"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight." --M.F.K. Fisher
World Bread Day is celebrated on 16th October every year across the world. And bread I have been having on my mind all of last week! Just seeing my bread machine on the dining table is temptation enough to hunt for a good bread recipe, when its baking bread for an event, it means breads swimming in my head! There is something about baking with yeast, the satisfaction and the aroma, seeing the dough magically rise and turn flour, yeast, salt, oil and water into something tasty. And of course versatility is the other name of bread. Learn your way around one simple bread recipe and you could give it so many incarnations!
While I was contemplating what bread to bake and procrastinating for what seemed like forever, Aparna suggested that we bake a shaped or decorated bread for the event and post on this very passionate foodie group on FB, Chef At Large. An attempt at baking what looked like a promising decorative bread failed when it toppled in the microwave (the folly of thinking an inverted 12'' round tin will balance on the turntable, a kick-myself moment if there was one definitely!) and I was again hunting for another bread at the last minute. Empanada Gallega, this month's Daring Bakers challenge, seemed to be a good one, decorative too...perfect!
Empanada Gallega - A stuffed bread or pastry of Spanish origin which is either baked or fried, it can also be seen in Western Europe, parts of South East Asia and Latin America. The word 'Empanar' in Portuguese and Spanish means to wrap or coat in bread. The filling can be sweet or savory, meat, fruit, vegetables and cheese. The origin of empanadas can be traced to Galicia and Portugal, where empanada is prepared as a large pie, later cut into wedges. An empanada prepared this way makes a great canvas if you have an artistic hand!
Here are my little empanadas, creamy potatoes, caramelized onion, garlic and herbs wrapped in a simple yeast dough and baked. A great idea for a filling snack with your tea, something that you could take on a picnic! Being the complete non-artist that I am, I made a feeble attempt at decorating my pastries, but had not thought I would actually enjoy it!
I have used a basic bread dough for the pastry. You could use any bread dough recipe you like and vary the filling according to your preference. Just make sure the filling is not wet or uncooked causing it to give out liquid during baking, making the pastry soggy. Make the stuffing well ahead even before you make the dough to make sure its completely cool when you use it.
For the filling, double it if you like, more is better than less!
Potatoes, boiled, peeled and roughly mashed - 1 cup
Onions, chopped - 1 cup ( to make 1/2 cup caramelized onions)
Garlic - 2-3 pods, grated
Chilli flakes - 1/2 teaspoon
Dried Thyme - 1/4 teaspoon
Dried Oregano - 1/2 teaspoon
Oil - 1 tablespoon
Fresh cream - 2 tablespoons
Salt to taste
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onions, cook on low heat till they are caramelized. Don't rush this process, if the onions are raw, they will leave out water when you bake. Add the grated garlic, saute for a minute. Add the chilli flakes, salt, mashed potatoes and the herbs. If the mixture is wet, dry it out a bit on low heat. Take off the heat. Add the cream and mix once the mixture is cool. You may not want to add too much cream as your filling may become wet. Cover and set the filing aside while you prepare the dough. You could also make this a day ahead and refrigerate if convenient.
For the Bread dough - To make about 8 -10 small (4'' round, 3 mm thick) empanadas or 4-5 (5'' round, 5 mm thick) big ones. I liked them bread-y and with more filling.
All Purpose Flour / maida - 195 grams / 1 1/2 cups
Salt - heaping 1/2 teaspoon
Sugar - 1 tablespoon
Chilli flakes - a pinch
Instant yeast - 1 1/4 teaspoon
Oil - 1 tablespoon / 15 ml
Garlic, grated - 2 medium pods
Milk - 1/4 cup / 60 ml
Lukewarm water - 1/4 cup / 60 ml
1/2 a beaten egg for sealing the empandas
Procedure : If using a bread machine for kneading - Dump everything in your bread machine pan, knead for 10 -12 minutes on dough cycle or till the dough is soft and smooth.
If making dough by hand, sieve together the flour and salt. Add the rest of the ingredients and knead to get a soft, smooth dough. (If using active dried yeast, you would need to proof it - first add the yeast and sugar to the lukewarm milk and water, wait for about 5-10 minutes till frothy and then proceed with adding the rest of the dough ingredients, knead). Transfer the dough to a greased container or dough rising bucket. Keep covered in a warm place till it doubles. Mine took about 40 minutes.
Lightly grease or line 2 baking trays with baking parchment. You will be placing the pastry on this.
When the dough doubles, gently punch it down. Lightly flour your work surface. Place the dough and divide into 2 portions. Keep one portion covered while you work with the other half of it. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough 5mm (half a cm) thick. Using a 4'' round cookie cutter or the sharp lid of a steel box, cut the dough into 4 inch circles. Place them on a floured surface. Save the scraps, you could re-roll and use again and use some for cut-outs to decorate. Paint the outer edges (about half a cm), with the beaten egg. Place about 2-3 tablespoons of the filling on one side of the circle. Close the circle and press to seal. Use a fork to press the edges or crimp to get a decorative finish. Place the pastries about 2'' apart on the greased baking tray. Cover with a greased aluminum foil and keep in a warm place for about 30 minutes, till quite puffy. Using small scissors, snip the top pastry layer in two places to allow any steam to escape. Half way through the resting time, pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F.
Bake the pastries for 25-30 minutes or till a nice golden brown. If you have rolled them thinner, about 3 mm, your baking time will be less (say 15-20 minutes). So watch closely for the first batch. Brush with melted butter when out of the oven if you desire a soft crust. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Please note : I used egg wash to paint the pastries for one batch, but its difficult to tell when they are done. Nope an instant read thermometer is not great here as the bread portion is not thick enough to plunge it in to check. The dough has enough milk and sugar to make the pastries look a nice color when done. Your pastries will still look good and you can also tell when its done so can easily skip the egg wash.
The empanadas go to the 7th edition of Zorra's annual event, World Bread Day 2012.