Empanadas come with a wide variety of fillings, and are either baked or fried. In restaurants, I prefer the fried version, but baked ones are lighter and easier to cook.
Empanadas with cream cheese pastry
I love to use this dough for sweet and savoury tarts and pies because it's easy to roll out and, when baked, is rich and resilient, with a light flakiness. It's not traditionally used for empanadas, but it is delicious. The dough recipe is adapted from one in The Pie and Pastry Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum, and should be made at least an hour before you use it (although longer is better). The cream cheese and butter need to be very cold.
I use a tortilla press to form the circles of dough. If you have a metal press to make dumpling skins, you can use that instead. A metal dumpling wrapper press can be purchased at the kitchenware shops on Shanghai Street, in Yau Ma Tei - buy one that is about 10cm in diameter (if it's smaller, you'll have to make smaller empanadas). If you have neither a tortilla press nor a dumpling wrapper press, you'll need to roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface.
For the cream cheese dough:
370 grams plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting the wrappers
¼ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp baking powder
170 grams cream cheese, chilled
225 grams unsalted butter, chilled
40ml ice water
15ml cider vinegar or rice vinegar
For the filling:
225 grams Spanish chorizo
1 small onion (about 150 grams) 1 garlic clove
600 grams potatoes
½ tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp smoked paprika
Fine sea salt
Put the flour, salt and baking powder into a food processor and pulse to combine. Cut the cream cheese into large chunks and add them to the food processor. Pulse the machine until the cream cheese is the size of small peas. Cut the cold butter into 1cm cubes, put them in the food processor and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Stir the vinegar into the ice water. With the motor running, drizzle the water/vinegar mixture in through the feed tube, then stop the machine. Put the ingredients into a large bowl and knead briefly to form a cohesive mass. Wrap the dough in cling-film then refrigerate for at least an hour.
Make the filling while the dough is chilling. Finely chop the onion and roughly chop the garlic clove. Peel the potato and cut it into small dice. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the potato and simmer it until it's tender but not mushy. Drain the potato. Use a very sharp knife to cut the chorizo as finely as possible (if it's too large, it will poke holes in the dough when you're forming the empanadas). Put the chorizo into a dry (unoiled) skillet and set it over a medium flame. Cook the chorizo, stirring often, until it's lightly browned in spots. Remove the chorizo from the pan, leaving behind as much fat as possible. Put the onion and garlic into the skillet, sprinkle lightly with salt and add the chilli powder and paprika. Cook over a low flame until the onion is soft. Add the chorizo and potato to the pan and cook for several minutes, stirring often. Taste for seasoning then put the ingredients in a bowl and cool to room temperature.
Divide the dough into 24 evenly-sized pieces and cover with a kitchen towel, to prevent them from drying out. Form each piece of dough into a ball. Take a sandwich-sized ziplock plastic bag and cut off the ziplock part, then slit open two sides, so it's attached on only one side. Flatten each ball of dough slightly, then put it in the plastic bag and press it to form a thin, flat disc that's about 10cm in diameter. Remove the bag. As you shape the wrappers, dust them very lightly with flour, then lay them slightly overlapping on a lightly floured work surface. Again, cover them with a kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Whisk the egg. Take a circle of dough and very lightly brush egg over half the circle, along the perimeter. Put a spoonful of the chorizo filling on the circle. Fold the circle in half to enclose the filling and press on the edges firmly, to seal it. Pinch the edges then crimp them. Lay each filled empanada on a parchment-lined baking tray, leaving a little room between each one.
After filling all the empanadas, brush them lightly with egg. Bake them at 200 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn the heat to 180 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through. Serve the empanadas warm. If you don't eat them all, refrigerate the leftovers and reheat them at 180 degrees for 10 minutes.
For more recipes, go to scmp.com/topics/recipes