Sunday, September 28, 2008

Testing, testing: Gluten free empanadas with cheese

Sometimes it's frighteningly obvious I am a researcher. When my doctor took me off one of my medications a few weeks ago, she mentioned I could start testing some key food groups, such as corn, soy, or dairy to see how I reacted to them. She also made a point to say that I should first wait a few weeks until I found out how my body reacted to being off this medication.

I found it strange she should even have to mention this. I thought, “How otherwise would I know what symptoms are attributable to going off the medication and which symptoms are attributable to the new food group?” It seemed like a big, “duh,” to me, but probably only because I think like a researcher, manipulating only one variable at a time. At the same time, since my life is not a laboratory or a closed system, this is not a true experiment. It's a decent approximation.

So, after a few weeks of continuing to feel “normal,” I decided it was time to test my favorite food group – dairy.

Oh, am I a sucker for good cheese. Let's put it this way – when in France last summer, one of the first French words I learned was the word for cheese (Fromage) and, while I don't even remember the word for “water,” I certainly remember “cheese.”

Lucky for me, while I tested positive for gluten intolerance, I tested negative for dairy intolerance. So, I haven't been too worried that I won't be able to at least incorporate some dairy into my diet. And, to be totally honest, being gluten free is waaayyy easier than being dairy free.

One of the fruit vendors at the Portland farmer's market, Packer Orchards, makes the most delicious fruit-filled empanadas. Unfortunately, they are far from gluten free. Walking past them each week at the market, I think, “I need to try to create empanadas, gluten free.” It was a challenge I kept putting off, until this weekend.

I decided that I would try to create savory empandas, and as a reward for my attempt, I would get to try a cheese I had never tasted before. It was time to test my body on dairy, and this was the incentive I needed to figure out a daunting culinary puzzle. I had to make a crust that would not only roll out well, but also cook to a tender consistency and hold up well enough to actually pick up the empanadas and eat them with your hands.

So, this weekend, Ben and I spent more time unpacking his things and organizing our living space. (Thanks to the fact that he previously lived in his own fully functioning kitchen, we now have an over-abundance of pots and pans, eating utensils, and other various kitchen supplies. While I am really excited about this, it is also difficult fitting all of it in what is arguably the most poorly designed kitchen ever. The kitchen in this place is all design and little function.) We also made some amazingly delicious, too good to be true, gluten free empanadas. With cheese. In fact, I selected a spanish sheep's milk cheese: Zamarano.

Creating gluten free empanadas actually turned out to be much easier than I thought; I imagined the dough would be temperamental, since sometimes GF dough can be stubborn, but it was actually more cooperative than some gluteny dough I've worked with. And, the best part is they held up to the “hold it” test – they didn't even try to fall apart in my hands as I bit into them!

The results of my recipe challenge turned out beautifully, and, so far, so has the results of my dairy challenge. In a few days, I'll try multiple servings of dairy in one day -- purely for research purposes, of course.

And for dessert? Roll out the left-over dough, sprinkle raw sugar and cinnamon on top, and bake it. Just like mom used to do with left-over pie crust.

Gluten Free Empanadas:


1 ½ cups sorghum flour

½ cup tapioca flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon xanthan gum

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

½ cup butter or shortening

1 egg

¼ cup water, approximately

Mix all of the dry ingredients well. Cut the butter into small pieces and, with a fork or a pastry knife (or in your mixer, if you are so lucky to have one), cut in the butter until the mixture looks like small granules.

Add the apple cider vinegar and egg and mix well. Slowly add a little of the water at a time, until the dough begins to form and stick together.

Form the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough while you make the filling.


1 can kidney beans (or your favorite), undrained

½ medium red onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced



cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Spanish olives, sliced in half lengthwise

½ cup shredded zamarrano cheese (or your favorite!)

In some good olive oil, saute the onion and garlic in a skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin, cilantro, and cayenne pepper to taste. Add the kidney beans and stir well.

Splash in about a tablespoon apple cider vinegar and stir. Simmer for about 10 minutes on med-low heat. Taste and add more seasonings, if desired. Slightly mash the bean mixture with a fork.

Prepare your olives and cheese and heat the oven to 400F.

Take the dough out of the fridge and place onto a sheet of parchment paper. Place another sheet on top and roll it out, using a rolling pin, until it is about a ¼ inch thick.

Remove the top parchment paper and, using a bowl or cup (depending on how big you want your empanadas – we did some large ones and some small ones), cut circles out of the dough. Placing the circles onto a baking sheet.

Fill the empanadas by placing some of the bean mixture, a few olive slices, and some cheese onto one half of the circles. Fold the circle in half, covering the filling, and pinching the edges together. (I was super careful to not over-fill the empanadas, worried the dough would break to easily, but Ben was much more daring and showed this dough is somewhat forgiving.)

Re-roll leftover dough and repeat process.

Place the empandadas in the 400F oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 30 minutes, until you can't stand the wonderful smell any longer!

Serve with guacamole and more spanish olives. Enjoy!

1 comment:

peterbronski said...

Your recipe looks great! I'll have to give it a try. My wife and I also recently made GF empanadas. You can check out our dough recipe and empanadas here:

Cheers, Pete