A Pumpkin, Some Figs & Some Apples Walk Into a Bar: A Day of Baking Empanadas

Well, they didn’t walk in and there was no bar, it was empanadas.  I had about 12 pounds of figs left from the last few days of fig harvest on our tree, bought some apples and a nice sized pumpkin the other day at the market.  As soon as I saw the pumpkins, I knew empanadas were happening.  I didn’t count on there being apple and fig ones too but the pumpkin ones were a no-brainer.  Grandkids were coming for the weekend and there was going to be an empanada bakeathon in my kitchen.

A couple of days ago when I bought the pumpkin it was cold.  In fact, I was wearing my Ugg boots and sweater on that market trip.  Even last night when I cooked down the pumpkin it was a bit chilly.  I couldn’t sleep so for some crazy reason, I hopped up at 1a.m threw the whole basket of figs into a pot with some cinnamon and sugar and turned it down to simmer then finally snuggled in with Jasmine, Aiden and Ozzy and eventually slept.  I woke bright and early and got the kids breakfast, took the dog out and surveyed my figs which had cooked down perfectly while I was in dreamland.  When I went to the fridge to get the butter for the masa, I saw the apples and they ended up on the chopping board.  I’m a little obsessed about baking.  Then it hit me that the sun was blazing and I had an oven pre-heating.  Fun.  Oh well – empanadas were happening.

We baked all day.  Empanada after empanada was rolled, filled, pinched, poked, egg washed and baked.  Jasmine turned out to be quite the expert at rolling and forming them.  I’m so proud of her.  Her little rounds fell off her rolling pin in perfect circles.  She is SUCH a baker!  Aiden on the other hand, hmmm.

Aiden decided to take a mixing bowl, fill it with Maseca (corn masa), cinnamon, sugar, salt, milk, warm water, some butter and some mace.  Then he mixed it all up, asking me every so often to taste; which I did reluctantly.  I deserve the Grandma of the Year Award for that one.  When he’d decided it was perfect, he dipped corn tortilla chips in it, pronounced it his gourmet dipping sauce and asked, “I’m a weely good chef, aren’t I Gwaaaamy?”  I said yes, choked down a few more of those chips with as little of the “dipping sauce” as possible and tried to foist the rest off on my son Phillip who wasn’t having any of it.  Wimp.

By the time Marissa got here to pick up her kids the house was filled with the smell of baking, she had two very exhausted kids (they’ll be asleep before they get home) and a basket full of empanadas to go.  I get the messy kitchen and a sad-eyed dog who’s just lost his litter mates (my grandkids).  Sorry Ozzy, it’s going to be a long, lonely week till they’re back again for Wepa Weekend with Grammy.

Empanada Dough

4 cups of flour
1 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 cup of butter
Warm water
Egg wash

Mix the dry ingredients well, then cut in the butter.  Add the eggs and enough warm water to mix the dough into a smooth ball.  I add it about 1/4 cup at a time.  You don’t want to work the dough too much, just enough to get it smooth and elastic.  It seems to vary each time I make it depending on the weather or the flour’s absorbency.  My grandmother did the same, worked the water in bit by bit rather than a set amount.  Kinda like pie dough.

Once you have a nice smooth ball, cover it with a damp cloth.  I tend to prefer flour sack because it’s what my grandmother used and it works really well.  It keeps the dough from drying out and since I usually make tons of empanadas whenever I make them, the dough tends to sit for a long time.  Every time the towel dries I just sprinkle a little more water on it.

Form small balls of dough by pinching off a piece.  I say about the size for tortillas.  Keep those covered under the damp cloth as well.  Roll the each ball out to about a 4-inch diameter.  We like our empanadas big here but you can do them smaller.

Scoop a bit of filling into the center, then brush a little water on the edges of the dough.  Fold over.

Press down with your fingers all around the semi-circle then fold the dough over and pinch. Keep doing that all the way around.  It gives the empanadas a double seal and helps keep the filling in.

Take a fork and poke a few air holes into the center of the empanada, then brush with egg wash and place on a greased baking sheet.  Repeat until your baking sheet is full.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.  I go by smell so I never time them.  You want the empanadas golden brown.

Try to wait at least 20 minutes for them to cool or you’ll burn your tongue on the hot filling.

You can fill empanadas with pumpkin, cherries, pineapple, apples, pretty much anything.  Ours were filled with pumpkin, apples and a fig jam.  Some of them were a combination of fig jam and apple and some plain.

Buen provecho!

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