by: Ruben Urias
The holidays mark the time of year when, for a few delicious weeks, home kitchens begin churning out special treats non-stop. Within many Mexican households, those treats include the popular sweet empanadas. Generally, empanadas are pastry pockets of assorted fillings. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are found throughout the world in some form or another. They can be found prepared sweet or savory, doughy or thin, and even baked or fried. The recipe that follows is for a sweet Mexican version of empanadas that you can personalize to satisfy your tastes.
This recipe will make about 18 individual empanada servings. The total amount will change depending on how big or small you decide to make them.
- 3 c. Flour
- 1/2 c. Sugar
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1/2 tsp. Baking powder
- 1 c. Shortening
- 1 c. Warm water from tap or stove
- 1 Egg (optional)
PUMPKIN FILLING (optional):
- 1 and 1/2 c. Pumpkin Puree
- 1/2 c. Sugar
- 1/2 tsp. Salt
- 1 Egg
- 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. Ginger
- 1/8 tsp. Ground cloves
- Mixing Bowls
- Pastry Cutter
- Mixing Spoon or Spatula
- Rolling Pin
- Lined Sheet Pan
- Pastry Brush (optional)
STEP 1: MIX DRY INGREDIENTS
In a large mixing bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Briefly toss to mix the dry ingredients together.
STEP 2: ADD LARD/SHORTENING
Add lard or shortening to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, combine the ingredients together until they take on a gravel-like appearance—usually 2 minutes or so.
STEP 3: ADD WARM WATER AND MIX
Add hot tap or stove warmed water to the bowl. Mix the ingredients with a spoon or spatula until the dough comes together. The dough will feel slightly tacky and very soft.
Place dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand until smooth—approximately 1 minute. Tightly wrap with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour or more. Because the dough is somewhat loose, chilling it allows the dough to be more easily handled.
This recipe yields enough dough to make 18 empanadas if divided equally into 2 oz. portions. For best results, use a scale to measure the weight. Otherwise, divide the dough in half; then each half into thirds; and finally, each piece into thirds again to get 18 portions.
On a floured surface, slightly flatten one portion of dough by hand. Then with a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 5 or 6 inch circle.
The most common fillings for sweet empanadas are fruit based. However, any sweet filling may be used such as strawberry jam, pumpkin filling, thickened crushed pineapple, and even chocolate based fillings like Nutella. So feel free to use any filling you desire.
For this particular recipe, I am using simple sweetened pumpkin filling. Whisk together 1 and 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree, 1/2 cup of sugar, and one egg. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of both ginger and cinnamon, and about 1/8 teaspoon of ground gloves.
Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of your chosen filling on one half of the rolled dough, keeping the filling at least 3/4 of an inch from all edges. This will allow you to forma tight seal later. With your finger, slightly moisten the outer edge of the empanada with beaten egg or water. Fold the empanada in half, and gently press the edges together set an initial seal.
For sealing empanadas, there are a variety of methods you can use. You may fold the edge over itself, then crimp with a fork. Or, also pictured above, tightly roll the edge over itself twice and pinch to complete the seal. The key point is to make a firm seal prior to baking using any standard or decorative method you prefer.
Once sealed, carefully place the empanadas onto a lined sheet pan. Brush the face of the empanadas with beaten egg for a shinier finish. Finally, place the pan into a preheated 350F oven for 20-25 minutes, until the dough is a light golden brown. Let cool for at least 30 minutes.
Once cooled, empanadas are normally eaten by hand. If, however, you happened to use a loose or more watery filling, simply use a plate and fork. For storing empanadas, place them in a plastic container or baggie in the refrigerator. They may be reheated by oven, microwave, or eaten cold.
While these sweet empanadas are more common around the holidays in home kitchens, they are available throughout the year in Mexican bakeries in a slightly puffier version. But the advantage of making them at home is that you are in control. With this basic empanada recipe, you can make countless combinations of your favorite fillings, adjust the size and thickness to your liking, and even add various toppings before or after baking. And should the need arise when you are in the mood for a savory empanada, simply eliminate the sugar from the recipe, and fill with savory ingredients. No matter how you decide to fill your empanadas, knowing this basic recipe will allow you to churn out your own empanadas all year round.