Once you've got the knack of making the dough and assembling these savoury Brazilian pastries, it's easy to adapt the filling to suit and even experiment with different shapes and sizes. The filling in this recipe calls for palm hearts but you could easily use marinated artichoke hearts instead. Empanadas are perfect for picnics since they're just as good at room temperature as they are straight from the oven. You can also freeze them after assembling, making them perfect for last minute snacks.
- 675 g (4½ cups) plain flour
- 4 egg yolks
- 60 ml (¼ cup) cachaça (see Note) or white rum
- 300 g butter, cut into 1 cm cubes, at room temperature
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Hearts of palm filling
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) milk
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded, finely chopped
- 400 g hearts of palm (palmitos) (see Note), drained, chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 leek, white part only, finely chopped
- ½ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 100 g black olives, pitted, chopped
- 100 g green olives, pitted, chopped
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To make the filling, dissolve cornflour in milk and set aside. Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add tomatoes, hearts of palm, onion, and leek, and cook for 5 minutes or until onion is softened. Add cornflour mixture and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and olives. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
To make dough, place flour and 1 tsp salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Whisk 2 egg yolks and cachaça in a bowl, then pour into the well with 125 ml water. Stir until mixture starts to form a very crumbly, dry dough. Rub in butter, then knead in the bowl until mixture forms a firm dough. Shape into 2 discs, wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180°C and grease 2 oven trays. Whisk remaining 2 egg yolks and 1 tbsp oil in a small bowl and set aside. Working with one pastry disc at a time, roll out pastry on a lightly floured work surface until 6 mm thick. Using a 9 cm round cutter, cut out 10 rounds, using pastry scraps if necessary. Repeat with remaining pastry disc.
Place a heaped tablespoonful of filling in the centre of one pastry round, brush edge with egg wash and fold pastry in half to enclose filling. Using the prongs of a fork, press pastry edges together to seal, then place on prepared oven trays. Repeat with remaining filling and pastry.
Brush empanadas with egg wash and bake for 12 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Serve warm.
• Cachaça, available from selected bottle shops, is a distilled Brazilian liquor made from fermented sugarcane juice, with a rum-like flavour.
• Hearts of palm are available in jars and cans from selected delis and Asian food shops.
As seen in Feast Magazine, Issue 12, pg134.
Photography by John Laurie.