Empanadas de jamón y queso

Empanadas are a very common appetizer and festival food in Argentina. They can be filled with almost anything, but the two fillings I see most often in the cookbooks are ground beef (often with raisins), or ham and cheese.  I decided to make some ham and cheese empanadas.

Empanadas de jamón y queso
Dough:
3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 c. vegetable shortening
1/2 c. warm water

Mix together the dry ingredients, add the butter and shortening to make a coarse meal. Add the water and mix to make a soft dough. This can be done in a food processor. Form the dough into a smooth ball, knead it a few times, and then cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into 16 equal pieces, roll into balls and roll out into flat circles about 5 inches in diameter.

Filling:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
1 c. day-old bread crumbs, soaked in 1/2 c. milk for 30 minutes
8 oz. chopped ham
8 oz. Muenster or other white cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 recipe empanada dough, above

In a small pan, fry the onion in olive oil until transparent, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Squeeze the bread crumbs and place in a bowl. Add the onion, ham, cheese, black pepper and egg and mix well.

Place 2 Tbsp. of the filling in the middle of a dough circle. Lightly moisten half of the circle’s edge with beaten egg. Fold the circle in half and press firmly to seal the edges. Crimp with a fork and pierce the top a few times with a fork to allow for steam to be released. Make up all 16 empanadas. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375, brush the empanadas with beaten egg and bake for about 25 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Note: Empanadas can be made in smaller sizes (empanaditas), and they can also be frozen to bake later, so they make a good party appetizer.

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