I love food with a history, don’t you?
For instance, did you know that the idea for our beloved M&M was discovered during the Spanish Civil War as a solution to soldiers’ chocolate melting in their pockets?
Okay, this one blows my mind a little– Did you know that chocolate chip cookies didn’t exist until the 1930s?? Whaaaaa? Yeah. As the story goes, Ruth Graves Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn, didn’t have any baker’s chocolate to make her “butter drop do” cookies, so she chopped up a chocolate bar hoping that it would melt into the cookie. Well, Ruth didn’t end up with her intended results, but, as we all know, the result was a beautiful and delicious creation!
Chocolate chips weren’t even sold until a few years later in 1941; until then, bakers needed to chop the chocolate into chunks themselves.
Bread pudding, though often made these days as a fancy dessert or rich savory dish, was developed ages ago as a use for stale bread. A humble meal meant to eliminate waste has turned into a luxurious dish.
On today’s menu, we have empanadas!
If you’re not familiar with them, empanadas are essentially turnovers or hand pies that can have either sweet or savory fillings. They’re fairly similar to calzones and Indian samosas.
Empanadas originated in Galicia and Portugal in medieval times during the Moorish invasion. Basically a slice of dinner pie made portable, they were a great on-the-go, hearty meal for working people.
The name “empanada” actually comes from the Spanish verb “empanar,” which means “to cover with bread” or “to coat with breadcrumbs.”
Like I said above, empanadas can be sweet or savory. My brother taught me how to make pumpkin empanadas when he returned from his study abroad in Spain, and lately I’ve been wanting to try some sweet apple pie filled empanadas. Yummm. You could really put whatever you want inside these pastries… Fruits, vegetables, sausage, seafood, cheese, CHOCOLATE.
Be warned; these do take a bit of time and effort to make. But I think it’s fun work! It you want to cut out a little time, you can use a fork to press the edges of the crust rather than fold them.
(from Martha Stewart)
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 3/4 c. fine cornmeal
- 2 tsp. granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 Tbs. vegetable shortening
- 2 large egg yolks (Save the whites for brushing onto the dough!)
- 3/4 c. water
- 1 1/2 lb. lean ground meat (I use deer; beef is just fine.)
- 1/2 c. onion, finely chopped
- 1 c. whole kernel corn (I use frozen; drained canned will work.)
- 1 1/2 Tbs. chili powder
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 2 Tbs. water
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 c. shredded cheese, fiesta or Mexican blend
Serve with taco sauce or another condiment of choice.
- First, make the dough. Mix the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the shortening, and process about 5 seconds. Then, add the egg yolks and 3/4 c. water. Process until a very soft dough has formed.*
- Remove the dough from the processor, and knead it on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Cover or wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, brown the meat with the onion and corn on medium to medium high heat. After the meat has cooked, reduce the heat to medium low, and add in the spices and water. Stir and let the flavors marry for a couple minutes.
- Transfer the meat to a heat-safe bowl, and stir in the cheese. Cover the bowl with foil to keep the filling warm, and set it aside.
- Now, divide the dough into 16 crusts. I find it easiest to flatten the ball of dough a little, then use a pizza cutter to cut it into 16 equal wedges.
- Next, take a dough wedge, and shape it back into a ball. Then, roll it into a circular crust that’s 4 to 5 inches in diameter. You want it to be big enough to fit a couple heaping tablespoons of filling inside but not so thin that the dough will tear when filled and folded. Repeat with the remaining dough wedges.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray it with nonstick spray, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Fill and fold the empanadas. Keep a small dish of water on hand to moisten the outer edges of the dough. Take one crust, wet the outer edges, and place two heaping tablespoons (or as much as you can fit without the crust’s bursting at the seams) in the middle. Fold the top half over, creating a half moon. Press and seal the edges. I learned how to roll the edges by watching this video, but you can also just use a fork to press the edges. Place the empanada on the lined baking sheet, and repeat with the rest.
- Whisk the egg whites, and brush them on the filled empanadas. Then, use a fork to poke holes in the top of each one.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are lightly golden. Serve plain or with your choice of sauce.
- Recipe yields 16 empanadas. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to four days.
* Martha Stewart’s recipe says to process the dough for about five minutes. However, my Ninja always overheats and stops before then. I get maybe a minute or two of processing in, but it seems to be long enough. I knead it by hand for probably 30 seconds to a minute just to make sure it’s nice and soft.
Though these take a little time to make, they’re not difficult to make.
And as the Galicians intended, they make for a perfect packed lunch for taking to work! Or on a picnic. It’s like a Hot Pocket, but better.
I sure am glad the Galicians invented these babies because I thoroughly enjoy them!
What’s your favorite food invention?
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