Beef and Cheese Empanadas

Introduction:

Beef and cheese empanadas are a beloved staple in many Latin American cuisines, offering a perfect blend of savory beef, gooey cheese, and aromatic spices all wrapped up in a crispy pastry shell. Whether enjoyed as a snack, appetizer, or main course, these delectable hand pies are sure to satisfy your cravings. In this article, we’ll dive into the art of making beef and cheese empanadas from scratch, including tips for creating the perfect filling and achieving flaky pastry perfection. Get ready to embark on a culinary journey that will tantalize your taste buds!

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup cold water

For the filling:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (such as cheddar or mozzarella)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water), for brushing

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour and salt. Add the cold cubed butter and use a pastry cutter or your fingertips to work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  2. Gradually add the cold water, stirring with a fork until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic, and sauté until softened, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the ground beef to the skillet and cook until browned, breaking it apart with a spoon as it cooks.
  5. Stir in the ground cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Remove from heat and let the filling cool slightly.
  6. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Use a round cutter or a small bowl to cut out circles of dough.
  8. Place a spoonful of the beef filling onto one half of each dough circle, leaving a border around the edges. Top with shredded cheese and chopped fresh cilantro, if desired.
  9. Fold the other half of the dough over the filling to create a half-moon shape. Use a fork to crimp the edges and seal the empanadas.
  10. Place the filled empanadas onto the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with egg wash.
  11. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.
  12. Remove from the oven and let the empanadas cool slightly before serving.
  13. Prep Time: 45 minutes | Cooking Time: 20-25 minutes | Total Time: 65-70 minutes | Kcal: Approx. 200 kcal per serving | Servings: Makes about 12 empanadas

Serving Tips:

  1. Fresh Out of the Oven: Beef and cheese empanadas are best enjoyed fresh out of the oven when the pastry is crispy and the filling is piping hot. Serve them immediately for the ultimate flavor experience.
  2. Accompaniments: Serve your empanadas with a variety of dipping sauces such as salsa, chimichurri, or avocado crema to enhance their flavor. You can also pair them with a side salad or rice and beans for a more substantial meal.
  3. Garnish: Garnish your empanadas with a sprinkle of chopped fresh cilantro or a squeeze of lime juice to add brightness and freshness to each bite.
  4. Presentation: Arrange your empanadas on a decorative platter or serving tray for an eye-catching presentation. Consider adding colorful garnishes or decorative toothpicks to make them even more appealing.

Storage Tips:

  1. Refrigeration: If you have leftover empanadas, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. When ready to enjoy, reheat them in the oven at 350°F (175°C) for 10-15 minutes, or until warmed through.
  2. Freezing: Beef and cheese empanadas freeze well for long-term storage. Once cooled completely, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer the frozen empanadas to a freezer-safe bag or container, separating them with parchment paper to prevent sticking. They can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.
  3. Reheating from Frozen: To reheat frozen empanadas, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until heated through and the pastry is crispy.
  4. Individual Portions: For a quick and convenient snack, consider reheating individual empanadas in the microwave for 1-2 minutes on high, or until warmed through.

FAQs:

1. Can I make the pastry dough ahead of time and store it before assembling the empanadas?

  • Yes, you can prepare the pastry dough in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Alternatively, you can freeze the dough for longer storage. Just make sure to thaw it in the refrigerator before rolling it out.

2. Can I customize the filling of the empanadas with other ingredients besides beef and cheese?

  • Absolutely! Empanadas are versatile, and you can experiment with various fillings such as chicken, pork, vegetables, or even seafood. Feel free to get creative and tailor the filling to your preferences.

3. How do I prevent the empanadas from becoming soggy after baking?

  • To prevent soggy empanadas, it’s essential to thoroughly drain any excess liquid from the filling before assembling. Additionally, make sure to seal the edges of the pastry tightly to prevent leakage during baking.

4. Can I fry the empanadas instead of baking them?

  • Yes, traditionally, empanadas are fried to achieve a crispy exterior. If you prefer frying, heat oil in a deep skillet or fryer to 350°F (175°C) and fry the assembled empanadas until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.

5. Are beef and cheese empanadas suitable for vegetarians or those with dietary restrictions?

  • While beef and cheese empanadas contain meat and dairy, you can easily adapt the recipe to accommodate dietary restrictions. Consider using plant-based alternatives such as vegan ground beef and dairy-free cheese to create delicious vegetarian or vegan empanadas. Additionally, you can adjust the seasoning to suit your taste preferences.

Conclusion:

Beef and cheese empanadas are a flavorful and satisfying dish that brings the taste of Latin America right to your kitchen. With a deliciously spiced beef and cheese filling encased in flaky pastry, these hand pies are perfect for any occasion. Whether served as an appetizer, snack, or main course, these empanadas are sure to be a hit with family and friends. So, roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and get ready to savor the flavor of homemade beef and cheese empanadas!