The past year involved making a big amount of empanadas. It was due mainly to the diners I hosted. I served a smaller version of this classical Argentinean finger food as part of the appetizer with chimichurri sauce, and they were a big hit. My guests loved them. Every time. And that made me happy. Because I cook to please whomever is sitting at my table, and naturally if they are happy so am I.
As I prepared more and more empanadas I perfected the recipe a lot. I went from store bought dough to homemade one because it is cheaper (at least here in France where imported Argentinean empanada dough can be quite expensive and not so easy to get your hands on) and tastier. I like them this way a lot more. And you control de process. I know when the dough has been prepared and I’m 100 % sure I’m serving a fresh product. I couldn’t really tell how old the rounds I bought were and if they had been properly handled by respecting the chain of cold.
I have been meaning to post an empanadas recipe for a while now and for some reason always end up going in another direction. This week however became the week! On Sunday I received a special order to make empanadas and alfajores for party at a local University where people had to bring food representative of their home country. Lucky me!
I had handled orders before, especially on the pastry side of things, but to be honest with you, never this big. Even though I said yes without blinking, I really didn’t think the logistics through!! It was when I came back home with all of the groceries that I realized I might have a little space problem! My fridge is tiny- it fits under the counter, and my oven is a small electric one... I had a challenge ahead!! The key, as it is always the case in the kitchen, is organization!
I made a plan, including when to make the respective doughs, when to roll them out, when to fill empanadas, when to freeze them, when to cook the alfajores dough and so on. In the end I finished with half an hour to spare… Cooking 100 or so empanadas 10 a time is quite time consuming! Wink.
I was happy with the results, and happier when the next day I received a message saying everybody had loved my food! I couldn’t happier. Really.
So, when I got the order I said to myself this is the moment to work on a post to share my recipe on the blog. And here we are. In the middle of it all, I took a lot of photos that you’ll see here. In order to take nice photos I made some extra empanadas that turned into dinner later that day and made someone I know very happy.
I hope you like them! It’s not as much work as the length of the post would suggest. Trust me.
For the Dough
From the cookbook Clasico Argentino
It makes 20 to 25 empanadas of 11 cm in diameter
Flour 1 kg
Butter (unsalted) 325 g
Salt 20 g
Water 350 g
For the Filling
Mozzarella 150 g
Spinach cooked and drained 400 g
Bechamel 150 g
For the Bechamel
Milk (whole) 1 l
Butter 70 g
Flour 70 g
For the Eggwash
Cream 1 tablespoon
Salt a dash
Cut the butter in small cubes. Using the tips of your fingers mix with the flour and salt until you have obtained a sandy type consistency.
Make a whole in the middle and add the water. Mix until you have obtained a homogenous dough.
Cover in film and let it rest in the refrigerator for minimum two hours. I like to refrigerate it overnight, it makes rolling it out a lot easier.
In pot over high heat melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk together. Cook for about 5 minutes whisking from time to time. Pour in the milk whisking at the same time.
Bring to a boil –at his point the sauce will have thickened- whisking from time to time (or all the time as you prefer) so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2 more minutes whisking energetically. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Cover with plastic wrap in contact with the surface. You can keep in the fridge for up to a week.
I used frozen spinach. So cook it following the package instructions. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Strain. And once it has cooled off put the spinach in the center of a kitchen towel, close it and apply pressure by turning the towel (like a tourniquet) in order to remove all the excess water!
This is very important, otherwise the spinach will release the water during cooking and this will make your empanadas extremely soggy.
Chop the spinach as thinly as you can. Cut the mozzarella into small cubes.
In a bowl mix the ingredients together. Rectify the seasoning if necessary. Transfer to a hermetic container and refrigerate overnight.
Roll out the dough to 3-4 mm.
Using a round cutter of 11 cm (or 12) cut the rounds.
Make sure that while you are still in the process of rolling a shaping the dough you properly cover the already shaped rounds of dough to prevent them from drying up. For that you can pile them up and cover with a loose plastic wrap.
Once you have shaped all of the dough you can proceed to fill each one with a generous spoonful of the spinach mixture at the center of the dough.
Dip the tip of your finger in water and paint the border with it. Fold the empanada onto itself and make sure to seal the borders tightly together by pressing them against each other using your index finger and your thumb.
Now you need to close the empanada and choose your decoration or as we call it down south: “repulgue”. I didn’t do the classical one because I reserve that one for the meat empanada.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celscius.
For the spinach one I slightly fold the ends towards the inside, and then I press the dough in four spots using my index and thumb. See the photo below:
Prepare the egg wash by whisking together the cream, eggs and salt.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lay the empanadas living space between them. Using a brush paint the empanadas with one layer of egg wash.
Bake for about 20 minutes turning the tray half way through the cooking time to make sure they colour evenly. Once they are golden brown they are done.
Remove from the oven and enjoy while still hot!
If you made a big batch and you are not eating all of the empanadas, you can freeze the rest for a month.
To freeze: line them onto a baking tray or cutting board, or something cover them with parchment paper and then in plastic or inside a bag. Transfer to the freezer until frozen and then you can go ahead and make space, get rid of the board/tray and put the empanadas inside freezing bags and back in the freezer again. You don’t do this from the start because you’ll end up with one big mess where all of your hard work is sticking together and can’t be separated without breaking!