Arepas are very easy to prepare. First, you will need a few basic things.
– Mixing Bowl
– Measuring Spoons
– Measuring Cup
– 1 cup Harina PAN (Discussed here).
– 1 cup lukewarm water
– ½ teaspoon salt
Next, you will prepare the dough.
Add the Harina PAN and the salt into the mixing bowl and mix together using your hands. Then, little by little add the water and knead and mix the dough using your hands. You must knead the dough until the mix is soft, firm and has a uniform consistency without any grains.
Another way if doing it is to first add the water and the salt into the mixing bowl and stir that together, and then proceed to add the Harina PAN little by little.
It is up to you to decide which method to use. I usually had preferred to mix the water and the salt first, so to make the water salty and spread the saltiness evenly through the dough. However, I found that using all the water first usually resulted in having to add more Harina PAN to the mix latter in order to get the right consistency.
Therefore I think the best way to go about it is to add the salt to the water in the measuring cup, and have the Harina PAN in the mixing bowl. That way you add as much water as needed, but you also distribute the salt evenly and then proceed to knead.
Once the dough is ready you let it sit for 5 minutes.
Now you are ready to form the arepas. You should grab a handful of the dough, and with both hands make a nice sized ball of about 2” to 2.5” in diameter. Then you use one hand to hold the ball and the other to flatten it ever so slightly with your fingers, turning it around so you flatten it evenly. The thickness is really up to you and up to the type of arepa you are going to prepare. I usually flatten it to about 0.5” or 0.75” thick. And if you are using a “Tostiarepa” you don’t event have to worry about flatting it, because it will do it for you. Now that you have the basics, you can decide to cook your arepa in several different ways.
This is probably the most common way to cook an arepa. I believe the translation would be something like roasted or grilled Arepas. The best way to do this is with what we call a “BUDARE”, which is basically a cast iron round griddle (think Lodge Logic). You would first seal them at a higher temperature and then cook the inside at a medium temperature flipping them over constantly.
These are probably the most delicious ones, because they are Fried arepas, and lets face it, anything fried tastes 10 times better. You would simply heat up about 2 cups of oil at medium heat in a pan, or better yet, in a fryer or Dutch oven. After the oil is hot enough you would fry the arepas for about 10 minutes or until they are golden on both sides.
If you wish to fry your arepas, I recommend that you flatten them further, to about 0.25” thick, and also its tradition to open a hole with your finger in the middle of the fried arepas (don’t ask me why).
Usually, in Venezuelan restaurants, instead of serving bread and butter while you wait for your food to arrive, we serve “arepitas con nata”. These are small little about 1.5” in diameter (cooked) fried arepas served directly from the fryer with either butter or delicious “nata”, which is hard to explain, because I really never though of it. It is sort of like a sour cream, but its cheesier and buttery, like cream cheesy but with a more liquid consistency.
These are baked arepas. They usually have to be “sealed” using the Arepas Asadas technique on a cast iron round griddle for about 5 minutes on each side on high heat. Then, they are baked in the oven at about 180º C until they start to puff a bit and the crust starts to come up a bit from the inside dough, which is usually about 20 to 30 minutes.
The arepa toaster will basically toast the arepas in about 7 minutes. All you have to do is place a large enough ball of dough on each of the compartments in the toaster and press the cover down. You should open it back up and check that you had enough dough, or that you didn’t have too much dough. If you had too much just remove the excess pressed out with your fingers. If you had too little add more dough and reshape the ball. You can also add a bit of butter to each compartment before you put the dough in. I think the toaster is non-stick, but then the crust will taste like butter.
Now you are ready to enjoy your arepa with any filling you want. I will cover fillings in the next post, but for now you can enjoy them with butter, your favorite type of cheese and any kind of sandwich meat.
Arepas become hardened in only a few hours, so you should cook them when you want to eat them. Also, if they are already hardened, you can damp a paper towel or two in water, and cover the arepa and then stick it in the microwave for about 30 seconds or so. You can however prepare the dough and refrigerate it beforehand and then proceed to cook them when you are ready to eat them. You can also refrigerate leftover dough for about 5 days, just make sure you cover it with a damp cloth and spray with water or even a little bit of oil. You can also prepare baked arepas by sealing them using the griddle first, then freezing them, and simply baking them for 20 to 30 minutes when you are ready to eat them.
Some people add different things to their dough before they cook the arepa to add flavor to the dough. I have heard and seen a lot of different additions including milk, oil, butter, cheese, eggs, and even honey. They all have a different taste, but I have to say I have NEVER tried an Arepa I didn’t like and I have NEVER met anyone who didn’t like Arepas :)
NEW!!! – Download the One-Page Recipe Printout [Recipe: Venezuelan Arepas PDF Printout]