Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Paper or plastic, canned or bottled....

Photo: Moises Luque; http://www.allrecieps.com/
(Empanadas fritas de Queso)

Choices. So many choices. I'm not talking about the big life-changing forks in the road (i.e. will you go to college, move to another town, marry). It's the countless little every-day decisions.

Believe it or not, I do consider, every day, what I eat. I strive to eat healthy but as you can tell, I don't always listen to my conscience.

There's a dear friend at church, Charlie, who last week was singing the praises of the apple empanadas from the local Mexican fast-food chain. His passion was almost rapturous. I'm sure those empanadas are amazing, but I also know that they are deep fried.

We don't deep fry anything in our house. I just can't bring myself to submerge food into a vat of oil. So I created the Carb Diva non-fried version of Charlie's favorite dessert.

Apple Empanadas

For the filling:
2 large Granny Smith apples
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Peel, core, quarter, and thinly slice the apples. Place in a saucepan over medium heat with the sugar and spices. Cook, stirring constantly until sugar melts and apples begin to give off their juices. Turn heat to simmer and continue to cook until apples are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir together the lemon juice, water, and cornstarch. While stirring constantly, pour in the cornstarch slurry. Increase the heat slightly and continue to cook and stir until sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

For the pastry:
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup solid vegetable shortening (I used butter-flavored Crisco)
about 3 tablespoons water

Combine flour, salt, and shortening in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture forms coarse crumbs about the size of small peas. At this point some will tell you to add the water to the food processor bowl. I prefer to have more control over how the dough "feels". So, I would recommend that you remove the flour/shortening mixture to a medium-size bowl. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and toss with a fork until mixture begins to form a ball. Work gently so that the gluten in the flour doesn't break down. Once the gluten breaks, your dough will become a sticky mass. (Great for yeast bread but not for pastry).

(By the way, the reason the amount of water cannot be specific is because humidity greatly affects how much water your flour will accept).

Form the empanadas:
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Beat egg and water together in a small bowl and set aside. This is an "egg wash" for the formed pastry.

Place your dough on a well-floured surface. I prefer to use waxed paper or parchment baking sheets--sandwiching the dough between two sheets of paper.

Roll your pastry to 1/8-inch thickness.

Now, here's the Carb Diva trick. Gently pull the top paper from the pastry and then gently place it back on top of your dough. This loosens the paper from the top of the dough surface. Now, flip the entire paper-dough sandwich over. The paper that was on the bottom is now on top. Gently peel this paper off.

Now you can cut your dough into 3 1/2-inch to 4-inch circles, and remove to a well-floured surface. By gathering scraps and rerolling, you should be able to get about 10-12 circles of dough.

At this point I should probably say that working with this dough is not for the faint-of-heart. This dough is very "short" (i.e. a high proportion of fat to flour ratio) and so it is very tender and tears easily. Don't panic. We can do this!

Place a large spoonful of the apple mixture in the center or each dough circle. Fold the dough over the filling so that the edges meet and, using the tines of a fork, press the edges together.

Arrange the filled empanadas on the prepared baking sheets. Don't worry if they break apart a bit. Lightly brush the tops of the empanadas with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-17 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the empanadas from the oven and let sit at least 5 minutes before removing from the baking pan to serve.

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