Anne, I am very used to arepas being so close to Venezuala I have had them over there, and well we have many eateries here in Trinidad that serve them as well. I make them for myself from time to time as well :) It looks like your dough may be much too dry, and the pan (as you mentioned) too hot. When cooked they should have a crispy thin crust on the exterior.. and inside... it is not so much airy or pillowy, but more like the interior of a french fry. It should not be sticky, but should feel creamy in the mouth. The taste is not so overwhelming. It is normally eaten fresh with butter, or with spicy beans and meats, so it is not really meant to compete in flavours. You can add some grated cheese to the dough, that is sometimes done :) Hope that helps. Try to make the dough a little wetter, add salt (that helps with the flavour) and keep at it :)

glamah16 said...

Oh thats to bad. Was it made with the Masa? Keep trying .

Lisa said...

I think the masa has to be of terrific quality for it to work. Just like tortillas it is extremely difficult though it seems deceptively simple.

Anne said...

Trini, thank you for your tips!! :) I'll eat it with something more flavorful next time, and try a little bit of grated cheese!

Glamah - I used a special Masarepa for it, not the tortilla masa.

Lisa - that might be it, but I did use the same one as was recommended, PAN. But I think it takes a lot more practise. Next *will* indeed be tortillas, since Glamah brought me a great big bag of masa harina. :)

selena said...

i read that post too, and tried to make tortillas from scratch. they turned out terribly. but i have had the loveliest freshly made tortillas and other corn-flour based treats in mexico, so i know it's me and not the dish.

Greta said...

får man skriva på svenska här eller? :P Det låter jättegott, posta receptet plz?

Anne said...

Selena - ah, that's reassuring :) I guess it takes a lot of practise!

Greta, visst får du skriva på svenska. Receptet finns på länken i inlägget, det är bara mjöl, vatten, salt och olja - men däremot är det ett speciellt majsmjöl, som inte är så lätt att hitta i Sverige. Finns dock i Hötorgshallen, märket heter PAN men du kan också kolla efter masarepa (=mjöl till arepas). Det är ett särskilt behandlat mjöl, som inte kan ersättas med något annat.

tdl said...

They do look a bit mangled. You don't cook them in a pan but on a hot metal surface called a "budare", basically a cast iron griddle. If you don't have that you could try a cast iron pan.

You need more heat but less cooking time so that the insides are fluffy while the outside is crispy but not hard.

As others have mentioned perhaps you're not using enough water or using the wrong flower. If possible get white Harina Pan and make sure to use 2.5 cups of water per 2 cups of flower.

The flavor is supposed to be soft, you stuff them with cheese and or flavored meat/chicken, beans, avocado, etc. you get the idea. The exciting part of these is stuffing them with all sorts of loveliness.

By themselves with a little butter they are also quite nice.

tdl said...

P.S: here are some photos of different arepas.

Anne said...

tdl - thank you! I did use white harina PAN, I used a cast iron pan, and I used that amount of water (but a half recipe) - even a little bit more water. I think the temperature was the main culprit.. and possibly a bit too long in the oven towards the end, that dried out the surface rather than the inside. :)

Amanda said...

Evidently you can use the PAN flour in empanada dough and something called cachapas.

If you have time search foodnetwork.com for arepas. Bobby Flay has a video that might be of use to you.

smörgåsbroad said...

I've made arepas once before and they turned out fine. The dough was the consistency of play-doh (do you have that in Sweden?). It does look like yours may have cooked too quickly. And from one of the comments it sounds like you baked them? I made mine in a skillet on the stove.

It's true that they are not all that tasty, as they are plain corn flour and water, with salt, maybe. But a good accompaniment for spicy food! I ate mine with black beans and hot peppers and cheese.

Anne said...

Smörgåsbroad - the recipe I used said to fry them in a skillet first, and then let them bake for a while in the oven. I did both.

I'd say it was a really good texture at first - definitely play-doh-ish. I think the problem might have been a combination of too high heat on the skillet, AND too long time. Possibly. I will try again :)

Anonymous said...

Cachapas are a part of traditional Venezuelan cuisine. Like arepas it is a popular "outdoors" food, particularly in roadside stands.

The most common ones are made with fresh corn that is ground and then mixed into a thick batter and cook on a budare like pancakes.

http://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/detail.aspx?ID=140987

Karina said...

Dear Anne! I so wish I had taught you how to make arepas while in Sweden this past summer! We eat them twice a week, and love them. Tricks: use Harina PAN, one cup, 1+1/4 cups water. Pour water into bowl, add some salt and lots of grated cheese (Gouda is great), mix well. Add flour, mixing with a fork and let rest for a couple of minutes. (If it's too crumbly add Tbs of water or so, but it shouldn't be too moist or you won't be able to form the patties). Meanwhile, get your cast iron skillet warm and brush with oil, form patties (you can wet your hands a little to make it easier), place on skillet and let them cook for 5 minutes per side, until golden (careful not to burn them, keep fire medium). Then put them into a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Open and eat with some butter and cheese, ham, chorizo, black beans, shredded meat, scrambled eggs... the possibilities are endless. In Caracas we have areperas every few blocks, it's the daily bread for most. My husband eats them very peculiarly (I mean I had never seen anyone eat them like that before I met him :-)): he opens them up and first eats the fluffy inside dough with butter and cheese (or whatever), then he does the same with the crusts. If my kids leave the crusts we save them for a snack and toast them a day or two later. I absolutely love them with black beans and fresh cheese (white typical Venezuelan cheese, like string cheese). Please promise me you'll give them a try! Maybe I can teach you next time I visit Stockholm (plus, would love to meet you and your gorgeous kitties).

Good luck!

Karina

PS They're great with leftover Julskinka! I also like to add vegetable purees like carrot and sweet potato to make them healthier for my kids...

Anne said...

Karina, THANK YOU! That's very helpful! And yes yes yes, when you're in Sweden again, you are so extremely welcome to come here, I'd absolutely love to meet you! And to get a private arepa lesson, of course :)

W.Z. said...

Hi Anna, I just found your blog thanks to Google Reader, I just could not believe you are trying to make arepas by yourself! (I wouldn't... I'm a coward). Anyway, Karina's advice it's great but I would like to point out that Gouda in the dough and the vegetables as filling are rather unorthodox. Some friends were discussing about the dough this weekend and said that maybe a 1:1 proportion between flour and water may be more correct. I'm telling you just so you know that not even the natives agree on this. When you nail the perfect arepa, try them filled with haloumi cheese and butter. Phase 2: "perico"...If you need help, you should look for some venezuelans, we lurk in many corners of Stockholm, surely you may find a friendly one in lappis, to name one place. Don't be afraid, we're loud, but mostly harmless. Good luck!

tdl said...

I just wanted to comment on two things:

1. Baking: Only bake the arepas if they are a little thick. If they're thin enough you can skip this step and go from budare to eating.

I found some great videos on youtube. The first video is what you'd find as a typical home dinner: if you're not in the mood to cook, throw an arepa together, some ham, cheese, butter, etc. and you're done.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkemUjP-1iA

These two show the typical meat fillings (in the second video, which has more production values, she actually does bake them):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N73w5g1AhgA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDrWk7u8UmM

2. Cheese in the dough: Although not strictly "orthodox" (if anything in venezuela can be called that[1]). I have known families to do this as a home recipe, or per the occasion.

-tdl

[1] venezuelans will always, somehow, find an excuse to have fun.

maja said...

Ja, det är hur gott som helst, jag blev bjuden häromdagen, fyllda med ost, perfekt.