Happy Cinco de Mayo! Celebrate with Dessert Empanadas

Thursday, May 5, 2011

In preparation for this year's Cinco de Mayo celebration, I looked to Mr. Mexico himself, Rick Bayless for some inspiration. I was kinda shocked to see he had 3 empanada recipes, but they were all dessert. Huh? I'm used to the savory ones, as I'm sure you are. And although Rick takes us through very authentic Mexican foods in his book Fiesta At Rick's, he also updates some classics and brings in the Rick Bayless Flare. As such, with his dessert empanadas.

I did a couple from his book as well as a few versions of my own. The point of this blog is to give you the dessert empanada dough recipe (at the end) and give you ideas on how you can fill yours. This is an incredibly quick dessert that is extremely versatile, and you can adapt for any dinner or party you have. If you're not up to making your dough or need to make these super fast, use store-bought pastry dough. Again, these can also be made in advance and frozen, then baked or fried before guests arrive. LOVE that!

The first kind of empanada I made were with just jam. Living here in the Pacific Northwest, I have access to some seriously incredible berries and variations, including my two new favorites the huckleberry and tayberry. This is tayberry preserve made locally (as in up the street from my house) so it's fresh and organic and tastes just incredible. You can use any jam or preserve you like. Simply layer in about a teaspoon's worth in the middle of your empanada.

Tayberry Empanadas

A slight variation is to use a combination of jam and fresh fruit. Here I used the same tayberry jam and thinly sliced locally grown apples. I loved this combination the best personally, because the jams gave perfect gooey consistency while the apple gave a nice texture to bite into. Use any jam-fruit combination you like!

Tayberry and Apple Empanadas

Speaking of apples, I made Rick's filling for carameled apples. Simply slice up some apples very thinly, then heat a little butter in a saute pan, add the apples, equal parts white granulated sugar and brown sugar, and some ground cinnamon. I also added nutmeg and a small pinch of salt to mine.

Spiced Caramelized Apple Empanadas

He also mentioned using nutella for one of his fillings. You never have to ask me twice to use nutella. Here I did simply nutella with ground Mexican cinnamon.

Nutella and Cinnamon Empanadas

And here I did nutella with fleur de sel. This was my very close second favorite and The Hubster's first favorite. The slightly salty bites from the French salt was UH-MAYZING against the chocolately goondess from the nutella.

Nutella and Fleur de Sel Empanadas

Gotta be honest, the texture of the nutella sort of warps in the oven. It gets a little dry and crumbly, which isn't a bad thing. However, if you need your nutella to be creamy then I recommend mixing it with a litle drained ricotta cheese first.

You can use chococlate chips, peanut butter, marshmallows, any fruit jams or preserves or fresh fruit combinations you like. Be whimsical and fun and experiment with your ideas here. Just be sure to cut fruit small enough and choose fillings that can fit properly into your empanadas.

As for the dough, here's the dough I used from Rick's book. It uses a little sugar for some sweetness, and he likes using lard. Personally, I didn't love the dough; I still prefer the taste and texture of the butter better than lard for pastry doughs. Or at the very least, a combination of both. But do as you will.

Dessert Empanada Dough:
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp granulated sugar
1 cup well-chilled lard or shortening OR 1.5 sticks unsalted butter + 1/2 cup vegetable lard/shortening
about 2/3 cup ice water

Place the flour, salt, sugar, and lard/shortening/butter in the food processor. Pulse until the butter/lard/shortening is cut into the flour and resembles the size of peas. Slowly add the water with the processor on, and mix until a dough ball forms. Remove from the processor and form into a disk on a lightly floured surface. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

To roll out, generously cover a working surface with more flour and your rolling pin. Cut the dough in half and roll out one piece to 1/4" thick. Cut out desired sized circles for empanadas. Repeat with other piece of dough. Fill empanadas and proceed to cooking.

NOTE: this particular dough recipe is not very maleable at all, so basically you have one shot to roll it out into one even layer; it won't collect back and be rolled again at all, so make sure ot pay attention and go slowly!

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