One of the reasons for writing this blog was to somehow “pay back” for all the valuable information I’ve learnt (and learn day after day) from so many fantastic food bloggers out there, by sharing recipes that work (for me) in as a reliable way as possible.
This simple and traditional spanish dish is an example of the many little details I’ve learnt from others that put together after various testings made me reach my “ideal” recipe. It’s not only the measures of the ingredients, but rather the little tricks & techniques that make it rise from good to outstanding. Also, it is knowing those basic guidelines what gives you the freedom to play around a recipe to adapt it to your preference in textures, flavour or availability of ingredients still getting it right.
I learnt to make “empanada” dough at school, but there was too much information lost in translation…maybe the teachers didn’t even know, or they weren’t motivated to teach us all those details. I knew it wasn’t my “ideal” but I didn’t have any reliable source on how to make the real deal. Internet has changed that, it has made all the information readily available (with a lot of junk to fill the spaces too, though) when before I could only rely on other chefs I knew or on the books that I kept adding to my library. So as I began to question recipes and read those from fellow bloggers and most importantly tried them to test the outcome I began to modify the bland basic dough recipe I had once been taught, the dry or tomato loaded filling to finally get to the level of the best “empanadas” my memory had held on to.
So, I’d like to take this chance to thank all those people that have and continue to share so much through their recipes, many passed on from generation to generation and now available to us. In this particular recipe I’d like to mention and thank Pilar from “La Cocina de Lechuza” and Carmen from “Madrid Tiene Miga”, both from Galicia, who have shared their family’s recipes and been so kind to put up with all my doubts and questions over time!This simple yet satisfying recipe is a result of their advice.
“Empanada gallega” filled with tuna
(enough for 1 large oven tray or a 40cm in diameter “paella”)
For the dough:
aprox. 250g tepid water
aprox. 60g paprika olive oil** or oil/juices from the filling sofrito
5g instant dry baker’s yeast or 15g fresh yeast
optional: substitute some of the water with an egg to enrich the dough
For the filling:
aprox. 25g of olive oil***
around 500g of peeled onions (3-4)
1/2 of an italian green pepper (50g)
1/3 of a red pepper (50g)
1 small tomato (aprox. 150g)
pinch of “pimentón dulce” (I used a smoky hot one from León!:))
300g of canned tuna, strained
*I used to make “empanada dough” with all-purpose flour, but since Carmen suggested I try the difference with strong bread flour, I always substitute some (in this case 150g) of the AP flour for strong flour (depending on it’s protein content)for a better texture and a more sturdy dough.
**If you use the oil from the “sofrito” to enrich & flavour the dough (recommended) remember to add that much oil to strain and cool beforehand. If not prepare as follows a “paprika” infused oil to add some flavour and colour. If you forget to prepare either, you can simply use olive oil, though it won’t be as tasty!
***As mentioned on the above note, if you plan on using the “sofrito” oil to enrich the dough, increase the amount of oil to about 85-90g.
If you can get organised and prepare the filling ahead to strain excess oil & juices to use in the dough recipe, then obviously begin with the filling. Remember, as noted, to add extra olive oil to then have enough to strain, but not completely to keep the filling lightly lubricated and juicy.
Otherwise, as I did for this post (I know I know, I ought to have planned ahead to preach with the example) you can prepare a “pimentón” oil as Pilar suggests on her blog to make up for it :)
To make the paprika oil, simply warm up lightly some olive oil, do not heat too much or the paprika will burn and turn bitter, and add a pinch of paprika. I suggest you make slightly more than needed, as you’ll lose some as the oil is decanted from the sedimented paprika and it’s also nice to use it to brush onto the empanada before and/or after baking to give it more flavour and colour. I prepared around 150g of oil and added about a teaspoon of paprika, but adjust to your liking. I prefer keeping it light in flavour and colour.
Leave to cool and once the paprika sediments, decant onto another bowl or flask.
If you decided to prepare the paprika oil, then go ahead and prepare the dough. Place the flours in a bowl, add the salt, the instant dried yeast (not right over the salt) and then add the water (the temperature together with the amount of yeast will determine the fermentation rate, so if you want a quicker fermentation you can warm it a little, though I still would suggest to avoid warming over 26ºC),the room temperature egg if you are using it) and the cooled strained oil and mix until all the flour gets wet. Rest for about 10 minutes to allow for the flour to hydrate and absorb excess moisture and begin to knead the dough until you get a smooth and soft dough. If you find it’s too dry, add some more water, if it completely sticks to you (this depends on the flour you are using) add flour by flour little by little.
Shape into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl,well covered, to ferment (if it is cold in your kitchen, try placing it in a warmish place, like inside the oven (turned off) and placing a bowl of hot water in the bottom. It will take around 1,5-2 hours depending on the temperature.
Try to avoid overfermentation, which will affect the gluten, thus the texture of the dough. You are aiming to almost double in size, about 80% increase in volume, though in this particular case, unlike bread, if you fall short it’s ok, as the yeast is mainly used to avoid getting a raw dough. To know how it’s going, lightly poke it with a finger, if the indentation stays there, you’ve gone too far, ideally when pressed, the dough should somewhat come back slowly halfway to it’s original position.
While the dough is fermenting prepare the filling. The tuna one is probably the simplest filling, though as I’ve mentioned in the introduction, it seems difficult to find right, as often, there is not enough onion “sofrito” which is what gives it it’s mellow juiciness, rather than a bulk of dry tuna or you may find some with a generous amount of tomato sauce added to make up for that lack of onion.
So, whichever filling you choose to do, be it octopus, bacalao (salted cod), mussels, chicken, etc. be generous with the onions!
Chop them up in brunoise, as the red and green peppers and slowly cook with the oil. If it begins browning, lower the heat, you want them to get translucent and slightly softer. No need to have them completely done as they’ll continue to cook in the oven inside the dough, but don’t leave the “al dente” either
When they are softer, add a pinch of paprika to taste and then the tomato (cut in half horizontally and use a coarse grater to grate both halves). Cook until the tomato pulp is reduced/evaporated, season with salt and pepper to taste and leave to cool.
Then, add the tuna and mix in.
When the dough is ready, divide in two halves, one slightly bigger than the other as the bottom is always a bit thicker to suck up the juices and avoid breaking.
Dust the working surface lightly with flour and stretch the dough to the shape you want. That is, to either cover the oven tray or the “paella”. It should be about 4mm thick or so. Place on a parchment paper or an oiled tray/paella and trim off excess.
Add the cool filling and stretch the top half to 2-3mm and cover.Fold the sides to close the empanada and make a small hole in the center to allow steam to escape so it doesn’t rise.
You may decorate it with the left over dough, but I like to keep it plain and simple.
Before going into the oven, you can either brush it with egg wash (beaten egg) for a shiny finish or with some of paprika oil or olive oil, which I prefer.
Bake in a preheated oven 180ºC convection or slightly higher (200ºC) if not fan-assisted for about 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.
Check the bottom to make sure it is cooked through. If the top is golden but the bottom needs a bit more cooking, cover with some aluminum paper and leave a bit longer. This time I tried a trick Pilar’s (Lechuza’s) mother in law uses for her empanadas, typical from Noia, which is to turn the empanada over, like a spanish tortilla, so the juices from the filling soak the top too and you get an even cooking on both sides…I loved it!!
Another great idea I learnt from here, is to use scallop shells as moulds for individual empanadas! It is fantastic! Just oil the shell, roll the dough fairly thin and be generous with the filling, cover with the top dough and press down to trim off the excess with the scallop shell itself.
Bake similarly until golden brown and unmold for a perfect individual empanada!
Here it is!