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Caramel Apple Pies

Extract from Empanadas • By Sandra Gutierrez • Published by Abrams


$ $ $ $ $
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Empanadas de Manzana y Dulce de Leche - Argentina, Uruguay, Chile

The combination of apples and caramel is a classic. These miniature pies blend a sweet and tart filling with a flaky crust. Dulce de leche is the gooey cow’s milk caramel of South America. Purchase the thickest dulce de leche you can find, canned or in jars. If you can’t find it at all, substitute it with Mexican cajeta, which is a goat’s milk caramel, or with any rich caramel sauce. Adding egg yolks to the dulce de leche creates a custard like texture that stays in place inside the empanadas while they bake. Eat them on their own or with a scoop of good-quality vanilla ice cream.

Makes 22 empanadas

Posted by Abrams Published See Abrams's 43 projects » © 2023 Sandra Gutierrez / Abrams · Reproduced with permission. · Empanadas by Sandra A. Gutierrez, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Photography © 2015 Tina Rupp
  • Step 1

    Make the filling:
    In a medium bowl, stir the apples together with the lemon juice in order to prevent them from turning brown. Melt the butter in a medium non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Drain the apples to remove any excess juice and add them to the pan. Cook, while stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they begin to soften but still retain their texture. Remove the apples promptly from the heat and spread them out on a large plate; let them cool completely and chill them for 30 minutes or overnight.

    In a medium bowl, stir together the dulce de leche and egg yolks until combined; cover and chill until you’re ready to use it.

  • Step 2

    Assemble the empanadas:
    After the filling chills, make the dough as directed and let it rest, covered with plastic, for at least 30 minutes or up to 48 hours in the refrigerator.

    Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. On a well-floured surface and with a well-floured rolling pin, roll out the pastry to about 1⁄8 inch (3 mm) thick (like for piecrust). Keep lightly dusting flour on your surface and rolling pin as you roll so that the pastry doesn’t tear or stick (see Notes). Using a 4-inch (10-cm) round cutter, make 22 rounds, rolling and cutting the scraps as needed.

    Working with one disc at a time, place 2 teaspoons of the apple filling on the bottom half of the round and top it with 2 teaspoons of the dulce de leche mixture. Brush the edges of the round with the egg wash and fold it in half over the filling to form a half-moon. Seal the edges of the empanada very well with your fingers and crimp them shut tight with the tines of a fork. It’s important to seal these empanadas very well, or you’ll have leakage. Use the tines of the fork to poke vents on top of each empanada (flour the fork, if it’s sticking). Transfer the empanada to a prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, until all the ingredients are used (discard any leftover dulce de leche mixture at the end). Chill the empanadas uncovered for 20 minutes (or up to 8 hours).

  • Step 3

    Bake the empanadas and serve:
    Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C). Brush the tops of the empanadas with the egg wash. Bake until they are golden, 20 to 22 minutes (rotate the pans in the oven halfway through baking, back to front and top to bottom, to ensure that all of the empanadas bake evenly). Transfer the empanadas to cooling racks. When they’re slightly cool, sift confectioners’ sugar over the tops. Serve them warm or at room temperature.

    This is sticky dough. For easier rolling, roll the pastry on a generously floured surface, flour the top of the pastry, and use a piece of plastic wrap (or parchment paper) directly over the top of the pastry so that the rolling pin doesn’t stick. If you need to re-roll the dough, brush excess flour off the scraps with a clean pastry brush, and gather up the scraps; wrap them in plastic and chill them for 10 minutes.

    To freeze the unbaked empanadas, do not brush the tops with egg wash. Place them in one layer on the prepared baking sheets and freeze until solid. Transfer them to freezer-safe containers and keep them frozen for up to 4 months. To reheat, brush the tops of the frozen empanadas with the egg wash. Bake them directly from the freezer, adding 2 to 3 more minutes to the baking time. After they’re cooked, dust them with sugar.

  • Step 4

    Flaky Dough
    Baked - Various Countries

    In Latin America, this dough is also known as masa hojaldrada. Technically, it’s only made with butter, but growing up in Guatemala, I learned that hot weather and cold butter don’t always play together nicely. Cream cheese, on the other hand, stands up to the heat, stays solid longer, and contains enough acidity to produce a tender pastry. As the cheese melts, it creates steam that results in deliciously flaky pastry. Empanadas made with this dough should be brushed with egg wash (for sheen) and should be refrigerated for at least 10 minutes (and up to overnight) before they’re baked so that they’ll keep their shape; these two steps will also prevent the dough from getting soggy. Ideally you’ll use a food processor to make this dough. If you don’t have one, use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter and cream cheese into the dough until it reaches the consistency of coarse sand; then mix by hand.

    Makes about 22 (4-inch/10-cm); 32 (31⁄2-inch/9-cm); 36 (31⁄4-inch/8-cm); 40 (3-inch/7.5-cm); or 48 (21⁄2-inch/6-cm) discs

    In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the flour, sugar, and salt; pulse for 20 seconds, or until combined. Add the cream cheese and butter and pulse until the mixture comes together and forms a ball, about 2 minutes (about 125 one-second pulses). Remove the pastry from the food processor, and divide it in half. Shape each half into a flat disc; wrap each disc in plastic wrap, and chill them for at least 30 minutes or up to 48 hours.

    The dough will keep in your refrigerator for up to 2 days—any longer and it will fall apart. You can freeze the dough up to 2 months and thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight, before proceeding with shaping the empanadas. You can also cut the dough into discs, stack them (with parchment paper in between), and freeze them for up to 2 months; thaw them in the refrigerator overnight before proceeding with filling and baking the empanadas. You can assemble the empanadas up to 8 hours before baking, or freeze them unbaked.

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