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Empanadas de Cambray

I think it's happened to all of us: you bite into something expecting sweet, and instead you get a mouthful of saltiness. Or vice versa: you want salty and instead you get an unexpected, unwelcome sugar rush.



The first time I had an empanada de cambray that's exactly what happened to me. I'm not sure why I didn't ask what was inside before I bought it. Maybe there were a lot of people in line behind me at the bakery, or maybe I was worried I'd get "it's an empanada de cambray" as a self-contained (and to me, at that time, completely meaningless) explanation and just didn't feel like dealing with it. At any rate, instead of salty cheesiness, I was surprised with oozing guava and queso cuajada, a fresh cheese that isn't normally used in breads. Very pleasantly surprised-- and doubly surprised at how much I enjoyed the combination. Guava paste isn't normally my favorite in baked goods-- I often find it cloying and just...not what I want to be eating (chicharrones are the one exception, and it's not a coincidence that the pastry there is unsweetened). Combined with cheese though-- and it turns out it's really double cheese as the dough also carries a hefty dose-- you get an addictive sweet-salty pocket, right at home with an afternoon coffee or with a cafe con leche for breakfast.



The empanadas immediately went into my treasured merienda (afternoon snack) rotation, and anytime I'm in Cali I always look out for them at bakeries. I say anytime in Cali because as far as I understand it, empanadas de cambray are a specifically valluño treat, and even in Cali they can be hard to come by. Obviously I was going to have to figure out how to make them at home.

I had guessed that the dough for empanadas de cambray was similar to pandebono dough, but the first couple of times I tried to make them the empanadas wouldn't stay together. When I asked our neighborhood baker in Cali, he confirmed that it was, in fact, the same dough, but that the secret was using a little bit of all-purpose flour to roll the empanadas out. I suspect that he wouldn't have been so forthcoming with his baking secrets had I not been foreign, but he seemed to get a kick out of the idea that I wanted to make them at home. I highly recommend you do the same-- just make sure you warn people about their contents first. On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of secrets or surprises (I have never been the, oh just surprise me! sort), so I leave that decision up to you (but plead for mercy on behalf of your friends and family!)

Empanadas de Cambray

adapted from the neighborhood baker guy in Cali

  • 4 oz. yuca flour (sometimes found as tapioca starch-- look for Thai brands in the U.S.)
  • 4 oz. queso costeño, finely grated, or feta*, well drained and crumbled (in Brazil I've had success with queijo minas semi-curado and queijo coalho; you want a dry, very salty cheese)
  • 3 Tbsp. (1.5 oz.) butter
  • 1.5 oz. areparina (look for it in Latin grocery stores; not the same as cornmeal)
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar or panela
  • 1/2 c. (4 oz.) milk

all-purpose flour for sprinkling

For the filling:

  • 2.5 oz. (70 g.) guava paste, cut into 10 equal pieces
  • 2.5 oz. (70 g.) fresh cheese (feta, queso cuajada), cut into 10 equal pieces

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. In a food processor pulse the yuca flour and queso costeño together until completely incorporated, then add the butter, areparina and sugar and pulse again to combine well. Add in the milk and pulse until you have a homogenous mass. (You can also do this by rubbing all the dry ingredients together with your fingers, then mix in the milk and knead until the mixture is homogenous.)

Separate the dough into 10 balls of 1.5 oz. Sprinkle the counter lightly with flour and use your palm to lightly flatten out the dough, then turn it over so the other side gets dusted with flour as well. Cut open a clean plastic bag so that it lies flat, the fold it in half and stick you flattened ball in between the folded bag. Use a rolling pin (or a wine bottle) to roll out a circle about 6 in. in diameter. Place a piece of guava paste and a piece of cheese in the center of the circle, then use the bag to help you fold over the dough.



Now, this is a trick I learned from Felipe's mother making savory empanadas-- take a small, rounded bowl (or in my case, a strainer), and use it to mold the empanada within the bag. With the bag folded over, place the bowl (strainer) on top of the empanada and drag it inwards towards the folded side, while at the same time firmly holding down the folded over bag with your other hand.



Place the empanadas on a sheet pan and bake on the upper rack of the oven until slightly puffed and golden; watch out that the bottoms don´t burn. Eat warm. Makes 10.

*If you use feta-- and I haven't ever, so it's just my best guess, I would think that you would want to up the cheese to 5 oz. and only using 3 oz. of milk to adjust for the added moisture in the feta. You may also need to add salt-- if these taste boring, that is most likely what they are missing.

Empanadas de Campbray

  • 115 g. (4 oz.) de almidon de yuca (en Cali compralo en La Galeria, es mucho más barato allí; a veces se llama almidon de yuca agrio)
  • 115 g. (4 oz.) de queso costeño, rallado (en Brasil uso queijo minhas semi-curado o quiejo coalho y funciona bastante bien, aunque hay que echarle una pizca de sal a la masa para compensar)
  • 45 g. (1.5 oz.) de mantequilla sin sal
  • 45 g. (1.5 oz.) de areparina
  • 1 cucharada de azúcar o panela rallada
  • 1/2 taza (4 oz.) de leche (yo uso entera)

Harina de trigo para salpicar

Para el relleno:

  • 70 g. de dulce de guayaba, cortado en 10 tajadas iguales
  • 70 g. de queso cuajada, cortado en 10 tajadas iguales

Precalienta el horno a 230ºC. En una procesadora o con las manos mezcla el almidon de yuca con el queso hasta que estén totalmente integrados (en la procesadora logras ésta textura a través de entre 5-10 pulsadas), después agrega la mantequilla, areparina y azúcar para incorporarlas completamente también. Agrega la leche y mezcla hasta que tengas una masa uniforme.

Arma 10 bolitas de ~40 g. cada una. Salpica una superficie con harina de trigo y con la mano aplasta cada bolita para hacer un disco grueso, volteandolo para que el otro lado también este salpicado con harina de trigo. Coloca el disco entre una bolsa de plástico limpia y usa un palo de rodilla para estirar el disco a un circulo de 13 cm. Coloca una tajada de dulce de guayaba y una tajada de queso cuajada en el centro y utiliza la bolsa para doblar la masa, formando una empanadita. Con la bolsa todavía doblada, utiliza un bol pequeño (o un colador pequeño como use yo) para ayudarte formar la empanada todavía en la bolsa.

Colocales en una bandeja y horneales hasta que hayan subido un toque y estén dorados. Fijate que no se quemen por debajo.

Comelos calienticos.

Rinde 10.

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Marc Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Genial, me encanta tu artículo :)
Saludos desde Chiclayo, Peru

Dissect The Planet Saturday, 25 February 2012

There is something to say about single ingredients and the value they play in taste and cuisine, but there are those few recipes that combine a few excellent ingredients in a new way to create something that the surpasses the sum of its parts. Upon reading about Empanadas de Cambray I could see the ingredients coming together to become a recipe and a flavor that is one of these food anomalies. Thanks for sharing your recipe so I can try to recreate this before my trip to Colombia.

I look forward to reading more your take on food in Colombia.

Dale Saturday, 28 December 2013

Can you freeze before baking? Can I fill with veggies and or meat?

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Guest Sunday, 01 February 2015


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