Gluten Free Empanadas

by Jenn on November 16, 2009

in Gluten Free,Snacks


A pie crust has so many wonderful uses besides making pie – though pie is always a great reason to make a pie crust, especially if it’s in the middle of summer and fresh peaches are to be had.  But seriously, pie crust dough is one of the most versatile doughs I make.  Ever since I was able to consistently make a GF pie crust that rivals any normal pie crust in taste, structure and texture, I have been looking for new ways of incorporating it into the foods I make.

For my husband, eating food with such a crust takes him back to times when he could experience such foods without worry or care as to their ingredients.  For someone who is gluten intolerant, it is an extremely liberating feeling to be able to just enjoy food and not have it be a substandard version of the food one remembers.  So in turn it makes me feel so happy when I can give him that, by creating something that actually really works.

“Why not just use a mix??” you might ask.  Well, as much as many GF mixes out there today work great for a variety of culinary applications and are often a lot easier to use, I rarely find a pre-made mix that comes out with exactly the perfect texture that I am looking for, and I am pretty sure that different GF baked goods are going to need differing flour:starch ratios depending on what one is making.  And of course the key criteria to GF baking (besides taste) is always the texture.  If the right texture isn’t there, it doesn’t matter how well something tastes, it just wont’ feel “the same.”

Questions I always ask myself when baking gluten free are: Does it hold together like the original glutenous version, or does it crumble before your eyes as soon as your fork even thinks about grabbing a bite (an unfortunately common problem of mine)?  And of course there are issues beyond just structural integrity (ha now, I am sounding like an engineer lol).  Even trying to mimic density can be a challenge – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled something out of the oven only to find that it never rose the way it should and so it looks like a large hard brick, or just the opposite and the entire thing is dried out and falls apart right before your eyes.

But despite all my failures, this is one GF thing I have consistently gotten right, and I’ve been using this recipe for pie crust for a few years now – Here you can see the first time I ever used it (ok, it was also the first time I had ever made a pie, EVER) – my dough handling skills (and photography skills) have improved a bit since then, ha that’s how you know it’s an old picture:


Enough talk of pie and pie crust – what’s a great use of GF pie crust that doesn’t involve pie or dessert or peaches?  Well empanadas of course!  I could seriously eat empanadas all day long – they are handheld bites of a flavorful cheesy filling enveloped by a delicious flakey crust.  My dad and I worked together to make these after he had seen them in our latest issue of Cuisine at Home.  LOVED this filling.  So glad my husband can handle eating corn ok.  Well, what isn’t to love when you have the excuse to cook something in bacon fat?  We were both very pleased to see that the dough was easy to handle and shape here – there were absolutely no issues of the dough breaking when folding it over the filling.  We baked some then and froze the rest (only to be baked just a few days later because none of us could just let them sit in storage and not be enjoyed, haha).  Both ways worked great, and were served as a side to some Mexican chili.

So I have officially conquered GF pie crust, check! Next challenge? Maybe some GF chocolate chip cookies that don’t spread out paper thin all over the baking sheet!  I wish there was a book out there about the chemistry of gluten free baking.  I still need to learn a lot!


Adapted from Cuisine at Home October 2009

For empanada filling
2 poblano peppers
2 strips bacon, diced
2 c. corn
1 1/2 c. cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 c. green onions, diced
For the empanada crust
your favorite pie dough, or:
1 c. tapioca flour
1 c. soy flour
1 c. brown rice flour
3 tbs. xanthan gum
12 oz. cream cheese, sliced
12 oz. butter, sliced

1. Heat oven to 400F. Roast poblanos until black all over (about 20 min), and then place in a sealed container for 15 min.  The steaming from sealing them up makes it easier to peel the skin off.  Remove skin, remove seeds and dice.
2. Cook bacon in a skillet and set aside (med. heat).  Reserve 1 tbs. of the bacon fat in the skillet, and saute the corn for a few minutes.
3. In a large bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients – peppers, bacon, corn, cheese, green onions, and chill for 2 hrs in the fridge.
4. Make the pie dough in three batches – Combine tapioca flour, soy flour, brown rice flour, xanthan gum, cream cheese and butter in a food processor and pulse until it all comes together into a ball of dough.  Wrap each ball of dough with plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
5.  Take the dough out of the fridge (one at a time), and lay on a sheet  of plastic wrap.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Now place the floured rolling pin on top and roll the dough – I do this with all of my GF dough that I need to roll out now – pizza crust, pie crust, you name it, underneath plastic wrap is totally the way to make sure it holds together – this pic happens to be a pizza dough, but it illustrates what I’m talking about –

6. Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut the dough into 3 1/2 – 4″ circles using a biscuit cutter, the rim of a drinking glass, whatever you happen to have.  Place circles of dough on sheets parchment paper, and place a spoonful of filling in the middle of each.  Then fold in half, pinch shut, and crimp the end with a fork.  You should now have a bunch of fill little crimped half-circle empanadas, ready to be baked.
7.  If you are making these ahead of time, this is where you freeze your empanadas.  Otherwise, brush with egg/water and sprinkle paprika on top (as you can see we were quite generous with the paprika).  Bake about 18 minutes, or until they become golden in color.  Serve and enjoy!