I love empanadas, although it has been a while since I have last eaten them.
Because of the American football Super Bowl which is coming up soon, I decided to make the empanada dough ahead of time for freezing, so that they can simply be filled and baked on the day that they will be served. What a time saver!
If you weren’t already aware, empanadas are not exclusively a dish from Hispanic Latin America, but are also widely esteemed in Brazil, including both fried (pastel frito) and baked (pastel de forno) versions with sweet and savory fillings. Brazilians call these beauties “pastel” (in Mexico, a similar pastry is called an empanada, and through Mexican influence that is also the term by which the pastries have generally come to be known in English).
The baked empanadas (pastéis) are usually served with a cup of coffee (cafezinho), a glass of guaraná soda, or beer, while the fried ones are preferrably served with sugarcane juice, guaraná soda, or beer. They make for a quick afternoon snack or a great appetizer for parties and bar conversation (conversa de botequim).
I confess that I do prefer the baked empanadas (pastel de forno) for obvious reasons – they are less messy and greasy to prepare.
That is why our recipe for today is baked empanadas. There is a wide variety of possible fillings, but I picked what we call the pizza filling: ham, cheese, tomato, and oregano. It is like having empanadas and pizza in the same dish.
Well, enjoy and have a great time with your friends and family watching the Super Bowl.
(Pastel de Pizza)
Yield: About 10 – 12 medium or 18 small
Segment: Brazilian cuisine
For the dough:
(Please note, prepackaged refrigerated phyllo dough, or an empanada dough from your local Latin American grocery store can be substituted for dough made from scratch, if desired).
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
6 oz (170 g) unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), cold and cut into small pieces
1 large egg, chilled
5 tablespoons cold water
In a food processor, mix the flour and salt together. Add the butter, egg, and water until a clumpy dough forms. Do not overwork the dough!!!
Form a ball, wrap in plastic wrapper, and chill in the refrigerator for approximately 30 minutes.
Then, unwrap and roll out the dough into a thin sheet over a floured surface, working from the center of the dough to the edges. Cut out round disc shapes using a round medium-size or small mold or cutter.
Use immediately or store in the freezer for up to 3 months (In this last instance, pile one disc on top of the other with plastic wrapper in between them. Wrap the pile well and store in a ziploc bag. Thaw in the refrigerator before filling them).
For the filling:
(In Brazil, we call this type of filling “pizza”)
3/4 cup shredded ham
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
About 12 cherry-tomatoes, sliced in half
A pinch of dried oregano
1 large egg (whites and yolk separated)
In a small bowl, mix both the ham and cheese. Reserve.
Assemble the empanadas, adding a spoonful of the ham and cheese mixture on the center of each empanada disc. Top with 2 halves of a tomato and sprinkle a little bit of oregano. Brush the edges of the empanada discs with the egg whites or a little bit of water although the whites are a better “glue” to seal the empanadas. Fold the empanada discs and seal the edges gently with your fingers.
Then, press the edges of the empanadas with a fork to crimple. Lightly brush the top of the empanadas with the egg yolk thinned with 1/2 teaspoon of water. Layer the empanadas in a single layer in a deep baking pan or pyrex dish. Cover with aluminum foil (don’t let it touch the empanadas). Let the empanadas rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes or until ready to bake.
Pre-heat the oven to 400º F (200º C) and bake for 10 – 15 (small) or 15 – 20 minutes (medium) or until golden. Serve warm by themselves, with your favorite dipping sauce (I used chimichurri sauce) plus a drink, or with a fresh salad.
Note: The dough recipe was adapted from Laylita’s Recipes.
You might also enjoy our Cod Cakes.