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I used to live in an area of New York State that had many apple orchards. NY is a mecca for all varieties of apples, most notably the Empire apple, named for the Empire State. Every October, we would plan a Saturday visit to our favorite orchard and spend the afternoon filling a basket with as many apples as we could pick. They were so fresh and crisp, just like the autumn air.
Once home, I would take stock of the bounty and start combing through my cookbook collection to find interesting things to do with so many apples. I always made giant batches of applesauce and apple butter that I would pressure can for gifts and for use throughout the winter. I made a pie and hand tarts as well.
My favorite was a turnover or empanada that I would make a sheet pan of on Sunday and take to my office during the week. After a quick workout at the gym, I would grab a hot cup of coffee from my favorite no-frills coffee shop and start my morning with an apple empanada breakfast while I read the paper and responded to work-related emails. I am an early riser, so this was all accomplished before 8:30 AM when others would start coming into work.
Empanadas are small, filled pastries that are baked or fried and can be eaten with your hands. In Latin cultures, empanadas are the perfect lunch for those on the go. They travel well and can be either savory or sweet. When I was visiting friends in Venezuela, my hostess gave me a small handcrafted straw pouch that was meant to carry an empanada or an arepa when we went exploring or hiking the rain forests. This was like an elegant little lunch pail with a shoulder strap.
This baked apple empanada recipe has a buttery dough with a sweet and spiced apple filling. I like to make the filling before the dough so it has time to cool before filling the pastry. The spices I use are cinnamon and nutmeg for an homage to fall. I use a combination of tart and sweet apples so I can go lighter on the sugar. The level of sweetness is a personal preference.
- 1 Granny Smith apple peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes
- 1 to 2 Honey Crisp or Fuji apples peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes
- ⅓ cup light brown or turbinado sugar
- 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp grated nutmeg
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter cubed
- 7 Tbsp ice water more or less
Assembly & Baking
- 1 egg white
- 2 Tbsp coarse raw or turbinado sugar
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- All ingredients ready? Let's begin!
- In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, combine the apples, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cook until the apples are soft, stirring often, approximately 18 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and cover. Allow this to cool completely. You can also refrigerate the filling and use it later or within a couple of days.
- In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse just to combine. Add the diced butter and pulse until the mixture starts to resemble peas.
- Add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse just until the dough comes together into a ball – not too wet.
- On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough with your hands and shape it into a flat disc that is about ¾ inch thick. Wrap the disc in plastic film and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.
Assembly & Baking
- Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or grease with oil.
- Lightly dust a flat work surface with flour. Divide the dough into 12 equal-sized balls.
- Dust the balls of dough with flour to prevent them from sticking. Roll the balls of dough into ⅛ inch thick circles.
- Place 2 tablespoons of apple filling on one half of the dough, leaving enough room to fold over and crimp the edges. Fold the empty side of dough over the filling to form half-moons.
- Seal well the edges by crimping with your fingers or using the tines of a fork.
- Place the empanadas on the lined sheet pan. Using a sharp knife, cut a small X in the top of each packet to allow steam to escape.
- Brush the tops and edges of the empanadas with egg white.
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle the sugar mixture on top of each empanada.
- Place the pan in the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.
- Allow the empanadas to cool a bit before serving, or store in a sealed container until ready to eat.
- Enjoy your Simple Baked Apple Empanadas!
Notes & Tips
- When sealing the empanadas, it is best to achieve a tight seal so the filling doesn’t leak out. However, don’t make the sealed edge too thin or it will burn before the empanadas are finished baking.
- You can make both the apple filling and the dough a day or two ahead of time and store both in the refrigerator. You can also assemble the empanadas and freeze them to bake at a later date. They should keep for about 3 months in the freezer.
Substitutions, Additions & Shortcuts
If apples aren’t in season, you can make this recipe with other fruit. I like to use peaches, blueberries, or figs in summer. I will swap out the apples for pears in the fall sometimes.
If you are not interested in making your own pastry dough, you can find pastry discs in the freezer section of the grocery store. Just make sure that you defrost them before filling them.
While I enjoy cinnamon and nutmeg, you will see recipes that call for cinnamon and cloves as the seasoning. You may also see recipes that have golden raisins added to the filling for a bit of texture.