If you are a fan of empanadas, you know that these little pockets of deliciousness are hard to resist. But why settle for mediocre store-bought versions when you can easily make your own from scratch? With a few basic ingredients and some simple techniques, you can create empanadas that are crispy, flaky, and packed with flavor. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know to make empanadas from scratch. So grab your apron and let’s get started!
The history and origin of empanadas
Empanadas have a long and rich history that can be traced back to medieval times in Spain. Originally called empanadillas, these small meat pies were a popular food among Spanish peasants. As Spanish colonists spread across the world, they brought their culinary traditions with them, including empanadas. Today, empanadas can be found in many countries, including Latin America, the Philippines, and parts of Africa. The fillings and flavors vary widely depending on the country, but the basic concept remains the same: a pastry shell filled with savory or sweet ingredients.
In Latin America, empanadas are a staple food and are often sold by street vendors. They are typically filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables and are often served with a spicy dipping sauce. In Argentina, empanadas are a national dish and are often served at parties and gatherings.
Empanadas have also become popular in the United States, with many restaurants and food trucks offering their own unique takes on the classic dish. Some popular variations include dessert empanadas filled with fruit or chocolate, and vegetarian empanadas filled with beans and vegetables.
Essential ingredients for making empanadas
The key to making great empanadas is using high-quality ingredients. Here are the basic ingredients you need to make empanadas from scratch:
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Cold butter or lard
- Cold water
- Meat (such as ground beef, pork, or chicken)
- Spices (such as cumin, paprika, and oregano)
- Salt and pepper
- Optional fillings (such as cheese, vegetables, or fruit)
- Egg wash (made by whisking an egg with a splash of water)
However, there are some additional ingredients that can take your empanadas to the next level. For example, adding a touch of vinegar to the dough can give it a tangy flavor, while adding a bit of sugar can help balance out the savory filling. Some recipes also call for adding raisins or olives to the filling for a sweet or salty twist. Experimenting with different ingredients can help you find your perfect empanada recipe.
Step-by-step instructions for making the dough
The dough is the foundation of any good empanada. Here’s how to make it:
- In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
- Cut 1 stick of cold butter or lard into small pieces and add it to the bowl. Use your hands or a pastry cutter to mix the butter/lard into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse sand.
- Gradually add 1/2 cup of cold water to the mixture, using your hands to combine it until a dough forms.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for a few minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic.
- Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each one into a ball. Cover the balls with plastic wrap and let them rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
It’s important to note that the dough can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. This makes it easy to prepare the dough in advance and have it ready to use whenever you’re ready to make empanadas. Just be sure to thaw the dough completely before rolling it out and filling it with your desired ingredients.
Tips for rolling out the perfect empanada discs
Rolling out the dough can be tricky, but with a few tips, you can create perfect empanada discs every time:
- Use a rolling pin to roll each ball of dough into a 6-inch circle.
- Try to roll the dough as evenly as possible so that the empanadas cook evenly.
- Use a pastry cutter or a large round cookie cutter to trim the edges of the dough so that the circles are perfectly round.
- Handle the dough as little as possible to prevent it from becoming tough.
Another important tip is to let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. This will allow the gluten to relax, making it easier to roll out the dough and preventing it from shrinking back when you cut it.
Additionally, if you’re having trouble rolling out the dough evenly, try using a silicone mat or parchment paper to help guide you. Place the ball of dough on the mat or paper, cover it with another piece of parchment paper, and then roll it out. This will help prevent the dough from sticking to your rolling pin and make it easier to achieve a uniform thickness.
Filling options for savory empanadas
Savory empanadas are typically filled with meat, vegetables, and spices. Here are some popular filling options:
- Ground beef, onion, and garlic seasoned with cumin, paprika, and chili powder
- Shredded chicken, bell pepper, and tomato seasoned with oregano and cumin
- Pork, potato, and chorizo seasoned with smoked paprika and garlic
Other popular filling options for savory empanadas include:
- Spinach and feta cheese seasoned with garlic and nutmeg
- Black beans, corn, and roasted red peppers seasoned with cumin and chili powder
- Mushrooms, onions, and Swiss cheese seasoned with thyme and black pepper
Experiment with different combinations of ingredients to create your own unique empanada filling!
