Adapted and translated from cocinerosargentinos.com
Empanadas are at the core of Argentine cuisine. Of course, other South American countries also claim empandas as their own but each country has a different style. Logically, since I’m from Argentina, I make Argentine-style empanadas. So anyway, as I was saying, empandas are a staple in my country. You can’t be an Argentine and not have tapas de empandas (the dough rounds for empandas) in your freezer or refrigerator. Last year, my first year in college with my own kitchen, I brought from home a package of store-bought tapas (yes, you can get Argentine tapas in the U.S. and elsewhere). However, this year I decided to be adventurous and make my own. I started researching and found a few recipes I liked but then I remembered that I had whole-wheat flour. I tend to prefer whole grains but I had never thought of making whole-wheat tapas. I did some more research and liked this recipe that I found on a website I use frequently. I then needed to find the right utensils. I looked around Davis, my college town, in every store I could think of and could not find a rolling pin or a cookie cutter large enough (a typical size for empandas would be 10-12 centimeters or around 4 inches). What did I do? I rolled out the dough with my metal Aggie water bottle and cut the rounds by hand. Hopefully you will have the right utensils. At this point the knights from Monty Python will be saying, “Get on with it!” so without further ado, here is the recipe for the tapas, followed by some suggestions for fillings.
Yields around 12 tapas
- 300 grams whole-wheat flour (about 2 ½ cups)
- 1 tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil
- 150 milliliters of water (about 2/3 cups) and more if necessary
- Juice from 1 lemon
- Preheat oven to 400F (204C). Grease a baking pan and set aside.
- Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Add some more water if necessary so that the dough is not dry and will hold together. Knead the dough with your hands to combine well.
- Cover the bowl with a dishtowel so it will not dry and let rest for about half an hour.
- On a clean counter, roll out the dough very thin, about 1 millimeter of width. With a 10-12-centimeter cookie cutter, cut out rounds. Pile the rounds on a clean plate, placing a piece of plastic wrap between each one so they will not become dry or stick to one another.
- One by one fill each round with the desired filling. To close, moisten the edge of each round and fold the dough over to wrap the filling. Press down on the edges. To finish, you can crimp the edges (like the edge of a pie crust), crimp the edges with the twines of a fork or simply fold up the edges as seen in the pictures. As you finish shaping each empanada, set them on the prepared baking pan.
- Place the empanadas in the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the dough is golden and no longer soft.
- Beef: The classic filling would have to be beef. There are several variations, depending on what region in Argentina you come from. The way my mom makes them is by mixing ground beef with onion, red pepper, green pepper, green onion, oregano, pepper flakes, a hint of cumin, pepper, salt and a generous amount of paprika (pimentón). You must first cook the beef and then add the vegetables and seasonings. The secret to a juicy beef empanada (even if using very lean meat) is to use the same amount of beef and onion on a weight basis.
- Ham and Cheese: Probably the second most popular filling would be ham and cheese. This is pretty straightforward and self-explanatory. You mix cubes of cheese with cut up ham. Some people used diced ham though I used to hate it when they made them like that. It’s up to you.
- Fugazzeta: One of my favorites is cheese and onion. Slice an onion thinly and sauté with spices such as pepper, oregano and paprika. Then you mix it with cubed cheese.
- Capresse: For this filling, dice a tomato and mix it with cubed cheese.
- À la Lucienne: This is not actually thing. I gave the filling this name because it was my own invention the first time I made empanadas while at college; the empanadas in the pictures have this filling. It contains eggplant, onion and goat cheese. All of my favorite things, right? You first slice the onion thinly and sauté it in a saucepan until it softens and begins to turn golden. You then add an eggplant, cubed, as well as oregano and ground pepper. You continue cooking until the eggplant is tender and both vegetables have a nice golden color. Let the vegetables cool down a bit and then mix with goat cheese.
Comments: This recipe was quite easy and straightforward. Of course, it would have been a lot easier if I had the right equipment but you do what you can. I think you should get about 12 tapas; I got tired of rolling out the dough with the water bottle so I froze about half of the dough. The amount you get will depend on how thin you roll out the dough. Tapas de empanadas are typically very thin; you want to be able to taste the filling and not get a bite of just the dough. For the fillings, I recommend using a good melting cheese. In Argentina, my personal pick would be Por Salut, which you don’t typically find outside of the country. Mozzarella is always a safe pick but I have found that I really like the Mexican cheese Oaxaca. Above I only gave a few suggestions; I could go on listing fillings indefinitely. You can definitely do some research of your own to find other fillings. Some other ones that are popular in Argentina are humita (corn), spinach and chicken. I hope your empanada adventure turns out well!