September Daring Bakers Challenge: Empanadas

September 27, 2012


It’s been a few months since I’ve participated in the Daring Bakers/Cooks Challenges. But I’m back in the full swing of things now! So here I am with Empanadas, this months challenge. I’ve never had an authentic empanada before, just the apple ones from Taco Bell (which are awesome by the way), and I don’t know much about them either. Well, that is aside from the fact that they are a latin thing and that there are many versions of them.

Firstly there is the dough- it can be yeasted or layered like a pastry crust. Then there is the shape- they can be made into a large dish, sandwiched by the dough (usually with the yeasted dough), or into individual pocket sized treats (usually with the layered dough). Also they can be baked or fried. Don’t even get me started on the variety of fillings- they are pretty much endless. Now, the challenge required that I use one of the given dough recipes, which were all yeasted and baked. But! We were allowed to choose whatever shape and filling we’d like, whether it be sweet or savory. So I went with the pocket sized empanadas and a very traditional beef filling. Although the filling that I chose was definitely intended more for the pastry dough, it still worked fine. I ended up assembling them all up and then freezing the ones that I didn’t eat and heating them in the oven straight from the freezer when I wanted to serve them. It worked out really well.

Let me tell you a little bit more about this filling. It’s a meat filling using ground beef. The technique for the beef is really clever- you make a panade, like you would for a meatloaf, by pulsing a piece of bread with some chicken broth in a food processor. Then you pulse in the ground beef. From there you cook the meat in the skillet, breaking it into chunks. It makes it super moist! I think this is a great idea for any number of ground beef dishes. Anyways, there are lots of other things in the filling- onions, garlic, and spices. Here is where things may start to sound strange though, or at least it certainly did for me. The recipe also includes hard-boiled eggs, raisins, and green olives…. when I first saw this I immediately thought “gross, I will NOT be making these..” Well, look at me now! I’ve made the filling without opting out of any of those odd ingredients and I have discovered a new culinary experience. Raisins and beef may sound disgusting, but they really don’t taste terrible together. Especially if you chop them up really fine. Ultimately, I really liked the filling, so I am glad that I decided to go out on a limb and try something new : ) Maybe you can too?


September Daring Bakers Challenge: Empanadas
Serves: 4 to 6 as an entree
  • For the Filling:
  • 1 large slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
  • 2 Tb plus ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 lb 85% lean ground chuck
  • table salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (about 4 tsp)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • ⅛ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ cup packed cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
  • ⅓ cup raisins, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
  • 4 tsp cider vinegar
  • For the Dough:
  • 3 cups (15 oz) unbleached all purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
  • 1 cup (5 oz) masa harina
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • 2 tsp table salt
  • 12 Tb (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into ½" cubes and chilled
  • ½ cup cold vodka or tequila
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 5 Tb olive oil (for baking empanadas)
  1. For the Filling: Process bread and 2 Tb chicken broth in food processor until paste forms, about 5 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add beef, ¾ tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper and pulse until mixture is well combined, six to eight 1-second pulses.
  2. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over med-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, cumin, cayenne, and cloves; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beef mixture and cook, breaking meat into pieces with wooden spoon, until browned, about 7 minutes. Add remaining ½ cup broth and simmer until mixture is moist but not wet, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl and cool 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, eggs, raisins, olives, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour. (Filling can be refrigerated for up to 2 days).
  3. For the Dough: Process 1 cup flour, masa harina, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and process until homogeneous and dough resembles wet sand, about 10 seconds. Add remaining 2 cups flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into large bowl.
  4. Sprinkle vodka or tequila and water over mixture. Using hands, mix dough until it forms tacky mass that sticks together. Divide dough in half, then divide each half into 6 equal pieces. Transfer dough pieces to plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
  5. To Assemble: Adjust oven racks to upper-and-lower middle positions, place 1 baking sheet on each rack, and heat oven to 425°F. While baking sheets are preheating, remove dough from refrigerator. Roll each dough piece out on a lightly floured counter into a 6-inch circle about ⅛-inch thick, covering each dough round with plastic wrap while rolling remaining dough. Place about ⅓ cup filling in center of each dough round. Brush edges of dough with water and fold dough over filling. Trim any ragged edges. Press edges to seal. Crimp edges of empanadas using fork.
  6. To Bake: Drizzle 2 Tb oil over surface of each hot baking sheet, the return to oven for 2 minutes. Brush empanadas with remaining tablespoon oil. Carefully place 6 empanadas on each baking sheet and cook until well browned and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Cool empanadas on wire rack 10 minutes and serve.



{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenni September 27, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Gorgeous Empanadas! Our filling sounds similar, and so delicious!


What's for dessert? September 27, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Great job on the challenge!


lmachell September 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Thanks guys!


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