Thursday, December 4, 2008

Challenge Two, Round One - Pear and Cranberry Empanadas

These were the winner! I made a berry version of these empanadas last summer and was instructed by some friends to bring them to every gathering going forward. We discussed several variations to suit each holiday and cooking methods to improve the already delicious treat. I first fell in love with this fun little folded treat after trying one last winter at tiny empanada shop in the neighborhood, and then again in Buenos Aires when The Beanpole and I visited on our honeymoon. They're incredibly versatile and hold up to just about any filling one can imagine, sweet and savory. I read through several pie recipes prior to baking the filling and played around with the ingredients to taste, so while it's not the most exacting of recipes but is a great jumping-off point for anyone who dares to try their own! The tartness of the cranberries perfectly contrasted with the sweet pears and was the perfect finishing touch to a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner.

Pear and Cranberry Empanadas
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup chicken stock
1 egg

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder and mix well. Add shortening and break it up by hand until it resembles cornmeal. Add chicken stock and knead until all is incorporated. Let it rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes in cooler.

3 large ripe pears, diced
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
dash of nutmeg
dash of orange zest
squirt of lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place all ingredients into pie dish and stir to combine. Bake about 15 minutes or until pears are tender and cranberries are slightly mushy. They will also cook slightly when frying empanadas and when reheating if needed so be careful not to overcook. Let cool slightly.

When dough has cooled, turn out onto slightly floured surface and roll to 1/4" thick. Cut circles from dough with 4" pastry cutter. (I had a 3" cutter on hand and used that, then rolled dough to about 1/8" thick as I like a less doughy empanada but either will work.) Spoon filling onto middle of each circle. Brush sides lightly with egg wash, fold into half-moon, and press sides together with fingers or tines of a fork.

Heat a pan filled with oil (I used Smart Balance) to 350 degrees. Fry empanadas until golden brown turning occasionally , about 4-6 minutes, and remove. To reheat, cover with foil and warm in 350 degree oven about 5-10 minutes. Dust lightly with confectioner's sugar if desired.

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