Filling options for sweet empanadas
Sweet empanadas are typically filled with fruit, cheese, or chocolate. Here are some popular filling options:
- Apple and cinnamon
- Strawberry and cream cheese
- Banana and Nutella
Another popular filling option for sweet empanadas is guava paste and cream cheese. This combination of sweet and tangy flavors is a favorite in Latin American cuisine. Another option is dulce de leche, a caramel-like spread made from sweetened condensed milk. It pairs well with sliced bananas or chopped nuts for added texture. For a more decadent filling, try using a combination of dark chocolate and raspberries. The tartness of the raspberries balances out the richness of the chocolate, creating a deliciously indulgent treat.
Traditional regional variations of empanadas
Empanadas come in many regional variations. Here are a few examples:
- Argentinian empanadas are typically baked and filled with ground beef, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and spices.
- Chilean empanadas are typically baked and filled with beef, onion, raisins, and black olives.
- Mexican empanadas are typically fried and filled with a variety of savory or sweet fillings, such as beans, cheese, or pumpkin.
Other countries also have their own unique versions of empanadas. In Spain, empanadas are often filled with seafood, such as tuna or cod, and are baked with a flaky crust. In the Philippines, empanadas are typically filled with ground meat, potatoes, and peas, and are deep-fried until crispy. In Colombia, empanadas are made with cornmeal and filled with meat, potatoes, and spices, and are often served with a spicy salsa on the side.
How to fold and seal empanadas like a pro
There are several ways to fold and seal empanadas, but here’s a classic technique:
- Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each empanada disc.
- Brush the edges of the disc with egg wash to help seal the empanada.
- Fold the disc in half to create a half-moon shape.
- Use a fork to press the edges of the empanada together, creating a tight seal.
It’s important to note that the type of filling you use can affect the way you fold and seal your empanadas. For example, if your filling is very moist, you may need to use less filling and leave more space around the edges to prevent it from leaking out during baking. On the other hand, if your filling is dry, you can use a bit more filling and press the edges together more firmly to ensure a tight seal. Experiment with different fillings and techniques to find what works best for you!
Baking vs frying: which is the better cooking method for empanadas?
Both baking and frying can result in delicious empanadas, but here are a few differences:
- Baking: This method is healthier and results in a crispy, flaky crust. Bake the empanadas in a preheated oven at 375°F for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Frying: This method is more traditional and results in a crunchy, slightly greasy crust. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the empanadas for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
Aside from the differences in texture, there are also differences in the preparation process. When baking empanadas, you can make a large batch all at once, as they can be placed on a baking sheet and cooked together. Frying, on the other hand, requires more attention and care, as each empanada must be individually placed in the hot oil and monitored closely to prevent burning.
Another factor to consider is the filling of the empanadas. Some fillings, such as cheese or vegetables, may work better with baking, as they can become too greasy when fried. Meat fillings, however, may benefit from the added flavor and texture that frying provides.
Serving suggestions and accompaniments
Empanadas are delicious on their own, but here are a few serving suggestions and accompaniments:
- Serve savory empanadas with chimichurri sauce or salsa.
- Serve sweet empanadas with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
- Pair empanadas with a salad or roasted vegetables for a complete meal.
Storing and reheating leftover empanadas
Empanadas can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, place them in a preheated oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes, or until heated through. Do not microwave leftover empanadas, as this can make the crust soggy.
Troubleshooting common problems while making empanadas
Here are a few common problems you might encounter while making empanadas, and how to fix them:
- Tough crust: Be careful not to overwork the dough, as this can make it tough. Also, make sure to use enough fat (butter or lard) in the dough to keep it tender and flaky.
- Filling leaks out: Be sure to seal the edges of the empanadas tightly with egg wash, and do not overfill them.
- Burnt crust: Check the empanadas frequently while cooking and adjust the temperature or cooking time as needed.
Health benefits of homemade empanadas compared to store-bought varieties
Making empanadas from scratch allows you to control the ingredients that go into them. This means you can use leaner meats, more vegetables, and less salt and fat than store-bought varieties. Homemade empanadas are also free from preservatives and additives.
Frequently asked questions about making empanadas from scratch
Here are a few frequently asked questions about making empanadas:
- Can I make the dough ahead of time? Yes, you can make the dough up to 1 day ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator.
- Can I freeze empanadas? Yes, you can freeze uncooked empanadas for up to 2 months. To cook, simply thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake or fry as directed.
- Can I use pre-made pie crust instead of making my own dough? Yes, you can use pre-made pie crust if you are short on time.
We hope this article has inspired you to make your own empanadas from scratch. With a little practice, you’ll soon be whipping up delicious empanadas that will rival any restaurant or store-bought variety. Happy cooking!