Inspired by the sweet empanadas of Mexico, bright pineapple and tropical coconut join forces in these handheld treats.
In 12-inch nonstick skillet, combine pineapple, brown sugar, lemon juice, and molasses. Use rubber spatula to stir until pineapple is coated with sugar. Bring to simmer over medium heat (small bubbles should occasionally break surface of mixture).
Meanwhile, in small bowl, use spoon to stir water and cornstarch until well combined. When pineapple mixture is ready, add cornstarch mixture to skillet (if cornstarch mixture has separated, stir to recombine before adding). Cook, stirring often, until pineapple mixture thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off heat and slide skillet to cool burner.
When ready to assemble empanadas, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. (If you’re making your own dough—click here for recipe—this is a good time to roll and cut the chilled dough!)
Sprinkle clean counter lightly with flour. Place 6 empanada dough rounds on lightly floured counter. Use 1-tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop heaping tablespoon filling into center of each dough round.
Shape, seal, and crimp empanadas following photos, below. Transfer shaped empanadas to parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough rounds and filling to make 6 more empanadas.
Sweet empanadas are enjoyed all across Latin America—they’re often filled with fruit, jam, sweet cheese, or a combination of those ingredients, sometimes with sugar and spices in the mix as well. Apple and dulce de leche is a popular filling in Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile. You’ll find empanadas filled with guava and cream cheese in Cuba and Brazil, and be on the lookout for sweet, ripe plantain-filled empanadas in El Salvador.
In Mexico, sweet empanadas are often enjoyed at Christmas time. Families bake sweet empanadas to share as gifts, or to enjoy for dessert on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), when many families celebrate with a big feast. Pineapple and pumpkin empanada fillings are especially popular during this time of year. Can you think of another filling you might want to put inside a sweet empanada?
In Mexico, cooks often make sweet baked goods, including empanadas, with piloncillo (“pee-lohn-CHEE-lo”) sugar. Piloncillo is made from the juice of sugarcane plants—the same plants used to make granulated sugar. The juice is boiled into a thick syrup and poured into cone-shaped molds, where it hardens. The name “piloncillo” means “little pylon,” which is a cone-shaped tower. Piloncillo tastes similar to brown sugar, but has a more intense caramel flavor. Piloncillo has to be chopped or broken apart before you can use it, which can be tricky (and a little dangerous), so this recipe uses dark brown sugar and a little bit of molasses for a flavor that’s similar to piloncillo. If you’d like to use piloncillo in this recipe, ask an adult to chop and weigh out 7 ounces to use instead of the dark brown sugar and molasses.