I first tried empanadas during my trip to Puerto Rico several years back. Empanadas were literally sold everywhere, on the street, in the rain forest cafe, restaurants, bars, and even on the beach and it’s no surprise why; they’re delicious, portable, and a great snack. I’ve made empanadas before but was unsatisfied with the dough…until I conducted a little experiment and found the secret ingredients: white wine, vinegar, and lard. Since I don’t find myself going back to Puerto Rico any time soon, why not just make them at home?
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Making the dough for this recipe is actually very easy with a food processor; it’s just a matter of watching the machine do the work. I conducted a little experiment and made several variations of the dough. The first batch was with butter, the second with lard and the third with half lard, half butter. The dough was made the day before and chilled overnight. Before rolling out the dough, I let it sit out at room temperature for about 20 minutes to make it easier to roll out.
You can prepare the filling the day before since it does need to cool completely.
Now the fun part, the actual making of the empanadas. Make sure you roll your dough to 1/8 inch thick because any thicker, and the ratio of filling to the dough will not be right. You can make mini empanadas and use 3-inch rounds or make regular-sized empanadas and use 5-inch rounds. If you don’t have biscuit cutters, any circular object will do. The dough made with butter was the most difficult to seal since it was the most elastic. The dough with lard was similar to a pie crust dough. It was much more crumbly and would easily fall apart if stretched by hand; however, it sealed very well. Lastly, the dough with half butter and half lard was incredibly soft. This was also very easy to seal, but be careful when lifting the dough because it does stick quite a bit. The dough with lard and the dough with half butter and half lard can re-rolled many times. I had no waste!
If you’ve ever made dumplings, making empanadas is essentially the same idea. Place the filling in the center and fold the dough in half. Pinch the ends together to seal and use a fork to close the seams. You can also fold over the edges to make a pretty crimping pattern.
Brush with egg wash and you are ready to bake! Empanadas are typically fried but in an effort to be healthier, I went with the oven.
Overall, I enjoyed all three types of dough. The one with lard was flakier than the one with butter, but not drastically so. If I was to choose which type to make again, I would go to with the half butter and half lard.
Serve with chimichurri sauce on the side for some extra zing. Even though it’s a lot of work, it’s well worth it, especially when people are telling you that these empanadas are excellent! (True fact.)
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