COOKING ADVENTURE #14: Apple Cinnamon Empanadas
Why is it that every time I attempt a recipe with fruit, the selected fruit always manages to turn me into a fool? Oranges, apples, and pineapples have been banes of my existence on a couple of different recipes so far. It was only time before two would double up against me; it had to be apples and one dastardly little lemon. From what I’ve gathered from making these, the empanada is essentially a glorified turnover. So why am I not calling these things turnovers? Well, empanada is so much more fun to say! If only it had been more fun to cook…
The directions have me start off by coring and cutting four apples. Let’s backtrack to my WWI Dessert epic where I attempted to core a couple of apples with a steak knife. If you read that article, you know what happened… I exercised my arm so much that I was sore from it the next day. But, I also had to keep those apples intact. This time, I was to cut them up into little cubes. So, I sliced the sections of apple away from the core with my santoku knife and chucked the blocks with the cores in them. So far so good, right? I checked the directions. Whoops. I was also supposed to skin the apples… preferably before cutting them. I snatched a peeler from the drawer, yanked my garbage out of the cabinet, hunkered over it and set to peeling the apple slices. As you can imagine, I had some escapee pieces, which flew out from my fingers, either across the kitchen floor or into the garbage. And, my cat was right there to try and eat them. This ridiculous step took me another five minutes to do on top of all the cutting I’d done before.
Once the apples were peeled, I set about slicing them up into tiny cubes. This was practically no problem at all. I dumped all of the pieces into a mixing bowl and turned back to the directions. I was to add lemon juice to the apple slices so that they wouldn’t turn brown. I pulled the lemon out of the fridge, cut it in half, and squeezed the dickens out of one half. No, I’m happy to report that I didn’t get myself in the eye. Then, I put a saucepan on the stove on medium and dumped the apple slices in to soften up along with a couple tablespoons of butter.
I was about to toss the lemon in the trash but decided that I’d better read the directions for the next step… just in case. Good thing I did. Into the spice mixture that I was about to start, there needed to be the zest from one lemon. I glanced at the mutilated half in my hand. Crap. And then, the horror dawned on me. The tool I’d have to use in order to achieve the zesting. My eyes were drawn Matilda, who stood atop the stove with her eternal smile plastered on her face just below those two evil eyes. I had no other choice.
I started off trying to grate the half of the lemon that I’d already squeezed the life out of. And stupidly, I tried using the smaller grating holes on one side of Matilda’s frock… (a weird sentence that I’m never going to be able to forget using). This managed to clog all of the holes to the point that no lemon actually fell into the bowl beneath. I resorted to the larger holes and finally started making some headway. Of course, it’s even more difficult when the fruit doesn’t have much of a shape anymore and in the process of rotating it from side to side, I cut myself. Or, shall I say, Matilda cut me with her demonic dress. I could almost hear her laughing, a high pitched cackle similar to the Wicked Witch of the West as I washed my new wound. Finally, I moved onto the other side of the lemon and grated it as much as I could. Then, I squeezed that side into the already cooking apples. I didn’t hesitate to huck Matilda into the sink and out of my line of sight.
Next, I added 1/4 cup of white sugar, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 tbsp. cornstarch, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg to the lemon zest. Of course, my brown sugar didn’t quite mix as it just sat among the other spices like boulders sitting in sand. Once the apples were soft enough, I added the spice mixture to them and stirred everything in. Instantly, my kitchen smelled like heaven. One of my favorite smells is apples and cinnamon, not the fake kind that you smell in candles or potpourri though. For a few moments, I felt blissful as I stirred the apples and spices together into a thick gooey substance much like apple pie filling. My blissfulness vanished however once I retrieved the dough from the fridge.
Readers, it could have been so much worse. I could have made the dough from scratch. But in the end because time was not on my side, I opted for Pillsbury dough boy. I picked up two cans of the roll out dough that comes in a can. I picked up the first and inspected it. You are supposed to be able to rip off the label on the outside and have the thing pop open like a doughy firecracker or something. I did this… and nothing happened. I’m pretty sure that I glared at the Pillsbury dough boy on the discarded wrapping, stared into his innocent blue eyes and cursed. Could it be? Why was I having so much trouble? I glanced closer at the can. In tiny print along the seam, the words “Press here with spoon to break seam” were inscribed, much like the little note Alice found with that bottle in Wonderland that said, “Drink me.” And like Alice, not assuming anything would go wrong, I did so.
POP! The thing burst open, the little metal rings on both ends flying off. The dough oozed out from the slowly widening crack. (Oh yeah, if anyone is going to have an incendiary Pillsbury Doughboy can, it will be me.) After I’d recovered from my shock, I ripped the rest of the can open and unfolded the dough across my canoe-sized cutting board. I should have floured it but… I didn’t want to touch the flour. As some of you may remember, flour is one of the things I can’t stand the feeling of. I needed to cut out several circles of dough. I retrieved a drinking glass from my cabinet and pressed it into the dough to make five circles of… varying circumferences. The dough didn’t want to cooperate with me, so I had to improvise by balling up the remainder, rolling it out with a rolling-pin and pressing out two more circles. These came out thicker than the others which I didn’t think would be an issue… until I went to fill them with the apples.
I placed a spoonful of mixture onto one side of each circle and then folded the other side up over the filling. I tried to mold the dough together so that the apples wouldn’t come out. Brown sugary juice dribbled from the corners despite my efforts. The last two, the thick ones, wouldn’t fold at all and when I finally forced them to, the filling spilled out onto the pan. After trying several times to close them, I gave up.
I glanced at the saucepot containing the apple mixture. There was still a ton of it left. I decided that I’d make a gigantic empanada (from here on out referred to as a gempanada). I cringed as I pulled the second Pillsbury can from the fridge and did the exact same thing as before, peeled the wrapper, and pressed a spoon to the seam. This one opened without all of the explosions one would find in a Michael Bay film, thankfully. I rolled out the dough on the cutting board and shoveled the remaining apple mixture into its center. Then, I folded the other side over and sealed this one with no trouble at all. I was happy, genuinely happy that everything was about to go in the oven. Then I remembered that I still had to transport the gempanada to my stoneware pan. With the use of several spatulas, I precariously hoisted the pastry up and into it. Then, both pans went in the oven for 25 minutes.
Both of them came out of the oven, the dough evenly browned and smelling amazing! They tasted even better with a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream! This is definitely a recipe that I’ll be returning to… but only when I’ve set aside enough time to make sure I get things right. And the next time I use those Pillsbury Dough cans, it will be with some protective headgear and a chest plate!
Next week on Cooking Adventures, I’ll be attempting a traditional Georgian recipe. That’s Georgia, the country in the Caucasus, not Georgia, the state. Shashlyk (more commonly known as Beef Shishkebob) will be next week! Stay tuned!
*I apologize once again for not getting this up last night. The migraine has faded to the background for the time being but has not completely vanished. Hopefully, I can get rid of it by tomorrow.