Apparently we made empanadas in culinary school which I vaguely recall. Actually, I remember having them but not making them. Although I remember having chimichurri sauce with them. Which is where my need to make empanadas came from; the chimichurri sauce.
I searched online for empanada recipes and found a ton. Then as a cross reference, I pulled out my old culinary school books (of course I still have them) and found 2 recipes in my Garde Manger book. This is where things start going haywire. I clearly made these before because I wrote an alteration to the recipe. I still don’t remember the dish but remember adjusting the recipe. In class we split the flour into 50% flour and 50% corn meal.
I thought about the corn meal alteration but it didn’t sound good. Instead I combined the 2 recipes and made some adjustments. I gathered my mis en place and went to work. I began with the empanada dough since it could rest while I prepared the filling.
As a side note: One cooking technique was the oven, and the other was deep frying. I wanted the crispy crunch of a deep fried product so I decided deep frying would work best.
Since this is the first round of testing, I’m leaving out the ingredient measurements. For the flour portion, one recipe called for 100% all-purpose flour and the other called for 80% all-purpose and 20% masa harina. Sin
ce I didn’t have masa, I opted to split the flour portion into 70% all-purpose flour and 30% bread flour. I added baking powder, salt, sugar, and lard. For the liquid portion, I used water, white wine, and 1 egg; adjusting for various liquid amounts.
I added everything to the mixer and started incorporating. When I added the liquid, it was too wet so I added more all-purpose flour until it had a more dough-like consistency. I think this is where the problem is. Since I couldn’t recall making these before, I didn’t know what my dough should look or feel like. I was gauging my dough on pasta dough, then quickly realized it wouldn’t work properly so I stopped when I felt the empanada dough was still moist but not sticky. Now it was time to rest while I prepared my filling.
The filling was a bit easier because, well, it was like taco meat. The 2 recipes called for pork but I was using ground beef. Along with the beef, I was using chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, garlic, shallot, and vinegar.
One of the recipes called for tomato paste and the other did not. I used the last of my tomato paste the day before when someone (who shall remain nameless) forgot to pick it up pasta sauce from the store.
The filling was simple enough and not really involved. I browned the meat and set it aside; drained the beef fat except for 2 tablespoons. I added the garlic, shallots, and spices to the fat cooking everything for a couple of minutes. Then I added the beef back into the pan with the spices, added the vinegar, and a touch of water. I let this simmer for about 5 minutes. I set it aside so I could roll out the dough.
Here’s where I realized things were a little “off.” I split the dough in half and went to run it through the pasta machine. Uh, no go. The dough was too moist and wouldn’t go through cleanly so the only option was to roll it out by hand.
I rolled out the dough to about ⅛ of an inch, cut circles using the largest ring mold and began filling. These were going to be tapas sized empanadas which meant you could get about 2-3 bites from each. As I was spooning the filling into my dough discs, I realized that the filling was too dry.
So basically, my dough seemed too wet and my filling was too dry. I could imagine everyone eating these and beef filling would fall out everywhere. Then it dawned on me. The tomato paste. That is what would have stopped the dryness.
Mental note made. Next time use the paste.
Somewhere along this process I heated the oil to 350° and I started frying. Immediately I realized that the dough wasn’t rolled out thin enough and the empanadas were puffing up too much. A few of them lost their seal and opened but luckily nothing fell out.
I taste-tested one and while they were delicious, the dough was thicker than I wanted. I finished frying them and we ate.During my day after research, I found a site offering recipes for A LOT of empanadas. The first 2 links were dough for baking and dough for frying. WHAT? I quickly grabbed my Garde Manger book and pulled up the recipes. Yep. There it is right there. One recipe was for oven baking and the other was for frying; two completely different recipes.
Now that I have the filling issue figured out (hopefully), I can now focus on my dough recipe. Round 2 is coming next week. By the way, I never got around to making that chimichurri sauce…
Also published on Medium.