Thursday, September 30, 2010

RECIPE - Pastel Dough (Massa para Pastel)

Like many distinctly-not-healthy fast foods, the Brazilian pastel varies tremendously in quality from location to location. Pastels are like that little girl in the Longfellow poem - when they are good they are very, very good, and when they are bad they are horrid. A bad pastel has too little filling, undercooked or overcooked dough, and the dough itself is greasy and heavy. A real stomach-bomb. But a good pastel has the right quantity of well-made filling, wrapped in a covering that is non-greasy, flaky and crunchy. (To see how a properly made pastel looks, check out the photo below.) Que delícia!

While researching in books and online for recipes for pastel dough, I discovered that the real experts in the art of pastel making all seem to swear by the same "secret ingredient" which guarantees a flaky, crunchy pastel, though it's really not much of a secret. They all say that the reason their wrapping comes out so well is that when mixing the ingredients, they add cachaça, the Brazilian sugar cane liquor. On a Brazilian website that offers questions and answers on every possible subject, someone asked why pastel dough was improved by the addition of cachaça, and the answer was this (my translation):

It's because the dough, though fried, doesn't absorb as much of the frying oil, and consequently ends up crunchy and full of little air pockets. Try making the dough without adding  cachaça and you will see the difference. There isn't any change in texture of the dough or in flavor with cachaça, it's only when the pastel is dropped in the deep-fryer that it goes into action. Bom apetite!

(Do you think McDonald's uses cachaça in the dough for their pies? I somehow doubt it.)

So here's the standard recipe for pastel dough, with the obligatory shot of cachaça. As it's the alcohol that causes the dough to be less absorbative, I would think that other liquors, for example, vodka, would work equally well.

RECIPE - Pastel Dough (Massa para Pastel)
Enough for 50 pastels

2.2 lb (1 kg) all-purpose wheat flour
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. chicken broth
1 Tbsp. lard
2 Tbsp. cachaça
2 cups warm water, approximately
Mix the flour and salt, then add the broth and lard. Add the cachaça to the warm water, and add to the dough in 1/4 cup quantities, mixing in thoroughly and stopping just when the dough forms a ball. Do not overmix or add too much water.

Form into a ball, then let rest for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, dough is ready for rolling out, filling and cooking as desired.

Recipe translated and adapted from website Tudo Gostoso, by UOL.


  1. Hi James

    I greatly enjoy your blog and I will like to e mail you some other questions, but I could not find your e mail address.

    I live 4 hours south of Winnipeg and have a nordic ski resort and we get lots of visitors from Canada. Check our web at

    But I would like to hear from you.

    My e mail is :

    Thanks so much.

  2. Hi Jim - I've sent you an email and would be happy to reply to any questions you might have. Thanks for reading Flavors of Brazil.

  3. Do you have any comments as to how thin the dough needs to be for the pastel? I have been told that it needs to be really thin.

  4. It should be thin, but doesn't necessarily need to be "really thin." I would say that if you roll it out to approximately 1/4 inch, or 1/2 cm, thick it will cook properly and come out crispy.

  5. Can you substitute rum for the cachaca?

  6. Agnes - I would think that white rum would be a fine substitute. Because rum is sweet,though, and cachaca really isn't, I might suggest using vodka instead.

  7. James:
    What is the source of the recipe?
    It's a very good one.
    Good job!

  8. Hi Denbrowning. If you look at the very end of my post there's a link to where I find the recipe. It's from a UOL site, Tudo Gostoso. It IS a very good recipe, I agree.

  9. Hey, I'm living in a small city in the US, and I can't find pinga. Can I change it for another liquor, like white wine?

    1. Hi - You can substitute cachaça (pinga) if you can't find the original. However, white wine doesn't have a high-enough alcohol content. Your best bet is vodka, as it won't add taste to the dough as other spirits, like whiskey or rum, would.

  10. Hy, I have a page on Facebook with every kind of content about Pastel. I posted this recipe. =)

  11. Hey James, just came across your recipe. Very nice. Other question. Anyway to substitute the lard? It's something that is not widely available out here in Europe.

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