Sweet Spiced Pumpkin and Spiced Pork and Apple Empanaditas

I was  asked by Lea Day for a recipe for empanaditas, sweet or savory small, half-moon shaped pastries. Lea, a neurology assistant in Seattle, is a home cook always looking for new dishes to try, especially from different cultures. These empanaditasare one of my favorite party foods, as they can be made in advance, then refrigerated or frozen until baking time, or baked ahead and served at room temperature or reheated. Best of all these can be eaten out of hand. Although they can be stuffed with almost any type of filling, including ones with seafood, these recipes, one almost like a miniature pumpkin pie, and the other filled with a mixture of spicy pork and apples, are those I serve most often for the autumn and winter holidays.

Savory and Sweet Empanadas Dough

Makes 30 empanaditas, to serve 10 to 15

  • 6 ounces low-fat cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

If baking the empanaditas, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Mix the cream cheese and butter together until well blended. Add the flour and salt, and mix well. Gently knead the dough, then form into a ball. Wrap with plastic wrap and let the dough sit for 15 minutes in a cool place. The dough can be prepared in advance.

For the Empanaditas de Calabaza—Pumpkin Filling

  • 2 cups pureed canned or cooked fresh pumpkin or squash
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin spice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican bark
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons brandy (optional)

For the Empanaditas de Cerdo -Spiced Pork and Apple Filling

  • ¾ pound lean pork, ground
  • 1 tablespoon canola or safflower oil
  • ½ cup pine nuts or chopped pecans
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • 2 cups applesauce or cooked pumpkin
  • ¼ cup sherry or sweet wine
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Glaze

  • 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons granulated white sugar (pumpkin only)

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is less than ¼ inch thick. Divide the dough in half and roll again to at least 1/8 inch. Cut into 3-inch circles. Any remaining scraps of dough can be rerolled. Place about 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each piece of dough. Fold one side over the filling and seal tightly with your fingers. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork. Brush the tops with the egg wash and place the empanaditas on a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake the empanaditas for 12 minutes, then check to see if they are browning evenly. If not, rotate the pan and bake for another 4-5 minutes.

Note: After removing pumpkin empanaditas, sprinkle with the sugar.

To fry the empanaditas: omit the egg wash and heat ¾ inch of oil in a skillet until very hot but not smoking. Fry a few empanaditas at a time until they turn a crusty golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper.

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