From America's Test Kitchen Season 11: Tostadas and Empanadas
In Latin America, crisp pastry pockets stuffed with spiced beef make a savory, transportable lunch. We wanted to streamline the cooking process, but still create an empanada hearty enough to take center stage at dinner, with a moist, savory filling encased in a tender crust.
To streamline the filling, we first enhanced packaged ground chuck with a milk-and-bread mixture known as a panade. As the meat and panade cook, the starches in the panade’s bread absorb moisture from the milk and form a gel around the protein molecules, which lubricates the meat. But to intensify the meaty flavor, we replaced the milk with an equal amount of chicken broth. To round it out we added a hefty dose of aromatics. Finally, we threw in a handful of cilantro leaves and a splash of vinegar along with chopped hard-cooked eggs, raisins, and green olives.
For our crust, we made a few Latin-inspired changes to our Foolproof Double-Crust Pie Dough, a recipe that combines butter (for flavor) and shortening (for tenderness) with water and vodka for a dough that’s both workable and tender (tequila can also be substituted for the vodka). We traded some of the flour for masa harina, the ground, dehydrated cornmeal used to make Mexican tortillas and tamales. This provided nutty richness and rough-hewn texture. Finally, a quick brush of oil on the top of the empanadas gave us a shiny, crunchy crust, and preheating the baking sheet and drizzling it with oil ensured the underside of the crust got as crispy as the top.
Serves 4 to 6 as an entrée
The alcohol in the dough is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor—do not substitute for it or omit. Masa harina can be found in the international aisle with other Latin foods or in the baking aisle with the flour. If you cannot find masa harina, replace it with additional all-purpose flour (for a total of 4 cups). After step 5, the empanadas can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days.