Roxana Jullapat — former pastry chef of Cooks County, AMMO and
She not only bangs out a killer laminated cardamom dough for her sticky buns, which are as decadent as any you'd taste among the Pennsylvania Dutch, but she can whip up a tres leches that tastes like it's filled with 10 milks instead of three, topping it off with a heavenly meringue frosting unlike any you'll encounter in Los Angeles.
Though her repertoire stretches far beyond Latin America baking — with profiteroles, farmers market ice creams and pitch-perfect pies — the native Costa Rican brings the technique from her mother's kitchen to Los Angeles, giving three-hour classes in both English and Spanish in empanadas and pan dulce at the Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories in Santa Monica.
If you want to dip your hands into baking with masa, the empanada class is a must-try.
Whether in English or Spanish, the class will teach you how to make pupusas, masa empanadas, Argentinian empanadas (which are fried) and baked empanadas.
If you think making these various empanadas means just stuffing different types of filling into the same dough, think again. The dough for all four prototypes is different. And masa is not so easy to work with — even a pie dough pro will face a learning curve formulating the dough, mixing just the right amount of water into the corn flour.
The good news is, you get to work in pairs. Jullapat measures out all the ingredients for both the doughs and the fillings before you get to class, which is definitely a perk. Fillings you'll make include beef picadillo, which is ground beef mixed with onions, bell peppers, cloves cilantro and raisins, a classic Argentine filling. In addition, you'll make ham and cheese filling and a black bean puree filling for the pupusas and masa empenadas.
Jullapat helps out with the rolling, and everyone gets to use a dowl, a much better tool than a rolling pin. With plenty of workspace and plenty of instructional support, you'll get the hang of it.
Jullapat also demonstrates various ways of closing up the little hand pies, different twists and also using a fork -- this part of the empanada-making process takes some serious manual dexterity.
For the pan dulce class, you'll also learn how to make variety of doughs, including laminated dough for the spice rolls. Laminated dough is the stuff that makes croissants, danishes, puff pastry and sticky buns.
Jullapat takes no short cuts, and the three hours are packed with activities. You'll make conchas de canela (cinnamon conchas) topped with a cinnamon streusel, basic pan dulce, and you'll learn how to braid this slightly sweet and fluffy Mexican bread to make beautiful and impressive loaves.
If you're a native English speaker but have a slight familiarity with Spanish, it's a good idea to take the Spanish classes. Jullapat speaks slowly and will change into English when necessary to clarify, making it a fabulous way to sharpen your español.
Not only will Jullapat each you the technique, but she'll explore the history of the pastries as well, explaining how the empanadas and conchas came from Spain over to the Americas — where you can now find them in many Argentine restaurants and panaderias in Boyle Heights.
The three-hour class is $95, and you'll have lots of goodies to take home.
Upcoming pan dulce classes will be held May 28 (Spanish) and June 10 at 6:30 p.m. Empanada classes will be held June 4 (Spanish) and July 28. Additional classes are expected to run throughout the year.