Two for One: Easy Empanadas for Tapas or Desssert
by Victoria Challancin
As a part of a Spanish meal we prepared in class yesterday, I wanted to make some empanadas that could serve as either one of several tapas or a dessert. I came up with this oh-so-easy recipe using fruit paste, sharp cheese cut with cream cheese, and a very nice buttery puff pastry made by a local bakery. What could be simpler? We nibbled on them with a nice wine brought by some good friends as a tapa, then continued to nibble on them for dessert. Two-for-one. A cook's dream.
Originally, I had intended to use quince paste (ate de membrillo in Spanish) in keeping with the Spanish theme, but once I spied this guava paste (see photo below) with agave nectar, the deal was sealed. Guava it was. And for those of you that will email me locally about the puff pastry, I buy Melissa's great product from Buena Vida Bakery, made with good butter, sold frozen at Luna de Queso or fresh by arrangement from the bakery itself I chose a dry cotija, a strong, grainy, hard Mexican cheese (see my article on Understanding Mexican Cheeses here) to contrast with the sweetness of the guava paste. And instead of glazing with an egg wash as I usually do, I decided to take my friend, Jorgi Crew's advice and brush the empanadas with simple syrup, which gave it a perfect finish.
This is such an easy and flexible recipe. Play with it and come up with your own combinations. For those of you who don't have access to ate or fruit paste, a marmelade or jam would also work, as would a reduced purée of fruit. A few ideas that come to mind: Pear Marmelade with Blue Cheese (yes, we know how I love this combination), Raspberry Chutney with Goat Cheese (with a touch of chipotle, as in this recipe I made here), Italian Mostarda with Gorgonzola, any good chutney with cheddar or manchego, Fig Preserves with Brie and Walnuts. As always, use your imagination, remembering that a strong cheese will pair in a beautiful way with any fruit flavoring and will double as a nibble with wine or to finish off a meal. Two for one. Who can argue with that?
Guava (or Quince) and Cheese Empanadas
(Recipe by Victoria Challancin)
1 cup cream cheese, softened (8 oz or 227g)
½ cup cotija, manchego, goat cheese or other cheese of choice, grated or crumbled
1 cup quince or guava paste, (sold as ate de membrillo or ate de guayaba)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 egg, beaten
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
Simple Syrup Glaze (see the recipe)
Mix the cheeses together with the quince paste and lime juice. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a rectangle 16 x 11 inches and 1/8-inch thick. With a knife or pizza wheel, cut circles or squares of desired size. Spread the cheese mixture over half of each dough piece, leaving ½ inch borders. Brush the edges with beaten egg, fold the dough over to enclose the filling, and seal with fingers or the edges of a fork. Cover with a damp towel and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes before baking.
Preheat oven to 350F/165C.
Place the empanadas on a baking sheet and brush the top with the simple syrup. Cut three small slits on top of each. Bake 30 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve warm as dessert or as an appetizer with a glass of sherry or wine.
Simple Syrup Glaze
You can use any amounts with the ratio of twice as much sugar to water.
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
Combine sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and bring to the boiling point. Cool before brushing on empanadas. You can also use an egg wash sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar to finish these empanadas.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like the following recipes for "folded" or stuffed appetizers:
- Miniature Filipino Springrolls (Lumpia)
- Potstickers: Chinese Pan-fried Dumplings
- Heart-Shaped Goat Cheese Ravioli with Lemon-Arugula Sauce
- Butternut Squash, Sage, and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Hazelnut Brown-Butter Sauce
- Pigs in a Blanket with Curried Ketchup and Avocado Mayonnaise
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