Quest For The Perfect Empanada - Heidi's Book of Noms Blog at - 92473

Heidi's Book of Noms

Quest for the Perfect Empanada 
Apr. 28, 2009 9:15 pm 
Updated: Dec. 29, 2011 2:58 pm
I am on a quest. I want to find the perfect empanada. During my research I've found several varieties for empanada dough (that's all that matters, really, you can fill it with anything you want). This all started during the Easter holiday when I was rummaging around my mom's recipe box for my dad's "Delicious White Bread" recipe. I happened to find an old Empanada recipe printed with a typewriter on an old, old, index card.

The first empanada I ever had was a gift from my then-boyfriend, son of an amazing cook who was from Mexico originally and moved to south Texas for marriage. The bakery where I had my first empanada is in Robstown, TX across from the local HEB. It was filled with pumpkin. It was soft and floury.

I've since learned there are a few variations on empanada. The crust sometimes uses cornmeal, sometimes an egg, sometimes neither. The only kind I've found are "pastry" style empandas that are crimped over in a clamshell shape and usually fried. I'm looking for a bread empanada. A floury soft, dark tortilla type of roll.

For my first try, I made the version I found in the old recipe box. Not quite what I was looking for but it might make an excellent crust for pie!

4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup and 1 tbsp lard or shortening
3/4 cup beer
1/4 cup buttermilk

Pumpkin Filling
15 oz can pumpkin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dash of allspice or cloves
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup drained crushed pineapple or pineapple preserves

Topping (optional)
Melted butter
1/4 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/2 cp Sugar

  1. Combine pumpking filling ingredients in a bowl, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, and salt; cut in lard until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Stir in beer and buttermilk with a fork until just blended.
  4. Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.
  5. Using a 4 or 5 inch saucer to measure, cut out circles with a knife.
  6. Place a tbsp of pumpkin filling in center of each circle. Moisted edges of circle with water and seal with a fork.
  7. Place empanadas on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  8. Combine cinnamon and sugar; sprinkle over hot empanadas.
This crust makes a good flakey crust. I'm going to try it as a pie soon (after my cheesecake!).

The second attempt in my quest to find the perfect empanada was using a dough called "bannock." The recipe was given to me by a good friend, Fran. Bannock is some kind of Canadian or native American bread. I loved the pan fried version the best.

4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup lard, melted and cooled
2 to 3 cups cold water

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Melt lard and cool. Form a well in the dry ingredients. Pour in melted lard then add enough water that the dough holds together well, but not so much that the dough becomes sticky (if this happens add more flour). Mix with a fork until blended. Handle as little as possible.

Different methods for cooking bannock:

Pan Frying
Place in frying pan to cover the bottom. Cook until bottom is browned 4 to 5 minutes. Turn over and continue cooking until bannock is browned and until no dough sticks to a toothpick; or, if in the outdoors a sliver of wood poked into middle.

Stick cooking
Add less water so the dough is a little stiffer. Roll into a long strip and wind this around a preheated green hardwood stick and cook over a fire, turning occasionally, until the bannock is cooked.

Spread into a frying pan or square cake pan and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until bannock is lightly browned on bottom.

Deep Fat
Make a bit stiffer dough. Knead and work the dough on a floured board with floured hands until smooth. Pinch off fist-sized lumps and shape into a disk. Form a hollow in the center with your thumb and place into hot fat and cook like doughnuts in 350F oil (about 5 minutes). Remove when bannock has browned and risen to the top of the oil. Drain on absorbent paper.

I loved the pan fried version. I also added a few scoops of pumpkin filling leftover from the empanadas (because I made them too big and thick). That was good, but again, not an empanada. I think next time I'll just made bannock.

This experiment leaves me with two GREAT recipes, but neither reach the dough of the empanada I am familiar with.

The quest continues!
Pumpkin Empanada
Photo Detail
Pumpkin Empanada
Photo Detail
Pan-fried Pumpkin Bannock
Photo Detail
Apr. 29, 2009 4:51 am
I have never tried this type of mexican empanadas before, but I did have the cubans empanadas down in Miami and they are totally different than what you have described above, my favorite is the one with cream cheese and goiava (not sure if I spelt correctly), but is delicious.
Apr. 29, 2009 6:02 am
There are so many kinds of empanadas! I've found that Mexican food in Texas is way different than the rest of the country, or even Mexico.
Apr. 29, 2009 10:50 am
I have never tried an empanada. I am now on a quest to try one! =) thanks for the post.
Proud Texan 
Oct. 20, 2010 8:41 am
omg! me too, i am also looking for that same type of dough. Like the kind of empanada you get at the mexican bakeries in sa tx.
Dec. 29, 2011 2:58 pm
I have, too. I am from San Antonio but live in Hawaii now. I have been trying to get the recipe right for the real Texas empanadas. The Cakey ones, not the pie crust empanadas. I like i got it down. Making some right now!
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About Me
I enjoy trying new recipes and unusual ingredients. There are few foods I will turn down without a second thought - sweets is one of them, and fiery hot spicy food is the other. As I'm getting older that is changing, though. I love reading cook books and doing research about food. It fascinates to no end! I usually create a recipe from several different ones. On the non-cooking side of things, I'm a Christian, native Texan and faithful Longhorn with two cats and a great boyfriend! I love the outdoors and spending time with my family and friends. I'm also somewhat obsessed with the nuclear winter and extreme survival situations.
My favorite things to cook
In general I try to cook from scratch. Any kind of bread - rolls, loaves, boules, baguettes, buns, biscuits, quick breads - will catch my eye. Pastas, soups, and cookies. I am absolutely in love with cake batter. Once I had a party in middle school where we just made a bunch of cakes and ate the batter.
My favorite family cooking traditions
The Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey/waldorf salad/mashed potatoes with gravy by my mom, buttermilk biscuits on Sunday morning before church from my Dad, grilling hamburgers in the summer in the backyard, black eyed peas for new years dinner, decorating sugar cookies on Christmas Eve with my sister, coffee any time of the night.
My cooking triumphs
I can rival my dad in his biscuit making ability. I have the perfect dinner roll recipe - my very own. I taught myself how to make jam and jelly. I taught myself how to make bread!
My cooking tragedies
dense as a stone wheat bread, homemade condensed milk tastes weird key lime pie, onions and sugar have no place hanging out together in mashed sweet potato, there's nothing puffy about my lemon meringue, and the bottom of the fish tank poached salmon.
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