When we were kids, the ‘butter’ in our refrigerator was Chiffon Margarine in an 8 ounce plastic tub. Two white tubs with yellow flowers in one pack. We spread this on toast and I baked with it, scooping half a tub out to make chocolate chip cookies. I didn’t discover real butter until my twenties—-around the same time I met my dear husband. It’s been an ongoing, passionate love affair ever since. And he’s not bad, either.
Sometimes I buy four pounds of butter at a time from Costco.
Which brings me, of course, to empanadas. I had never made empanadas before, but I LOVE pastry, and any excuse to make pastry with solid gold butter makes me happy. I’ve now made them three times, with three different fillings. Things I have learned about the making of empanadas:
1. Making empanada dough only deepens my enduring love for my Cuisinart Food processor. I use it to make all pastry; it cuts the ice cold butter into the flour in seconds and makes the whole process easy instead of a chore.
2. Use a tortilla press to make the rounds of dough, and press them fairly thin. The first two times I rolled out the dough with a rolling pin; it was time consuming and more than a little frustrating for this impatient cook. Then I found a gorgeous inexpensive aluminum Tortilla Press. I’d been looking, but disliked the heavy cast iron tortilla presses at the gourmet shops. My new tortilla press IS THE BOMB. It is SO MUCH FUN. Just put a piece of parchment paper (I just tore it into a square a little bigger than the face) on the lower surface, then put the ball of dough on top, flatten a little and put a second piece of parchment on top. Push down on the handle and you have a perfect round of dough with very little work. The whole tactile thing reminds me of putting a nickel in a gumball machine and turning the handle to get your little prize. Yes, I can free associate with the best of ’em.
3. Both the Beatles and Earth, Wind and Fire say that you Can’t Buy Love, but it isn’t true. These empanadas will make people love you.
Empanadas with Mushroom and Caramelized Onions
1.5 pounds button mushrooms (one Costco pack) washed and sliced
2 onions, peeled and sliced thin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sage
½ tsp thyme
2 tsp soy sauce
½ cup bread crumbs
2/3 cup shredded cheese—I use cheddar or jack but any mild cheese is fine
Heat a large frying pan with a little oil and add onions, cook on medium high till starting to brown. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring now and then, for about 30 minutes till caramelized (very soft, brown, sweet, and almost a creamy texture). Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large frying pan with a little oil add mushrooms and cook on high, stirring, allowing all the water to be released and evaporated. Continue to cook on medium high until the mushrooms are dry and they are nicely browned. This takes awhile but is worth the effort; the taste and texture are terrible if you stop before the nicely browned stage. Add spices and soy sauce and onions, continuing to cook until fragrant and fairly dry. Remove from heat and add bread crumbs. Let cool and mix in cheese. Taste it and adjust seasoning accordingly.
3 ½ cups flour
½ cup corn masa flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp salt
¾ cup (1.5 sticks) very cold butter, cut in small cubes about ½ inch.
½ cup ice water
Place flour, masa flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor and pulse a couple of times to mix. Add cold cubed butter and pulse about 15-20 short pulses till it looks like coarse wet sand, you can still see little fragments of butter. Add ice water and pulse again a few times to mix. Turn out onto floured board and gather together in a ball, adding more water if it does not stick together. Divide into 24 pieces. Roll each into a ball, and using a tortilla press, flatten into a disc.
[To use the tortilla press, Simply put a piece of parchment paper, cut to size, on the bottom. Place a ball of dough in the center. Place another piece of parchment on top. Push down on the tortilla press. Keep using the same parchment unless it gets sticky, then just cut another piece of paper.] I find this to be GREAT FUN.
Scoop filling into disc and crimp edges. Place on parchment lined baking sheet.
Brush all empanadas with beaten egg.
Bake at 425 degrees for 16-20 minutes or till golden brown.
Serve with bottled Sweet Thai Chili sauce.