Empanada Recipe

Just a simple empanada recipe? Or is it more so a cultural celebration and collection of creative culinary concoctions contained in a crispy, crimped crust, with compliments to the chef? :D

Speaking of chefs, this empanada recipe is an excellent opportunity to include the young ones, especially when it comes to crimping them with a fork or tasting them!

empanada, empanada recipe

Don't they look good? I'm sure you would agree that not only do they stimulate one's appetite, but curiosity as well. . .

. . . Who knows what's contained inside that flaky crust?

Herein lies the beauty of this empanada recipe, the possibilities are endless what savory or sweet surprises you can hide in them.

Personally, I love how approachable they are, too. It's not much of a commitment picking which type you'd like to try. This allows more adventurous chefs and tasters to branch out, creating and sampling a broad variety of food flavor combos.

For an idea on how versatile they are, I recently catered a cocktail party for about 75 guests. On the menu I developed, I had a large variety of Mediterranean and French appetizers, cheeses, fruit plates, sweets and confections, fresh baked breads, and also fresh out of the oven mini empanadas.

I very diligently folded and crimped 5 different flavors, totaling up to a little less than 1,000 pieces in all. It was a lot of work (I had a little help), but worth it, as they were a big hit, even some of the more inventive flavors. My filling offerings that evening were:

  • Braised Beef Oxtail with Swiss Chard and Essence of Orange
  • Mexican Pork Chorizo, Oaxaca Cheese and Whipped Potato
  • Spanish Saffron Whitefish with Caramelized Fennel and Onions
  • Roasted Butternut Squash, Candied Walnuts and Creamy Chevre
  • Shaved Red Wine Rosemary Lamb with Spinach and Water Chestnuts
Also, as a special treat for my daughter, who was integral in the folding and fork crimping stage of these empanada recipes, I made her a batch of Brown Sugar Glazed Buttery Cinnamon Apple Empanadas.

They turned out to be a delicious dessert treat available right out of the freezer and into the toaster oven anytime we wanted!

Ok, let's get down to business. First let's consider the dough for our empanadas. I'm going to give you a really easy recipe you can whip out using a food processor or by hand, but also in the interest of getting you in the kitchen cooking with your kids, I'm going to tell you a super easy time saving cheat too.

The dough:

  • 5 cups All Purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks of cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup ice water
  • 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar

Note: One of the biggest secrets to making a flaky pastry dough (aka "pasta frolla") like for this empanada recipe or any pie crust for that matter, is working fast and keeping everything cold. The reason being is this:

The butter in this rolled out dough, when kept cold, doesn't actually mix all the way in with the flour. Instead, it stays partially separate from the flour, creating lots of tiny little layers of butter and flour. Thus, when the butter melts during baking, it creates small gaps between the layers of flour, making for a flaky crust.

If the butter is allowed to melt when mixing the dough, the flour will mix with the butter and the end result crust is closer to a cookie (which can be very tasty too, but that's "pate sucre") than a flaky pastry.

So, what you need to do to achieve that perfect flaky crust is to keep it cold (you can chill your utensils and food processor parts if you like :D) and work fast.

With that out of the way, the rest is fairly simple. Again, I've underlined steps to this empanada recipe that are kid-friendly!

  1. Sift together your dry ingredients into a bowl using a fine seive (Its snowing!), or pulse together in a food processor.

  2. Now, if working with a food processor, pulse into the flour a few lumps of butter at a time. The end result should not be smooth, but rather look like pea sized pieces of butter throughout.

    If working by hand, well, wash 'em good, push up those sleeves, and start working the butter with your fingers into the flour. I like a pinching method to cut the flour into the butter. Of course, if you have a pastry blender, you're welcome to use that too!

  3. Beat together your eggs, water and vinegar. Slowly drizzle this liquid mixture into your flour while either pulsing the food processor, or mixing the liquid in by hand with a spoon. Work the dough just until all the egg mixture is incorporated and the dough just barely comes together yet still is fairly crumbly, or shaggy.

  4. On a sheet of celophane, squeeze your dough into a 1" thick square, wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour before working with it. This will ensure that you're keeping your butter cold for a flaky crust!

  5. Once you've let the dough chill, and have prepared and cooled your desired fillings (more on that in a bit), its time to roll! With a large rolling pin, roll the dough out into a large sheet a little thinner than 1/4". Or, you can cut the dough into 1" cubes and let the little ones roll out them out. As long as they come out somewhat round, they'll be able to stuff and fold their very own, really personalizing this empanada recipe.

  6. Next, with a ring mold or water glass, depending on how big you want the empanada, punch circles from your rolled out dough. I recommend a 3" diameter circle, which makes a nice 'two bite' half moon.

