Monday, May 3, 2010

Empanadas

Empanda the happy pocket of meat and dough

Give me a meat filling wrapped in some kind of flaky dough, and I'm happy. Empandas make me very happy. I've baked them twice, and learned a thing or two. I don't claim to be the empanada queen. I did discovered (where? I dunno.) that achiote seeds can be used to give empanadas their signature yellow color. Empandas are involved, lots of steps equals lots of work in the kitchen. Its wise to break the steps out into phases over a day or two so you don't overextend yourself. I'll try to make it easy and clear. After its all over just don't waste your empanadas on the undeserved, give them to the ones you care about.

Empanadas


1 - Make the Dough


1 stick cold butter, divided
1 tsp achiote seeds*

1/3 cup ice cubes
1 tblsp white vinegar
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup masa harina (can substitute flour)
1 tsp salt
1 large egg

Melt 2 tblsp butter and achiote seeds in a small sauce pan over low heat. Let heat for 2-3 minutes, and then strain butter into a bowl. Place butter in freezer until solid.

Achiote butter for yellow empanadas

Swirl vinegar and ice cubes in a glass measuring cup and place in freezer. Combine flour, masa, and salt in a food processor with the dough blade attached, if you have one. Blend for 3o seconds. Remove the lid and stir the sides and bottom a little. Be careful to avoid the sharp blade if you aren't using the dough attachment. Cut remaining 6 tblsp of butter into cubes, and add to processor with the chilled achiote butter. Blend for 45 seconds - 60 seconds until medium and fine crumbs form. Take the lid off and rake your fingers through the mixture to find rogue cubes of butter. I rub the butter between my fingers blending into the flour. Again, watch out for the blade. Fine and medium crumbs are ideal.

Remove the cold vinegar and ice from the freezer. Beat in 1 egg until blended. Sprinkle liquids, not the ice, over the flour/butter mixture. Put the lid back on and pulse 4-6 times. Remove the lid again. Grab a pinch of the dough, if it sticks together in a dry clump then its ready. If not put the lid back on, add more water to the remaining ice, and sprinkle water as you pulse the dough. Try not to pulse it more than 6 or so times. Extra pulsing makes the dough tough.

Remove the dough from the food processor. Press together and wrap in wax paper. Form into a disk and chill for 3 hours or overnight. Dough can also be frozen for up to a month.

2 Make the Filling
Each recipe will fill one batch of empanada dough. Can't decide which to try? Double the dough and make both.

Chorizo Filling


1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 small cubanelle pepper or green pepper, diced
8 oz of spanish style chorizo, cubed
2 soft boiled eggs, diced
2 medium russet potatoes, baked until soft, cooled and diced
10 oz green olives, drained and chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt to taste

Saute diced onion in oil over medium heat until tender. Add cubanelle pepper, sprinkle with salt. Cook until onions are transparent and peppers are soft. Add chorizo and heat until chorizo begins to sizzle. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Heat over low for 3-5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add salt to taste. Remove from heat and cool. Can be made 1 day in advance.

Beef Filling


1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 small cubanelle pepper or green pepper, diced
1 lb ground beef
6 oz green olives, drained and chopped
1/2 tsp chili powder
salt to taste

Saute diced onion in oil over medium heat until tender. Add cubanelle pepper, sprinkle with salt. Cook until onions are transparent and peppers are soft. Remove from heat. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Add sauteed vegetables, olives, chili powder. Mix and salt to taste. Remove from heat and cool. Can be made 1 day in advance.

3 - Form and Bake Empanadas
1 recipe dough
1 recipe filling
extra flour
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring chilled dough to a very clean work area. Form into balls the size of a golf ball. You don't need to roll into perfect balls, just press together in your palm. Rolling will warm up the chilled dough making the balls harder to manage later.

Dough balls

Douse balls and work area with flour. Roll with a pin into circles, 6-7 inches wide. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of dough circle.

Meat & dough finally together, and almost ready to bake

Fold dough in half and close. You can seal the edges with a fork, or you can try something a little fancier. With 1 hands I roll the edges towards the filling, while the other follows behind pinching to make a crease.

Fold edges together and pinch with the other

You could also pinch the edges together and crimp with you fingers. Just don't leave those dough flaps open or all the good filling will bubble out in the oven.

Signed, sealed and will deliver empanadas

Place empanadas on a large rimmed baking sheet leaving at least 1/2 inch space between each. Brush tops with egg and water wash. Bake for 30-45 minutes until browned on the bottom. Cool and serve at room temperature

What did I say, lots of work! Put good food into them and you will get some good empanadas back. Empandas can be frozen for about a month. I often under bake mine (20-30 minutes) and put them in the oven for 15 minutes before serving to shack the freezer taste.

*Note: Achiote seeds are often available in latin food stores. If unavailable try adding a few drops of yellow food color into the vinegar. Or just live with tan-ish uncolored empandas.

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4 comments:

  1. man i love these. i need to make these again before it turns summer.

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  2. I made my first empanadas recently and was disappointed after all the work. I liked my filling, it was the dough that made me sad. I like your recipe with the addition of masa. And butter -- my recipe called for vegetable shortening, which I used with trepidation. Thanks for the recipe. I love your beautiful photographs.

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  3. Thanks sage. Empanadas are are serious time investment. I didn't mention that you could use puff pasty or pre-made frozen dough in a pinch. I think the vinegar in the dough makes flaky crust.

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  4. I know it wouldn't be traditional latin fare, but what about adding a pinch of tumeric to get the yellow coloring in the dough if you don't have achiote seeds?

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