Things I consider a challenge:
-Rolling dough into a circle
-A recipe that requires you to "press the dough together to seal edges" (who knows if it'll stick? ack! the mystery!)
-Filling pastries with things that may leak out during the baking process
It was for these reasons that I chose to make Empanadas de Pino for my Chilean challenge. That and because they looked delicious. Empanadas are not for the faint of heart (literally--you shouldn't eat these if you have a heart condition). They are one of the more fat bastardy items I've made in recent times (including croissants, because let's face it, those croissants didn't have meat in them). The dough has two tablespoons of butter and twelve--count 'em, twelve!--tablespoons of shortening. And two egg yolks. And that's just the dough. Mmm...arteriosclerosisicious...
As you may or may not know, empanadas are popular the world over, though they are known by many names. They originated in Spain and Portugal, and were brought to South America by colonists. Despite the foreign origin, empanadas are strongly associated with South America, and are one of the national dishes for both Chile and Argentina (slightly different fillings for each country, but the same concept).
Each family has their own variation of Empanadas de Pino. This is a great recipe for varying the fillings or spices as you see fit. For example, as my mother would tell you, I hate raisins in savory dishes. They do not belong there! My dad used to make "Spanish Rice" a lot when I was a kid, and he would ruin it by putting raisins in there. Yuck, blech, and ptooey! Nonetheless, I made exactly two empanadas with raisins per the recipe below, just to say that I tried the "real thing." I can also say that I didn't enjoy it. Luckily, the rest were raisin-free and totally tasty.
Empanadas de Pino (from About.com)
-4 cups flour
-1-2 teaspoons salt
- 2-3 tablespoons sugar
-2 tablespoons butter, softened
-12 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening, at room temperature
-3/4 cup cup water
-2 egg yolks
1. Sift the flour into a bowl. Stir in the salt and the sugar.
2. Work the butter and shortening or lard into the flour mixture with your fingers until well blended.
3. Whisk the egg yolks into the water. Stir in the 1/2 cup of water/egg mixture, a little at a time until the dough comes together smoothly. Keep kneading the dough, adding more water/egg a little bit at a time as necessary (you made need more than 1 cup), until the dough is very smooth, about 5-10 minutes. You can knead the dough with a standing mixer and a dough hook attachment.
4. Cover the dough with saran wrap and let rest on the counter for about an hour. (Dough can also be kept overnight in the refrigerator, then brought to room temperature before using.) Dough should be soft and smooth, and not elastic - if you poke a hole in it with your finger, the indentation should remain.
-Makes enough for 8 large empanadas (**NOTE: I don't know how 'large' the empanadas are that they're referring to. In the filling recipe below, you'll see the instructions given for the size of the dough balls creates about 24 balls, not 8. So...modify this to your size/amount liking!)
-Empanada dough (see above)
-3 large onions, chopped
-1 pound ground beef
-2 teaspoons cumin
-1 teaspoon chile powder
-1 tablespoon paprika
-1 beef bouillon cube, dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water
-2 tablespoons flour
-1/2 cup raisins
-1/2 cup chopped olives
-2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
-1 egg yolk
-2 tablespoons milk
1. Prepare empanada dough and chill.
2. Cook the onions and garlic in the vegetable oil and butter until softened. Add the ground beef, cumin, chile powder, paprika, beef bouillon, and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Cook the beef, stirring and crumbling the meat, until browned. Add the flour and continue to cook for 5 or 10 minutes more.
4. Remove the meat mixture and let cool. The beef mixture will keep up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
5. Shape the empanadas: Separate the dough into golf ball size pieces, and roll into smooth balls. Let rest for 5 minutes. On a floured surface, roll each ball of dough into a 6 inch diameter circle, about 1/4 inch thick. Add 1 tablespoon of the beef filling, a few raisins and some chopped olives, and a slice of hard boiled egg to the middle of the circle.
6. Brush the edges with water and fold the pastry in half over the filling, to make a semi-circle.
7. Seal the edges by pressing down with your fingers.
8. Brush the sealed edge lightly with water, then turn the edge toward the middle and press with your fingers to seal.
9. Mix the egg yolk with 2 tablespoons milk, and brush the empanadas with the mixture.
10. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
Servings: My recipe made 24 dough balls. There was easily enough pino filling to make another 24. However, 2 hard boiled eggs was not enough for 24 dough balls. As I found the hard boiled egg slice to be the best part, I would recommend making a third or fourth egg, just in case.
Now, for the element of surprise: I also made dessert empanadas! I made up a filling to be kind of an Italian-Greek desserty sorta thing (I was hoping for something like baklava in an empanada--genius, I know--which it wasn't...but it was still fantastic). These were awesome. They were like little semi-creamy apple pies. Since I made it up, I don't have an exact recipe per se. But it went something like this:
Italiany Greeky Dessert Empanadas:
-About 1/4-1/3 cup part-skim ricotta
-3/4 teaspoon sugar
-1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon (depending on your taste)
-1/4 teaspoon allspice (I thought I had ground cloves, but I didn't...so this worked in a pinch)
-Handful of walnuts per empanada
1. Mix the ricotta and spices together very well.
2. Follow the empanada dough rolling protocol from above. Spread a generous tablespoon or two of the ricotta mixture onto the dough. Sprinkle on as many walnuts as you'd like (I think a nice big helping is best--it helps fill out the empanada more). Squeeze honey all across the filling. Mmmm, honey.
3. Close, seal, and brush with egg yolk as with the savory empanadas. Sprinkle with some more sugar. Bake as above.
Servings: I made four dessert empanadas (with filling left over).