Friday, June 8, 2007

Empanadas de Camote

At the farmer's market this week I was very happy to find camote, as it can be hard to find. Camote is a type of sweet potato often used in Mexico. It has purplish-red skin and white, stringy flesh. It has a beautifully sweet yet mild flavor, almost honey-like. To celebrate my camote purchase, I made empanadas.

Empanadas de Camote: Recipe makes 12 to 15 empanadas

For the filling (alternate recipe at the end of this post)

Camotes (2 large or 6 small)
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk (or more if needed)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
dash of cloves
2 tablespoons to a maximum of one cup sugar or sweetener

Boil unpeeled, roughly chopped (if large) camote in plenty of water. When it is very soft, drain. It should be easy to peel away the skins using forks. Remove skins. Mash the camote with the butter, cinnamon and spices. Add milk little by little until the mixture is moist and a pleasant consistency. Add sugar or sweetener as needed, the amount will depend on how naturally sweet the camote is.

For the pastry dough:

1 teaspoon sugar or equivalent sweetener
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups of flour (I used a mixture of spelt and barley flours. I have also had success using 100% whole wheat)
1 (1/4 of a pound) stick of cold butter
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup cold milk (recommended) or cold water

1. To make the pastry dough, sift together the dry ingredients. Beat the egg in the mixer, add the butter and flour mixture. Beat at a low speed until the mixture is starting to mix. Increase the speed and slowly pour the milk until the dough holds together. Using your hands, form the dough into 12 to 15 balls. To flatten, place a ball between two pieces of waxed paper and place in a tortilla press or flatten with a rolling pin.
2. Place a couple of heaping spoons of the camote mixture on one half of the pastry. The amount of filling shown in above photo is one spoon of filling; it needed another spoonful of that size to complete. Fold the pastry over the filling and press the edges closed. Place on a lined or greased cookie sheet. Using a fork, poke holes in the top of the empanadas and crimp the edges. If you want the empanadas to have a nice shine, brush the tops with egg whites. (I skipped this step).
3. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

Alternate Camote Filling Recipe: My mother-in-law (mi suegra) says that she makes the camote filling this way. Boil the camote. Drain, peel and mash them. Add them back to the pot. With low heat, mix sugar, cinnamon (equivalent to 2 or 3 cinnamon sticks) and apple pie spice with the camote, stirring constantly until the flavors develop and the camote starts to bubble. As a variation, she will also sometimes stir shredded coconut into the mixture.

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