Empanadas at La Morenita

A few months ago, a Colombian lady I know gave me a hot tip about a certain Latin American bakery called La Morentina in Sunshine North. After stalling for that long, I finally got around to visiting a few weeks back and let me tell YOU! This place is awesome. Just awesome. 

While I don't normally write about eateries, I think La Morenita is pretty special and Marco, the baker/owner was kind enough to chat to me as he baked the empanadas, which I'll show you in just a minute. But first a bit about this marvelous place! La Morentina has been about for twelve years, in the same little shopfront in Sunshine North(it used to be called Las Penas). It's run by the lovely Maria and Marco, a Chilean born baker.  Five days a week, Marco cranks up his imported Chilean ovens to bake bread rolls, empanandas and sweets. Maria meanwhile, makes the best sandwiches which are made in both the Uruguayan and Chilean styles. But, it was the empanadas I came for and the empanadas I watched being rolled, filled and baked.

When I got to the bakery early-ish on a Friday morning, Marco welcomed me in and began to roll out the dough he made the day before from flour, water and lard(it's the only way to make the best dough, according to Marco!) To stretch the dough out and get it down to the right thickness, it gets rolled through this press a few times, just like you do with pasta in a pasta machine.

Marco rolls the dough around a huge metal rolling pin to transfer it to the work bench, then uses these cutters to press circles for the empanadas. He forces the cutter down with a hard bash and shimmies it upon impact to cut through the dough.

He piles them up to rest for a while.

 Everyday Marco makes new batches of each variety. But I watched the beef ones happen, which is what's going on here. A single black olive and little slice of boiled egg go down first. 

 Marco then places ice cream scoops full of beef mince cooked with onion in the middle. It seems like a good tool for the job; you get a nice round mound and each one is portioned out correctly.

A quick spray with water from a spray gun and the tricky part happens; the fold! You need to press down to remove the air and also firmly enough so that the pastries don't split when baked. The fold of the beef empanadas are fashioned into a distinctive bull horn shape for beef recognition.

 They're loaded onto an imported Chilean oven tray, brushed with egg wash and (unpictured) snipped with scissors to release the steam as they bake...

 ......and baked until golden brown.

And that's how it's done. While I'm pretty sure that these pictures should be enough to convince you, I feel it's worth saying again that these empanadas are really good. The dough on the baked ones is perfectly soft with a bit of chew and the fillings are delicious. The fried ones are excellent too. If you do drop by for an empanada, I highly recommend a serve of the Chilean chilli sauce, pebre, on the side and if you can fit it in, one of the beef and green bean sandwiches and also maybe an alfajore for dessert! If that's not enough, look at how happy the empanadas make people. Guy in the blue can't hardly believe it!

Finally, before I left the bakery that day, Marco appeared with another one of his creations; his gorgeous baby daughter Selina. Every now and again, you can hear her bouncing around out the back playing with a spatula and giggling while you chew on empanadas.

Thanks very much to Marco and Maria for showing me around your ace bakery! Everything I have tried at your place has been super delicious and I don't seem to be able to leave without completely overdoing it. Nice work.

La Morenita, 67 Berkshire Rd, Sunshine North, VIC.
Ph: 03 9311 2911

1 comment:

  1. Oh yes please, I do love a good empanada. Sunshine North is kind of out of the way for me, though. :(