Empanada is a mini pie. Actually, it’s more like the Italian calzone but the crust is flaky and sweet just like those of pastries. Based on the name itself, empanadas must have found their way to the Philippines via Spain. If you search the web, you will find that a lot of former Spanish colonies have their own versions of empanada–Mexico, Puerto Rico, Chile, Peru…
In the Philippines, empanadas are traditionally deep fried. If you’ve been a long time reader of my food blog, you would know about my aversion to frying because I loathe cleaning up oil spatters. And I really don’t like greasy dough. I like my empanada crust flaky and the filling moist but I don’t like my hands getting greasy from eating them. So, I bake my empanadas. I have always baked my empanadas from the day I learned to make them.
The most popular empanada filling in the Philippines is chicken. A rather far second is pork. While regional cuisines have their own unique versions of empanada (like the Ilocano version–deep-fried with orange-tinted crust), as far as I know, Empanada Royale, with stalls in most shopping malls, was the first commercial empanada outlet that went beyond the usual chicken or pork filling. Empanada Royale introduced varieties that include tuna, ham and cheese, beef, pizza…
Yesterday, I made some turkey empanadas. There were turkey choice cuts in the supermarket and there was this tray of turkey thighs that I thought would just be perfect for a batch of empanada.
For the filling :
2 turkey thighs, boiled until tender
2 medium-sized potatoes
1 tsp. of finely minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
1 red or green bell pepper
2 tbsps. of raisins, soaked in water until plump
6 tbsps. of butter
4 tbsps. of cream
1 tbsp. of chopped parsley
For the crust :
4 c. of flour
6 tbsps. of sugar
2 tsps. of baking powder
1 tbsp. of salt
3/4 cup of chilled butter or margarine
1 egg, beaten with 2 tbsps. of water
Cooking and baking procedure :
Debone the turkey thighs and chop the meat into half-inch cubes.
Peel the potatoes and cut into the same size as the turkey meat.
Cut the bell pepper in half, remove the seeds and the membranes then roughly chop.
Melt the butter in a non-stick pan. When hot, fry the potato cubes until lightly browned. If you don’t have a non-stick pan, you will have to fry the potatoes in vegetable oil the usual way. Just drain them on paper towels when they’re nicely browned. Add the rest of the ingredients for the filling except the parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables are done and the turkey meat is heated through. Turn off the heat, add the parsley and the cream, stir to blend then leave to cool completely. A common mistake when making meat pie is to stuff the crust before the filling has cooled. It’s a mistake I made the first time I made empanadas. The filling has to be allowed to cool; otherwise, the steam will make the crust soggy and no amount of baking will solve the problem.
While the filling cools, make the crust. Place the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl and stir. Cut the butter or margarine into small pieces and mix into the flour with your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add ice water, one tablespoonful at a time, until the dough comes together and can be gathered into a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
To make rolling easier, tear a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball, flattem with your hands then place between two sheets of baking paper. Roll (you’ll need a rolling pin) from the center going outward to create a circle. Turn the baking paper around so that you’re rolling from several angles to keep the thickness of the dough uniform. Place about 2 tablespoonfuls of the turkey filling on one side of the dough. Fold the other side over the filling, fold the edges then pinch to seal completely. I wish I could have taken photos of this stage to show you how to do it step-by step but I couldn’t touch the camera with dirty hands. The photo of the filling (above, left) was taken after all the dough had been used up. That’s actually the leftover filling on the plate in the photo.
So, anyway… arrange the empanadas on a baking sheet (above, right).
Pierce the tops of the empanadas with a fork, piercing each empanada about 3 or 4 times to create steam vents. Without these vents, the crust may split open during baking. It also minimizes chances of having a soggy crust. Unless the steam from the hot filling is allowed to escape, the moisture will be retained inside the empanada which will affect the crispiness of the crust. So, pierce, pierce, pierce.
Brush the tops and edges of the crust with the eggwash (above, left). Bake the empanadas in a 180oC oven for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are nicely browned.
Empanadas are best served hot but it’s wise to let them cool for a few minutes before attempting to bite into them. The filling is steaming hot when the empanadas come out of the oven and you really do not want to burn your mouth.
Enjoy your empanada with your favorite drink. :)