Brazil has a number of different types of hand pies. The Esfirra that sold as a popular street food. It can be made open faced, Esfirra Aberta (Open Esfiha), or closed Esfirra Fechada (Closed Esfiha). The open faced pies are formed in circles or squares. In Brazil the square shape is the most popular. The closed pie can be formed as a square, a triangle, or a half moon. The filling is varied. Beef is common, but these can also be stuffed with meat, cheese, and other fillings.
In the recipe below I have chosen to form these pies into half moons using a large ravioli press, See below.
The Esfirra is a form of sfiha, a meat pie made in Lebanon and Syria. Apparently, these pies were brought to Brazil in the late 1800s by immigrants from these countries. The sfiha meat pie, in the Middle East, traces its roots back to medieval times. However, in Brazil, these pies began to take on a distinctive Brazilian character. These are delicious, just the right amount of bread and filling. The filling is savory, not too spicy, just right.
Estiffras – Brazilian Meat Pie
- 1 ½ Cups Whole Milk
- 1 ½ tsp Sugar
- 2 ½ tsp Instant active dried yeast
- 3 Cups King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
- 2 TBPS unsalted butter
- 1 Egg beaten
- 1 TBPS Olive oil (you can use peanut oil)
- 1 Pound Ground Beef, 90/10%
- 1 TBPS Unsalted butter***
- 1 Cup Finely chopped Yellow, Vidalia onion
- 1 Cup Finely chopped tomato
- 1 Cup Fiinely chopped red bell pepper
- 1 tsp Sea salt
- ½ tsp Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp Ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp Ground cloves
- 2 tsp Cumin
- 1 tsp Sweet paprika
- 1 tsp Ground thyme
- 1 tsp Fresh Lemon juice
- 1 TBPS Scallions finely chopped
Assembly and Cooking
- 2 Egg Yolks
- 1 TBPS Water
- Heat the milk to 180 degrees (*scalded milk), then cool to 90 degrees.
- Place the sugar and yeast in a small cup and mix well.
- When the milk is around 90 degrees F, put in the sugar/yeast mixture.
- Set the milk aside until it begins to bubbles.
- Place the flour and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Melt the butter and set aside. Beat the egg with a whisk, then pour the butter (cooled) into the egg and whisk it well.
- Using a dough hook, pour the milk into the flour mixture. Then pour in the egg/butter mixture.
- When the dough forms a dough ball and leaves the sides of the bowl, remove to a floured flat clear surface and knead until the ball is shiny and springy.
- Place the dough ball in an oiled bowl and into a proofing box. Let it raise until double in size.**
- Remove the dough ball from the bowl and punch down.
- Roll out the dough to 1/8-1/4 inch thick. You can use a pasta machine for this.
- Form the Estiffras into half moons, squares or triangles. I used a ravioli maker.
- Add the filling, see below.
- March chop and finely chop the ground beef
- Add the oil to a fry pan. When hot add the beef.
- Add the butter.
- Fry the beef until most of the pink is gone then add the onions. When the onions are fragrant add the tomatoes and red peppers.
- When the red peppers are softer add the salt, black pepper, cinnamonm, cloves, cumiinm, paprika, and thyme. Mix well and continue to cook until spices are fragrant.
- Add the lemon juice and scallions and mix well. Cook for a short period and turn off the heat. Set the filling aside until cool.
Asembly and Cooking
- Beat well the egg yolks and water.
- When the dough is rolled out and cut into the shape you wish, place 1-2 TBPS of the filling. Form into half moons, circles, squares or triangles. Moisten the edges of the dough and seal well.
- Place the filled pies on a parchment covered cookie sheet.
- Brush each pie with the egg wash.
- Bake the Esfirras at 375 degrees F until they are golden brown in color.
- Remove and serve hot, warmed or at room temperature.
- These can be served with a hot sauce, or eaten by themselves.