What’s Cookin’ – Beef Empanadas & Empanadillas

When we lived in Dallas, I took some classes where we divided into groups and took turns bringing food to share.  It wasn’t a food class.  It was a Biblical Studies class.  But, the fellowship and food was a great part of the experience.

One of the guys in our group was married to a woman who was from Guatemala.  When it was our group’s turn to bring food, she would make the most lovely little beef empanadas or empanadillas.

I used to dream about these.  They were that good.  As I looked around for a recipe, the closest one that I found ended up being in my Joy of Cooking cookbook.  I made a few changes such as omitting the raisins and olives.  I have made them both as regular sized empanadas and as the appetizer sized empanadillas.

Empanadas came to the Americas with the Spanish settlers.  Asian samosas, Italian calzones, Polish pierogies are all different versions of dough filled pies.  Empanadas can be sweet or savory.  They can be baked or fried.  They take some time and work to make, but they are worth the effort.

Beef Empanadas – Dough Ingredients.

The butter and shortening must be cold.  You must also use ice cold water.  Notice the ice in the water?

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of your food processor and pulse several times until combined.

Cut the cold butter into pieces.  Add the butter pieces and shortening to the flour mixture.

Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add ice cold water and pulse until the mixture comes together in a dough ball.  You may still see small pieces of butter and shortening.  That is okay.  This will make it a flaky dough when baked.

Dump the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently and quickly until it all stays together.  Divide into two dough balls, wrap each one in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour or overnight.

Beef Empanadas – Filling Ingredients.

While the dough is in the refrigerator, work on the filling.  Please note that the recipe calls for red potatoes, and that is what works best.  I only had Russett potatoes on hand so that is what I used, and they worked fine.

Sauté the onions and garlic in oil until soft.

Add the ground beef and sauté until the meat is browned.  Take time to break up the meat into small pieces. 

While browning meat, dice the vegetables.  If making empanadillas, you will need to make sure to dice everything into very fine pieces.

After the ground beef is completely browned, drain the grease.

Add the remainder of the ingredients, cover and cook on low for 5 to 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender.  When the potatoes are done, uncover and cook for another few minutes until the mixture is dry.  Allow to cool completely.

When the dough and the filling are ready to put together, preheat the oven to 400° F.  Divide the dough into 12 pieces.

If making empanadillas, simply roll out the dough and cut into 3 to 3-1/2″ circles.

Either way, you will need to flour your surface when rolling your dough.  The dough will be soft.  What I find works best, is to cut or roll my circles of dough, pick up one piece at a time, and hold it in the palm of my hand.  Using my other hand, I spoon the filling into the cup of the dough in my hand, fold the dough over in half, press together the edges, and place onto a lightly greased flat cookie sheet.  Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork.

Prepare the egg wash, and brush the tops of the empanadas.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for empanadas and 12 to 15 minutes for empanadillas.

I am never able to roll my dough into perfect circles.  That’s okay.  They still taste great, and I just refer to my empanadas as being rustic.

Beef Empanadas – ready to eat.

Beef Empanadillas – ready to eat.

These can be eaten right out of the oven or at room temperature.  The beauty of these is you can make them and reheat them later in the microwave.


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