The Flaky Pastry That's Eaten To Celebrate Argentina's Independence

Loved for their buttery, flaky, and often sweet flavor, pastries have been around for centuries. Almost every country has its own traditions and well-beloved pastry recipes. In Austria, they have dense and nutty kipferl; in Italy, they prefer a cappuccino and a cornetto; and, of course, the French have their world-famous croissant! Most European pastries are eaten for breakfast or as a quick morning snack, but in other parts of the world, pastries are eaten as a dessert or in celebration. 

In Argentina, one of the favorite pastry dishes is the pastelito. According to Google Arts & Culture, the Argentinian pastelito is a criollo (creole) delicacy that is fried or baked to create a stuffed puff pastry. Argentina is known for its divine desserts such as the chocotorta, medialunas, and torta fritas, but when it comes to the pastelito, there's more to the dessert than its deliciousness. It is a symbol of independence.

History of pastelitos

Pastelitos aka pastelitos criollos are Argentinian sweet treats with a patriotic history. According to World Food, pastelitos (which directly translates into "little cakes") are the key dessert during Argentina's Independence Day and are commonly sold in a flower or pinwheel shape and filled with a sweet paste. They can even be made all the more festive by adding sprinkles on top! Wander-Argentina explains that the pastelitos are traditionally served on the anniversary of Argentina's May Revolution, which takes place on the 25th. They are permanently tied to the celebration because many stories go that in 1810 when the first national government was formed, women carried baskets of pastelitos through the streets shouting in celebration and spreading goodwill to the people.

Hispanic Kitchen claims that you could always find a pastelitos seller by following the cries of "Pastelitos calientes para las viejas sin dientes!" which translates to "Hot pastelitos for toothless old ladies!" The pastries are still a huge part of the May Revolution holiday, as is the dish locro, which is a squash stew. Pastelitos are traditionally fried in lard, but vegetable oil is the most common today.

How pastelitos are made

Though pastelitos are traditionally eaten during the national holiday, they can be made and enjoyed anytime, anywhere, so long as you know how to make them! Wander-Argentina states that "pastelitos criollos" are supposed to taste sweet, with a crunchy pastry paired with a jelly-like filling (which can be made from actual jelly or something like mashed sweet potato or dulce de leche). These desserts are available in many Argentinian-based stores and are sold on the streets of the country annually, but if you're more inclined to make your own at home, no worries, we've got you covered!

Can I Bake 4 You says that if you want to make your own pastelitos criollos, no worries! But you have to be willing to go the extra mile to make your puff pastry from scratch. You only need flour, salt, water, butter, frying oil, and your preferred sweet filling (though this recipe suggests guava paste). Knead the dough out of the flour, salt, water, and butter, let it rest, roll it out into a square, and begin the lamination process (folding the dough over the butter to create thin layers). Then prepare your filling and cut the dough into tiny square blocks and stuff the filling between the two pieces of dough, and fry. You'll soon be chowing down on South America's most delicious puff pastry desserts!

Pastelitos fillings

The pastelitos are made using basic but delicious pastry dough, but what diversifies these desserts are the fillings. Pastelitos criollos are traditionally stuffed with all sorts of fillings, though Latinafy says that the most common kinds are quince jelly, dulce de leche, sweet potato jelly, and guava jelly. Quince jelly, according to BBC Good Food, is a rosy pulp that has the perfect balance of flavors; the sour quince fruit and the sweet temperament of the sugar. It is a tart-sweet filling that perfectly livens up the otherwise buttery puff pastry flavor of the pastelitos.

On the other hand, dulce de leche is sweetness compounded with sweetness. Epicurious describes dulce de leche, "sweet milk," as a thick caramel sauce with an incredible toffee flavor; this is among the sweetest pastry fillings and, after being fried, will ooze out of the pastry with every bite. However, one of the most unique and perhaps unexpected stuffing is the sweet potato jelly. Sweet potato jelly, also known as "agar," is made of steamed sweet potatoes, which are often combined with coconut milk (via Food). So, if you love sweet potato casserole or fries, it's safe to say you'll fall in love with sweet potato jelly pastelitos.