Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Empanadas

Every so often, I attend social events in Denver for media folks hosted by MediaBistro, a professional organization based out of NYC. It was at one of these events several months ago that I met Rebecca, a food and travel writer, and the blogger behind From Argentina With Love, a delightful blog about the food and culture of rural Argentina, where her husband is from. We've become fast friends, and over the last two months, she's offered Kelli and me wonderful insights into the world of blogging as we worked to get No Gluten, No Problem off the ground.

All the while, we thought it would be fun to try a simul-blog, overlapping the food interests of From Argentina With Love and NGNP. Well, here it is! And empanadas are the modus operandi. Rebecca's blog features an Empanada of the Month, a popular feature that always looks delicious. At their most basic, empanadas are a dough stuffed with different fillings. The dough is reminiscent of pastry dough, and is usually formed into a thin circle, which when folded over becomes a semi-circle. Fillings can range from savory to sweet.

When I asked Rebecca for a recommended empanada version to make, she suggested the Margherita Empanada, which is filled with mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and tomatoes. "That sounds awfully Italian!" I wrote back. It turns out that Argentina has a very strong Italian heritage, and so one shouldn't be surprised to see such influences in the food. I learn something new every day it seems.

Empanada dough can be store-bought, already pre-cut into convenient discs, but of course those aren't gluten-free. The trick for us was to create a gluten-free empanada dough. We modified an empanada dough recipe from Gourmet magazine, which looked unbelieveably similar to Kelli's grandmother's recipe for pie crust. Gluten-free pie crust or pastry dough has been our toughest challenge to date - it's difficult to create, and even harder to work with (it's very fragile). This time was no different, but we were very happy with the results, which tasted great.

We ended up deciding to make two versions of empanadas. We made the Margherita Empanadas, and we also made Cinnamon-Peach Empanadas. As per the instructions on the From Argentina With Love blog, we sealed the empanadas using the repulgue technique, which is a way of folding and crimping the empanadas to create a beautifully scalloped edge. Of course, with our first go around, our scalloped edge doesn't look nearly as elegant as Rebecca's. It also didn't help that you're supposed to brush the empanadas with an egg wash to give them a deep, golden color when they cook. We used our last eggs to make the gluten-free dough, and so had to improvise - olive oil on the savory empanadas, milk on the sweet empanadas. Neither gave us the desired result, and so our empanadas came out of the oven looking a little pale, like they could use some extra time in the sun.

The most important judge of any food is the taste, however. And by that measure, our empanadas were a success! We're confident that, with a little practice, our repulgue technique will improve, we'll remember to save an egg for the egg wash, and our empanadas will only get better. But if our starting point is any judge, we're on the right track. In the meantime, if you're looking for empanada inspiration, or simply looking to journey further through the cuisine and culture of Argentina, I hope you'll take the time to peruse From Argentina With Love. And who knows...if you create your own successful GF empanada, just maybe it'll earn a spot as an Empanada of the Month!
- Pete

8 comments:

Liz said...

This is great! I'm from Argentina and recently found out I'm gluten intolerant. I don't see the actual recipe on your blog. Will you be sharing the empanada dough recipe?
Thanks!
a fellow empanada lover

peterbronski said...

Hi Liz,

Yes! The empanada dough recipe will be posted to the blog soon. Keep an eye out for it within the next week!

Cheers, Pete

Lauren Denneson said...

Wow, those look fantastic! Thanks for the comment. It looks like your recipe for the dough is very similar to what I came up with too - very much like pie crust. I think the xanthan gum made it a little easier to work with, but I know many (including myself) who are somewhat wary of using too much xanthan or guar gum in their cooking.
Here's to trying out endless combinations of empanada fillings!

peterbronski said...

Glad you like them, Lauren! You're right - Kelli and I also commented on how closely our empanada dough resembled a pastry dough. Ah yes...endless opportunities for fillings indeed!

Cheers, Pete

Anonymous said...

I am also very curious to see the gluten free recipe. I have been gluten free for 5 yrs now and the thought of an empanada is fantastic. For desert you should try the New harvest naturals pound cakes, i just came across them last week, they are awesome!!mulca

peterbronski said...

Hi Anonymous... the recipe for empanadas (including the dough) is in our new cookbook, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, which came out this month. And thank you for the recommendation of New Harvest Naturals. I'll have to check them out!

Cheers, Pete

Anonymous said...

Great I love these!

www.glutenfreetravel-us.co

peterbronski said...

Enjoy!

Cheers, Pete