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I love eating puff pastry almost as much as I dislike making it. I mentioned this to a customer and she shared a recipe with me from an old book by Maida Heatter. I updated the technique to use a food processor to make it even simpler and easier, and created an equally simple empanada recipe using our Blue Grass blend. I’ve included a recipe also for dry chimichurri (which uses spices instead of fresh herbs).
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (270 grams)
3/4 pound salted butter (3 sticks), unwrapped and frozen
3/4 cup sour cream (must be the real full-fat kind to work)
1 pound lean ground beef (sirloin works great)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1-2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 cup low sodium chicken stock (or chicken broth mixed with 2 tsp unflavored gelatin)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp vinegar (I prefer red wine vinegar)
1/2-1 tsp salt (to your tastes)
1/2-1 tsp sugar (to your tastes)
Blend together all of the ingredients
Food processor: Set up the bowl with a shredding disk and shred the butter. Switch to a regular blade, add the flour, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the sour cream and pulse just until the dough comes together in a ball.
Or by hand: Coarsely grate the butter using a box grater. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the sour cream and mix until the dough comes together, then turn out onto a floured board and knead just until it comes together in a ball. Do not overwork.
Flatten the ball of dough, cut in half, and wrap each piece tightly with parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight. If storing for longer periods in the freezer, place a piece of dough in a ziploc bag and flatten so the dough fills the bag. This is a much easier shape to roll out once it is defrosted.
Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat, set meat aside in a bowl and stir in the Izak. Add the olive oil to the skillet and sauté onions until translucent. Add the cooked meat, soy sauce, Blue Grass, and chicken stock to the skillet and cook on medium low, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste. Remove to a sheet pan and allow to cool, you'll want the filling to be cool to the touch before using.
Preheat oven to 350°F (or 325°F if you have a convection oven).
Roll the dough out on a floured surface to 1/8" thick and cut out 6" squares. Excess dough can be combined into a ball and rolled out again, just keep it cool to keep the pastry flaky. Working with half the dough at a time will help keep it cool as well.
In the center of each square place about three tablespoons of filling, then fold over diagonally and fold over and crimp the edges with your fingers or a fork to seal.
Arrange the empanadas on parchment lined baking sheets and leave some room between them. Six fit well on a half sheet tray.
Optionally brush the pastry surface with beaten egg mixed with a dash of honey to get a darker and glossier finish.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the sheet pan once during cooking.
Serve with sour cream and either fresh chimichurri or my dry version above.
Puff pastry is best served fresh, and if you don't plan to bake them all at once the uncooked empanadas freeze well. Simply freeze on a tray (make sure they are not touching one another), then transfer to a freezer bag. Bake them straight from frozen but add a few minutes to the time.
* This can be scaled up or down as necessary. The ratio is 3/4 cup (90 grams) flour to one stick salted butter to 1/4 cup sour cream.
• Other filling ideas:
• From Florence Fabricant at the New York Times: pigs in a blanket
• Use the pastry to make palmiers Roll into a flat sheet 1/4" thick, coat both sides thoroughly with sugar and spices (try Apollonia or Reims, mark the center and fold both sides toward the center in thirds, meeting in the middle, then fold in half like a book, you should have a shape that looks sort of like a flattened heart from the side. Cut the roll into 3/4" thick slices, dip the cut sides in more of the spiced sugar, then bake at 400°F for 13-15 minutes or until sugar is caramelized. Flip and bake until uniformly deep brown (darker than you think they should be if you've never made them), another 4-5 minutes. Can also be made savory by changing the spices and adding cheese (on one side of the pastry only).
• Croutons. Roll out a sheet to 1/4" thick, brush with an egg wash and sprinkle with Vadouvan. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut into 1 inch squares, then transfer to a parchment lined sheet pan bake at 350° until browned and puffed to make light and airy curried croutons. Or try incorporating Luberon into the dough itself (mix in when you add the flour) for herbed croutons.
• Baked samosas. Peel, chop, and boil a few russet potatoes until tender. Heat some butter in a pan until lightly browned and toast some mustard seeds and cumin. Combine the butter and potatoes with cooked fresh peas, sautéed chopped onion, salt, pepper, and your favorite curry blend (Bombay is great). Roll pastry out to 1/8" and cut out 4" squares. Place a heaping tablespoon into the center of each and fold the sides up to make a pyramid. Crimp to seal and bake on a parchment lined sheet pan at 350° until browned and puffed.
Food images and recipe © Christian Leue
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