    Tip:To get the most out of this empanada recipe, its best to try and punch out your circles as close as possible, as to not waste dough. It is of special note that the scraps, if gathered together and re-rolled out, aren't nearly as nice and flaky as the original round. Try to make the most of it!

  7. Now the fun part! Crack an egg into a small bowl, add a little water and beat it. With very clean hands, dip a finger into the egg wash and moisten around the border of your dough circle. This acts as the glue that will hold your pocket together.

  8. Dollop a rounded tablespoon worth of filling into the center of the circle and tamp it down a little. Don't add too much because the empanada won't seal or it might burst open while baking.

  9. Fold one edge of the pastry, over the filling, to meet the other edge, forming a half circle shape. Grab a fork, and lightly press down along the edges, crimping both sides together (as pictured above).

    If you happen to punch a hole through the dough, don't fret, just pinch it shut! It actually does help if you punch a hole right in the belly of the empanada. This will allow steam to escape during cooking.

  10. At this point you can do one of three things:

    • Bake the empanadas on a lightly greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees F, for about 7-12 minutes till golden, depending on their size.

    • Deep fat fry them till, again, golden brown and delicious (approx. 5-10 min). This is my favorite method by far!

    • Freeze them on a lightly floured sheet pan and store them frozen in a heavy duty sealing plastic bag.

      Tip: If you go ahead and prepare a large, scaled up version of this empanada recipe, you only having to go through the process once and it can save you a lot of time down the road when you're in need of a quick, easy snack or last minute meal. These little tasty pastry treats bake up great right out of the freezer, just be sure to adjust the bake time accordingly.

OK, now that we've gone over all the steps to an authentic empanada recipe, here's the super secret time saving technique:

What you want to do is go to the store and purchase a box of uncut puff pastry dough found in any major local grocer's freezer section. This can be defrosted, cut, stuffed and prepared with your favorite filling, yielding similar, albeit different results.

There, I said it. That doesn't mean I feel good about it... :P

The Fillings:

Fillings for this empanada recipe can be of all styles and flavors as I mentioned before. There really are only two guidelines when preparing them for your empanada. They are:

  • Be sure to completely cool them before stuffing the pockets
  • Use bold and robust flavors that really sing. The reason being is because the crust, although very delicious and buttery, is somewhat plain in flavor, so the filling must make up the difference.

Here are three easy fillings that each make a totally different empanada recipe.

The Breakfast Empanada

  • 4 strips of bacon
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup of diced potatoes (from frozen is fine)
  • 1/3 cup cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 green onions, chopped fine (optional)

    1. Start by dicing up the bacon and cook it in a skillet over medium-high heat till crispy.

    2. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside on a paper towel. Add the diced potatoes to the hot pan with the remaining bacon fat. Cook until tender.

    3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, scramble the eggs with a fork.

    4. Add the beaten eggs, crumbled bacon, salt and pepper to taste, and chopped up green onion to the hot pan of potatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, until the eggs are no longer runny and all ingredients are thoroughly mixed together. Scrape mixture out of pan into a bowl to cool.

    5. When cooled to room temperature, mix in grated cheddar cheese to the eggs.

    6. Now, just simply fill empanadas as instructed above and, VOILA!, this empanada recipe has just become a quick and easy breakfast pastry treat!

The Spanish Beef Empanada

  • 1# ground beef
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced small
  • 1 bell pepper, diced small
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 jalepeño, diced fine (optional)
  • 1/4 cup black olives, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon of taco seasoning mix, or use 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped fine
  • 1 cup cheddar or pepper jack cheese, shredded

    1. In a large skillet over high heat, sear the ground beef in a little bit of oil. Cook until totally browned.

    2. Then add all the other ingredients, except the cilantro and cheese. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Adjust seasoning to your preference.

    3. When fully cooked, pour out filling mixture into a bowl. Once cool, mix in chopped cilantro and shredded cheese.

    4. Now, just simply fill empanadas as instructed above and, VOILA!, this empanada recipe has just become a quick and easy savory Spanish snack!

The Perfect Apple Pie Pocket

  • 5 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and diced small
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 stick of butter (4 Tbsp.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 dash ground clove
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons toasted walunts, chopped

    1. Toss the apple pieces in cornstarch, spices and salt in a bowl, let sit for 5 minutes.

    2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the contents of the bowl to the hot melted butter. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    3. Then add the brown sugar to the pan, cooking until it melts into the apple mixture and becomes a slightly thickened sauce. Add the chopped walnuts.

      Tip: Here you can continue to cook the mixture, allowing the apples to break down in a very delicious applesauce, or you can reduce your cooking time if you prefer a more chunky filling.

    4. Pour out the apple filling into a bowl and let cool.

    5. Now, just simply fill empanadas as instructed above and, VOILA!, this empanada recipe has just become a quick and easy delicious apple dessert! They go great hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! ;)

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