Empanadas are savory or sweet turnovers, that enclose a variety of delicious fillings, and are very popular through Latin America. They come in different sizes, and depending on the dough, they are either baked or fried. The baked varieties are eaten warm, and need to rest for a few minutes after being taken out of the oven (they reheat beautifully). The fried ones are fragile and crispy, and should be eaten as soon as they are done to enjoy them at their best, (their crunchy crust turns soggy within minutes).
Most people may prefer to buy their empanadas ready to eat, but for me, part of the fun of eating them is in the preparation. The most important thing is to find a good pastry or empanada dough recipe, and luckily there are quite a few to choose from. If there is a recipe you have already tried and works for you, by all means, use it. You can also get frozen pastry dough, or puff-pastry, which are easily available and both of them wonderful for empanada-making.
Stuffings are as varied and complex as your creativity allows, and leftovers make fabulous empanada fillings too. To show you my point, these empanadas are made with leftover aji de gallina, the ultra popular Peruvian chicken stew with aji amarillo, bread, pecans, and Parmesan cheese sauce. This entree has the perfect creaminess to put inside a good empanada, and its intense flavor brings all the sensations of the actual dish to each bite. Instead of aji de gallina use finely diced lomo saltado, or use the aji de gallina leftovers to fill tequeños instead. Ready to have fun in the kitchen?
- Aji de gallina, cooled (use leftovers)
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ egg
- 1 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ tablespoon salt
- 3 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
- ½ cup water
- 9 ounces shortening, cold and cut in small dices
- Flour to roll the dough
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- Powdered sugar
- In the food processor: Put flour, egg, sugar, salt, food coloring, water, and shortening in a food processor, and work pulsing on and off five or six times, until the dough comes together.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead a little with your hands. At this moment wrap the dough in plastic film, or a Ziploc bag, and put in the fridge for 1 hour, or up to 7 days.
- To make by hand: Place the flour in a large bowl, make a well in the center and add water, egg, sugar, salt, and yellow food coloring. With a fork, combine the ingredients in the center of the flour.
- Add shortening, and working with your fingertips, mix everything with the flour, until it forms a dough that no longer sticks to your fingers.
- Scrape onto a floured surface, knead lightly and divide in 15 portions, rolling each one into a ball. Cover with a kitchen towel.
- Take one dough ball, cover completely with flour, roll with a rolling pin, forming an oval shape, not too thin.
- Put ¼ cup of the cooled filling in the center of the dough. Fold in half to enclose the filling, press the edge and seal with the tines of a fork. Put on baking pans.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. In a small bowl, mix 1 egg with 1 tablespoon water. Using a pastry brush, brush the empanadas with the egg wash.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes. Put in wire racks to cool, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.