We have many favorites out there that we would never think to try to cook at home. Mozzarella sticks, sushi rolls, spring rolls, etc. There are many reasons why we have not attempted these things at home: they appear more complicated to make than they look, the experts on the outside probably will do it better, and why go through all the effort when these things are easily accessible for purchase. Empanadas are also on this list, but since we do not see empanadas all that often, deciding to bring empanadas home was a wonderful plan. Cooking homemade empanadas seems adventurous, but I decided to try it out, and although it may be a flop, I wanted to see what went into making these delicious little pastry pockets. I also thought that if it went well, there could be empanadas on the regular!
Choosing a filling for our empanadas was the first step. I had several ideas, but settled on turkey piccadilo. I found a recipe for this Latin dish in a Weight Watchers cookbook. I eliminated the raisins, bell pepper, rice, red pepper flakes, and tomato sauce, and instead added carrots, cayenne pepper and diced tomatoes. This yields a slightly warmed spiced filling with the added sweet texture of the diced tomatoes. Using a food processor to chop the onion and carrot finely took seconds, so I recommend this. Other fillings I may try in the future include black beans with cheddar cheese and chicken with picante sauce slow cooked for 4 hours.
Now for the adventure…empanada dough. I wanted to blend the butter into the flour with my food processor, but the food processor would not fit the 4 ½ cups of flour and 2 sticks of butter cubes. So I split the flour and butter in half and blended it in the food processor separately. Then combined the two batches back together in a large bowl and used my fingertips to blend together. When I finished, I still had a little flour remaining that had not blended with the butter, but I kneaded that flour back into the dough. I attempted to roll out even piece of dough to make my empanadas. In the end I had a mix of sizes, but relatively in the same category of not too small and not too big. I even changed up my decorative crimp for the edges, sometimes using my finger to seal the empanada and then rolling the excess dough inward to create an edge, and other times using a pie pastry cutter to get a crimped edge.
These were relatively simple to make, and I think they will be making another appearance in our kitchen. I would love to try the different fillings. The dough is slightly buttery, slightly flaky and slightly crunchy. The filling could be a little spicier (maybe some more cayenne pepper), but it was delicious.
Turkey Piccadilo Empanadas (adapted from Weight Watchers)
For the dough:
4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large eggs
2/3 cup ice water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
For the filling:
1 pound ground turkey
20 ounce can diced tomato
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 carrot (or handful of baby carrots)
1 ½ onion
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Dough: Sift flour with salt into a large bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some very small butter lumps. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. In the large bowl (or lightly floured surface) knead the dough mixture gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into two flat disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Dough can be chilled up to 6 hours total.
Filling: In a food processor, chop onions and carrots until very fine. In a large pan, cook ground turkey with salt and pepper. When the meat is almost cooked add the chopped onions and carrots. Mix onions, carrots and turkey together and cook until meat cooks in to crumbles. Stir in spices, and cook about 2-3 minutes. Then add diced tomatoes. Turn heat down to low-medium, and allow meat, tomatoes and spices to cook for 5-7 minutes.
Empanadas: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Break off a piece of dough, about 2-3 inches in diameter, and roll out the piece of dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 5-6 inch round that is 1/8 inch thick. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the filling into the center, and fold dough in half, enclosing filling. Press edges together around the filling to, and crimp or roll the edges with your fingers for decoration. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place empanada on the baking sheet. Lightly brush empanadas with some of egg wash. Repeat the process.
Cook for about 20-25 minutes or until golden. Allow empanadas to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
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