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I am a fan of empanadas. I remember my first one and I remember making them decades ago. I had, then, a lovely little paperback with a pastry recipe that was part cream cheese and part butter. I moved, lots of times, and the book was lost and I just stopped making empanadas. I wanted my pastry, that pastry.

Now, thanks to Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn I have my old friend back: a simple pastry recipe, made in the food processor, that even I — the ultimate pastry novice as my charming wife will happily tell you — cannot botch.

Thank God for food processors. They have revolutionized cooking in so many ways, but none more so than pastry making. This recipe for pastry takes just moments and gives you a delightful tender dough, a dough that can be rolled and folded with ease.

Once I discovered this recipe a few months ago, I did some research. Wish I had done it earlier because there have been cream-cheese-based recipes on my bookshelf all along. Flo Braker has an excellent one in Sweet Miniatures and many pie books include them, too. Of course, these various recipes vary significantly both in the proportions and techniques. In this recipe below, the ratio of butter to cream cheese is 2:1 but I have found examples of 4:3 and even 1:1. Flo has the flour and salt blended first, then the butter and then the cream cheese. Here, Lucinda has you begin with the cream cheese, butter, and cream, adding the flour only at the end.

Do these differences in technique and quantities matter? Yes, I’m sure the results do shift from one recipe to another. Lucinda’s is the one I have started with and I’m very, very happy with it. Inside those empanadas you see above is a beef filling that includes raisins, honey and onions. I will post the filling recipe tomorrow.

And I will try other cream-cheese pastries in the months to come. Plus other empanada fillings. I’m back in the empanada business. For a quick lunch, for an appetizer, or a snack while working outside, nothing can match the satisfaction of a great empanada. Other cultures share the same love for the small pie creatures: think of the pocket pies consumed by British miners, for example.

As for cream-cheese-based pastries, their texture is wonderful: soft, bountiful in flavor, and the perfect foil for the wide range of empanada fillings, from veggies to protein to fruits. Beyond empanadas, this pastry is widely used for rugalach and other pastries with a Jewish or European heritage.

Finally, for flavor additions, you can put herbs or seasonings in the dough. Or, Kraft has introduced new lines of cream cheese, for example, jalapeno. Substituting one of those flavors will give you dough with a distinctive tone of its own.


Cream Cheese Pastry

Yield: makes ~10 pocket pies, depending on how thinly you roll the dough

Ingredients:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt

Preparation:

Process the butter, cream cheese, and cream in a food processor, electric mixer, or by hand to thoroughly combine.

Add the flour and salt. Process just until combined and the dough holds together in a ball. Turn the dough out onto a well- floured surface. Divide into 2 pieces. Flatten into disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. If the dough is chilled overnight, take it out 15 minutes before rolling out.

Rub flour all over a rolling pin. Working with one dough disk at a time, place the disk on a clean, well-floured surface. Applying some pressure with the rolling pin, roll gently from the center of the dough to the top and bottom edges. Rotate the disk, and roll to the top and bottom edges again. Reflour the work surface and rolling pin, turn the dough over, and continue to roll the dough from the center out to the edges. Turn over and roll again, rotating the disk to ensure even rolling until the dough is about 12 inches

Source: Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/3.5 for1/30th second at ISO‑100