Friday, January 7, 2011

Panama - First Stop on the Culinary Tour

Our friend Joan at Foodalogue has already completed 2 annual culinary tours. A labour of love, Joan has worked and researched and travelled tirelessly to find the countries for her tours that would give our culinary knowledge an eye opener. It's been fun both participating and reading about each country and I feel like I know a whole lot more than I did before.

First stop of the 2011 culinary tour is Panama, a country found in central America with a predominantly Spanish speaking population of under 4M. That's not to say there aren't other languages spoken; in fact there are many and the cultures that make up this country show themselves vividly in so many ways. Right now we'll just talk about the food.

I've always been intrigued by Empanadas - maybe I just like saying the word. Empanada is Spanish for "to bake in pastry,". I can think of many cultures who make empanadas; they just call them something else like dumpling or perogy. Sizes and fillings. savoury or sweet, they can be whatever you want them to be. They can be fried or baked and they're pretty simple to make. From what I've read and now experienced, the dough is critical.

Here is a simple empanada dough made with flour, salt, water, egg, vinegar and shortening.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

•3 cups flour (plus a little more for kneading)
•1 teaspoon salt
•1/2 cup cold water
•1 egg
•1 egg white
•1 teaspoon vinegar
•3 tablespoons shortening

1. In a bowl, beat the water, egg, egg white and vinegar together. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the 3 cups of flour and salt.
3. Cut the shortening into the flour mix with a pastry blender or two butter knives. Make a well in the center of the flour mix and pour the liquid ingredients from the first bowl into the center.
4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients with a fork until it becomes stiff.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it just until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth.
6. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but never more than 24 hours.

Tip: If you want to keep the dough longer than 24 hours, you can freeze it.

Servings: Makes approximately 10 six-inch empanadas.

I wanted to make a dessert type empanada and found an apple filling


3 firm baking apples (such as Granny Smith)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Egg Wash:
1 egg
1 tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Coat 1 or 2 nonstick cookie sheets with cooking spray or line regular (not nonstick) cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Peel and core apples. Slice apples into quarters. Slice each quarter across the narrow side into thin slices.

Place the apples, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the apples are soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Place in refrigerator to cool.

To Assemble:

Whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash. Place a large spoonful of the apple mixture in the center of each dough circle. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the egg wash around the edge of half of each circle of dough, about 1/3-inch from the edge. Fold the dough over the filling so that the edges meet and using the tines of a fork, press the edges together.

I suggest you take your time and do not overload the pastry. Here's what happens when you do or if you don't seal it well.

Kind of looks like a crab sticking it's tongue out at me.

Arrange the empanadas 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. If you made small apple shaped designs with extra dough scraps, place them on top of each empanada now. Lightly brush tops of empanadas with egg wash. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 17 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove the empanadas from oven and let them sit at least 5 minutes before serving.

Note: 15-17 minutes wasn't enough time - mine took 30 minutes

Makes 10-12 empanadas.

I was really blown away by the national dress (really a skirt) of Panama called the pollera. Hand made and costing a large sum of money the hand work is something to be admired. It can be made of wool or cotton and originates from Spain. Today it is used for festivities. It's usually accompanied by an elaborate headdress called a trembleque made of beads attached to a spring that causes the beads to bounce when you move.

This is our first stop. Stop over to visit Joan at Foodalogue to get all the details. Here's just a few interesting points. Next stop - Alaska and I have first dibs on any dishes with the name Palin in them :)

The Itinerary/Arrival Dates

January 9 • Panama
January 16 • Alaska
January 23 • Turkey
January 30 • Japan
Feb 6 • traveling (Joan will be and doesn’t want to take chance on wifi availability)
Feb 13 • Thailand
Feb 20 • Egypt
Feb 27 • Nigeria
[Blogger round-ups posted on following Wednesdays.]

You need to do this. Why? Because it's fun and isn't it your New Year's resolution to have more fun? StumbleUpon


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Definitely a dish with strong roots in Panama.I had some empanadas recently that blew me away!!!!

cocoa and coconut said...

Wow this "Foodalogue" is a great idea, and well done for getting involved in it. The recipe is very unique, and I look forward to seeing more of them.

FOODalogue said...

Hey Thelma,
So glad you decided to join me on this trip. Your empanada looks kind of like an apple turnover -- great food for a road trip.

Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

It's funny... I like saying "empanada" too! Love the apple filling.

grace said...

empanadas ARE awesome. they benefit from a great name (which, interestingly, contains the word 'nada')(which can only refer to the amount left after i get done eating) and a great design. nice work, giz!

Panama City said...

You make me hungry now :) Excellent photos and idea !!!
I love empanada and I think that empanada could be even filled with nice apple chunks and Cinnamon mmmmm so that we have sweet empanada as well!!!

Anonymous said...

mmmm I love empanadas, savory or sweet, just gimme! I'm always looking for a good dough recipe, though. I'm curious to see if using just the egg white lightens it up. Must try.s

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

Thanks for explaining the term empanada - so interesting...and your version sounds deliciously fruity.

Anonymous said...

I make empanadas all the time. My husband calls me the empanada queen. Never made sweet empanadas and I think it's about time. So glad to be part of this round-up and looking forward to seeing you in Alaska.

torwen said...

Sweet empanada...great idea! Definitely something to try out. Can't wait to see your Alaska contribution :)