mini beef and cheese empanadas

I tend to cook the same meals over and over again for The Family, which, as you can imagine, becomes predictable and mundane.  The latest foray into Land of the New Recipe was a big hit.  The empanada was both tasty and irresistible.

The substitution of butter, replacing the traditional shortening or lard, 
is what boosts the flavor of the crust.
Hellooo, Butter!

The mixture was on the dry and crumbly side,

a result of my lazily cut generously portioned cubes of butter and
light hand with the ice water.  Thankfully, the dough rolled out pretty easily.

My makeshift 2-inch dough cutter, an upside down vase.

While the dough rested in the refrigerator, I tended to the filling of

ground beef, monterey jack cheese, chopped onions, plus a few spices.

I always enjoy a recipe with which The Interloping Child can be put to use.
In this instance, that would include,


sealing, (that is my wrinkled finger, in case you're wondering)

and brushing (as in egg wash).

The flaky, buttery dough + perfectly spiced filling = MMM Good! 

Mini Beef and Cheese Empanadas
from The Best of America's Test Kitchen

3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen for 10 minutes
1 1/4 cups ice water

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, minced (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch ground cloves
pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 pound 85% lean ground beef
3/4 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper
2 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)

For the dough:
Process the flour, sugar, and salt together in a food processor until combined, about 6 seconds.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with butter bits no large than small peas, about 16 pulses.

Transfer the flour mixture to a large mixing bowl.  Working with 1/4 cup of water at a time, sprinkle the water over the flour mixture and stir it in using a rubber spatula, pressing the mixture against the side of the bowl to form a dough, until no small bits of four remain. (You may not need to use all of the water.)

Turn the dough onto a clean work surface and divide it into 2 equal pieces.  Press each dough half into a cohesive ball, then flatten the ball into a 6-inch disk.  Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate until firm but not hard, about 2 hours.

For the filling:
While the dough rests, heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just shimmering.  Add the onion and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, oregano, cumin, cloves, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the beef and cook, breaking up the clumps with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.

Stir in the broth, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the mixture is moist but not wet, about 8 minutes.  Off the heat, stir in the sugar and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until completely cool, about 1 hour.  Stir in the cheese and continue to chill until needed.

To assemble the empanadas:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (I used Silpat.  I think it would get a tad crispier with parchment.)  Remove 1 disk of dough from the refrigerator. (If refrigerated longer than 2 hours, let sit at room temperature until malleable.)  Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface into an 18-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick.  Using a 3-inch (or 2-inch, as I did, for teeny empanadas) round biscuit cutter, cut out 24 rounds and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet, discarding the dough scraps; wrap the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Repeat with the second disk of dough and the second prepared baking sheet.

Working with the first batch of dough rounds, fill each dough round with roughly 1 teaspoon of the chilled filling. Seal by moistening the edges with water, and folding the dough in half over the filling, making a half-moon shape.  Pinch the seam along the edge. Using a dinner fork, crimp the edge to secure. and shape the empanadas using roughly.  Arrange them on a fresh parchment-lined baking sheet.  Wrap the sheet tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate while making a second batch of empanadas using the remaining dough rounds and filling.

Adjust 2 oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 425 º F.  Unwrap the empanadas and brush with the beaten egg.  Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes, switching and rotating the trays halfway throught the baking time.  Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

n.b. If the dough becomes too warm, it can become sticky.  Simply return it to the refrigerator until firm.
The dough and filling may be prepared and stored separately, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated: the dough for up to 2 days, and the filling for 3 days.

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