Twice as Tasty

Sourdough Empanadas

Versatile and easy-to-master sourdough pizza dough transforms with little effort into baked empanadas

By Julie Laing
Photo by Julie Laing

Depending on where you ate your first empanada, you likely have a distinct idea of the look and taste of these filled pastries. Although Spanish in name, every component varies from country to country. Some use yeast dough; others prefer corn flour. They may be baked or fried as hand pies or so large they must be sliced. Fillings may be spicy or sweet and vegetarian or stuffed with tuna or meat.

This version is among the least traditional but no less delicious. It uses one of my most versatile and easiest fermented doughs, Sourdough Pizza Dough. If you’ve requested sourdough starter through the Sharing fermented starters Facebook group and receive a dehydrated packet, pizza dough is one of the first recipes I recommend making after rehydrating the starter – and whenever it wants to be used and fed.

I divide pizza dough into three balls, one of which creates empanadas for up to four people. Consider the filling inspiration, not a strict recipe: aim for 2 cups of filling and up to 1-1/2 cups of grated cheese for one dough ball.

When I use an entire batch of dough, I create three fillings and then roll, crimp and pinch the edges differently to easily identify each type. The sourdough puffs slightly in the oven, leaving space around the filling, melting cheese against the crust and crisping the exterior even without frying.

Sourdough Empanadas

Makes 8 pastries

1 ball Sourdough Pizza Dough, refrigerated

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup corn kernels

1 teaspoon dried basil

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried or smoked chilies

1 cup cooked black beans, drained and mashed

1/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

Homemade salsa and sour cream for serving

Preheat both the oven and a baking stone or tray to 475°F. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat; sauté the onion for about two minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Stir in the corn, basil, cumin and chilies and cook for another five minutes, until the onions turn golden. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the beans, seasoning with salt as needed.

Once the oven is at temperature, divide the cold dough ball into eight pieces. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to shape each piece into a 4-inch circle. Sprinkle cheese on half of each circle, leaving a wide edge; top it with a spoonful of filling. Fold the bare dough over the filling, and roll and pinch the edges together until sealed. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white and water; brush it over each pastry.

Carefully slide the empanadas onto the hot baking stone or tray. Bake for about 12 minutes, until golden. Transfer the pastries to a cutting board to sit for a couple of minutes before serving with salsa and sour cream.

Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.