Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mini Empanadas

These delicious little bundles are from The Best Make-Ahead Recipe cookbook. I do love this cookbook, and I will be posting several more recipes from it soon. America's Test Kitchen (and the editors of Cook's Illustrated) runs through all these recipes multiple times, trying different methods and variations until they end up with what they feel is The Best Recipe. They detail their process for each recipe, which I find interesting and helpful. Most of the time I agree with them about the chosen process, if my opinion differs, rest assured I will tell you (as I did below!)

I made these empanadas for JennyLee's baby shower over a year ago, along with Summer Garden Pasta Salad. The empanadas were a hit, especially since there were extra empanadas in the freezer when JennyLee's husband came home! (I made a couple larger ones that I left in our freezer too, they were great, just took a bit longer to bake). I really can't believe it's been a whole year! I need to make some of these again soon.

The recipe is a bit labor-intensive because you make your own dough, but the beauty is that you can make these up to 1 month ahead, whenever you have time to spend in the kitchen. There are also steps that allow you to divide up the task if you only have an hour here or there. Then when you're ready to serve them, you just pull them out of the freezer and bake them.

There are a couple different filling recipes that I will post; I made the Beef and Cheese Empanada
, but you could also make the Turkey Empanada Filling with Raisins and Olives. (recipe coming soon!)

Mini Empanadas
"If your kitchen is very warm, refrigerate all of the dough ingredients for 30 minutes before making the dough. If the dough ever becomes too soft and/or sticky to work with, simply return it to the refrigerator until firm; a dough scraper also comes in handy here. There should be plenty of dough to cut out and make 48 empanadas without having to re-roll any dough scraps; we found the rerolled scraps of dough to be very tough."

I don't have the kind of space in my kitchen to roll out the dough that big, I just handled the scraps as little as I could, and those empanadas turned out fine too.--M.

3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen for 10 minutes (*note: they tried things other than butter but the resulting pastry was too "greasy.") 1 1/4 cups ice water
1 recipe Empanada Filling (Beef or Turkey), chilled
1 large egg, beaten

1. Process the flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor until combined, about 6 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with butter bits no larger than small peas, about 16 pulses.

2. Transfer the flour mixture to a large mixing bowl. Working with 1/4 cup of water at a time, sprinkle the water over the flour mixture and stir it in using a rubber spatula, pressing the mixture against the side of the bowl to form a dough, until no small bits of flour remain (you may not need to use all of the water).

3. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Press each dough half into a cohesive ball, then flatten the ball into a 6-inch disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate until firm but not hard, about 2 hours or up to 2 days.

4. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Remove 1 disk of dough from the refrigerator (if refrigerated longer than 2 hours, let sit at room temperature until malleable). Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface into an 18-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 3-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out 24 rounds and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. (I cut out as many rounds as I could, like I said above, and gently re-rolled the dough to roll out more. They suggest discarding the scraps, but I just couldn't do it, so I ended up with more than 48. I also made a couple larger ones as an experiment). Wrap the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Repeat with the second disk of dough and the second prepared baking sheet.

5. Working with the first batch of dough rounds, place about 1 teaspoon of the chilled filling in the center of each dough round and moisten the edge of the dough round with water, using either your finger or a pastry brush. Fold the dough in half over the filling, making a half-moon shape. Pinch the seam along the edge to secure. Using a dinner fork, crimp the sealed edge to secure. Arrange them on a fresh, parchment-lined baking sheet. Wrap the baking sheet tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate while making a second batch of empanadas using the remaining dough rounds and filling.

6. TO STORE: Make sure each baking sheet is covered tightly with plastic wrap (I use Glad Press and Seal) and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month. (After the empanadas are completely frozen, about 8 hours, they can be transferred to a zipper-lock bag to save space in the freezer. Transfer back to parchment-lined baking sheets before baking).

7. TO SERVE: Adjust 2 oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Unwrap the empanadas and brush with the egg. (the egg gives the baked pastry a great shine and golden brown color--an attractive invitation for your guests to dig in). Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes, switching and rotating the trays halfway through the baking time. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Bake the empanadas as directed in step 7, reducing the baking time to about 20 minutes.

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