Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011
On my monthly trips to Lisbon, my friend, Paul Nitschmann, and I usually go out for a drink or two and order some empanadas. Actually empanadas trace their origins to Galicia and Portugal. They first appeared in the Iberian Peninsula before the Renaissance during the time of the Moorish invasions.
A cookbook published in the Catalan language in 1520, Libre del Coch by Ruperto de Nola, mentions empanadas filled with seafood among its recipes of Catalan, Italian, French and Arabian foods. In turn, it is believed that empanadas and the similar calzone are both derived from the Indian meat-filled pies, samosas.
In Portugal, an empanada is prepared similarly to a large pie with a larded crust which is then cut in pieces, making it a portable and hearty meal for working people. The fillings for Portuguese empanada usually includes tuna, sardines, cheese or chorizo (Portuguese sausage), but can instead contain Bacalhau (salted cod) or various cuts of pork. They are then fried and usually served at room temperature.
My dessert empanadas are very different. First of all, they are baked and not fried, and the dough is made with cream cheese instead of butter or lard. They are beautifully light with a rich, full-flavored, spiced chocolate ganache. Make them ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before baking. In you lived in the Northern California area, we used to serve them during the month of June at my Customs House Restaurants. I have never shared this recipe before.
Baked Chocolate Empanadas
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: Overnight
Assembly time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 15-20 minutes
Yield: 2-1/2 dozen
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons extra for rolling
1 cup Azteca Chocolate Ganache (see recipe below)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
The Day Before:
- Cream butter and cream cheese together until smoothly blended. Beat in the flour.
- Shape dough into a smooth ball, wrap in foil or cling wrap, and refrigerate overnight or up to a week.
At Baking Time:
- Remove dough from refrigerator 30 minutes before using. Start heating oven to 375ºF.
- Sprinkle a little flour on the rolling service. Roll chilled dough thin. Cut with 3 or 4 inch round cookie cutter. Place about 2 teaspoonfuls of chocolate ganache in center of each round, moisten edges with water.
- Fold round over and press edges together.
- Refrigerate for 15 minutes to set the dough before baking.
- Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 17 to 20 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and immediately roll in sugar mixed with cinnamon (traditional) OR in confectioners’ sugar if preferred.
Spiced Azteca Dark Chocolate Ganache
I chose Spiced Azteca Chocolate Ganache because the combination of flavors (cinnamon and chili) is a treasure commonly paired with chocolate in Aztec culture and is perfect for empanadas. This is definitely a recipe in which you’ll want to buy the best chocolate you can afford, as you can easily transform this ganache into truly gourmet truffles.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Cooling Time: 2 hours
Chilling Time: 3 to 4 hours
Yield: 2 pounds of ganache
11/4 cups heavy cream
4 cinnamon sticks, about 3 inches long
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
1 pound Choclatique Private Reserve Dark Chocolate (64%), chopped
1/2 pound Choclatique Snowy White Chocolate (33%), chopped
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- In a large, heavy saucepan, bring the cream, cinnamon sticks and chili powder to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisk until blended. Remove the pan from the heat. Remove the cinnamon sticks and discard.
- Immediately add the chocolate and vanilla to the pan and whisk until smooth. Set aside for about 2 hours to cool completely, whisking every 15 minutes or so to keep the ganache emulsified.
- When cool, transfer the ganache to a rigid plastic or glass container, cover, date, and refrigerate overnight before using.
Note: Ganache will keep refrigerated for up to three months.
ChefSecret: For additional depth of flavor, squeeze some fresh orange zest over the melted ganache and stir into the mixture to release the oils from the skin and complement the fruitiness of the dark chocolate.