A recipe for Esfirra de Carne Moída (Ground Beef Esfirra/Esfiha)! Formed open or closed, this Brazilian savory pie has a ground beef filling with onion, tomato, and red bell pepper.
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The Esfirra (also written as Esfiha) is a savory pie inspired by the Middle Eastern Sfiha (check out this recipe for Sfeeha from Baalbek, صفيحة بعلبكية) and brought over to Brazil by Lebanese and Syrian immigrants starting in the late 1800s.
For this recipe, I made Esfirra de Carne Moída (Ground Beef Esfirra). Ground beef is cooked on the stove with finely diced onion, tomato, and red bell pepper. The mixture is seasoned simply with salt, pepper, a handful of chopped parsley, and a sprinkling of lime juice. It is paired with a yeast-based dough and baked until golden to create a delicious, portable snack/street food. Other popular fillings include Catupiry (creamy cheese), Linguiça Calabresa (smoked sausage), and chicken.
There are two different ways you can form the Esfirra. Since this recipe makes ten in total, I personally like to split them and create five in each style for a little variety.
To make the Esfirra Fechada (Closed Esfiha), roll one ball of dough into a thin circle. Place about 3 tablespoons of filling in the center and pull up three edges of the circle up over the filling and pinch them together in the middle. Pinch together each of the seams where the edges meet to make a triangle. Make sure the seams are closed tightly to keep any filling from seeping out. Place the enclosed triangle seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
To make the Esfirra Aberta (Open Esfiha), pat down the ball of dough and gently stretch out as if you were making a pizza with a thinner well in the center and slightly thicker edges to help keep the filling in place. Fill the center with 2-3 tablespoons of the cooled ground beef mixture. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
After the prepared Esfirra rise for about 30 minutes, until puffy, the exposed dough is brushed with an egg wash and baked until golden, 15-20 minutes. They are best served warm with lime wedges. Freeze leftover baked Esfihas in an airtight container for up to 2 months and reheat in a 350˚F (180˚C) oven until heated through.
Esfirra de Carne Moída (Ground Beef Esfirra) Recipe
Adapted from A World of Dumplings
Esfirra de Carne Moída (Ground Beef Esfirra)
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) lukewarm milk 105-115˚F (40-46˚C)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 grams) active dry yeast
- 3 cups (375 grams) all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 mediums tomatoes seeded and finely chopped
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper seeded and finely chopped
- 1 pound (450 grams) ground beef
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Small handful fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1 lime juiced
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon water
- Lime wedges for serving
To make the dough:
- In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over the milk and stir to combine. Allow to sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Mix in the yeast with milk, egg, and vegetable oil until the dough comes together. If too dry, add a little more milk. If too wet and sticky to handle, add a little more flour.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Place in a large bowl, cover, and allow to rest in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
To make the ground beef filling:
- In a large pan, drizzle the oil over medium heat. Once heated, add the onion and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato and bell pepper and continue to cook until softened, another 5 minutes. Stir in the beef, breaking it up into small pieces and cook until browned and most of the moisture has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Remove the pan from heat and stir in the fresh parsley and lime juice. Allow the mixture to cool.
- Preheat oven to 400˚F (200˚C). Line two baking sheets with parchment or lightly grease.
- On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.
- To enclose the Esfirra, roll one ball into a thin circle. Place 3 tablespoons of the cooled ground beef mixture into the center. Pull up three sides of the circle over the filling and pinch together in the center. Seal the edges well to close and form a triangle. Place the triangle seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
- To keep the Esfirra open, flatten one ball into a circle and stretch to make a well in the center and a slightly thicker edge to hold the filling. Place 2-3 tablespoons of the filling evenly in the well. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
- Cover the baking sheets with large towels and allow to sit until the dough is puffed, about 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk and water. Brush over the tops of the enclosed Esfirra or around the edges on the open ones.
- Bake in preheated oven until golden, 15-20 minutes. Serve warm with lime wedges.