As a kid, if you would have asked me where (edible) pumpkin came from, without hesitation I would answer: from a can. The thought of chopping up a pumpkin for anything other than decoration and recreation would have baffled me. I always thought that "real" pumpkins were for carving, and canned pumpkin was for eating.
Because of this childhood confusion, I still feel a little weird about buying a pumpkin at the grocery store, chopping it into pieces, and roasting it in the oven. Not to mention, lugging it around new york city with me. Awkward.
The other day I went to the store to buy a pumpkin for cooking purposes. I was scouring the selection in Chelsea Market, trying to pick out the biggest size I could carry home comfortably. Not an easy task. I had a store employee helping me out, we were picking up pumpkins one by one until I found one that fit perfectly in my arms.
If I was going to make the effort to carry a several pound pumpkin home, I wanted to have pumpkin leftovers for days. I wanted to make multiple meals with this one large pumpkin.
I purchased my big orange pumpkin, and several small white ones (for decoration), and I was on my way home, arms stretched long around the pumpkin hoping, praying it doesn't drop and smash on the sidewalk into a million pieces.
When I got my pumpkin home, I sat it outside next to the two little ones. I was still feeling a little conflicted. He looked so happy sitting there with the other pumpkins ... was I really going to chop him up, or could he just stay there happily decorating our front stoop.
Okay, get a hold of yourself. It is just a pumpkin. It does not have feelings, and if I were a pumpkin I would so much rather be an empanada instead of being stoop decor.
It was settled, pumpkin empanadas were the winner.
As I am sure you guessed, canned pumpkin does not makes it's way into my home anymore. I'm homemade all the way here. But because I live in NYC and the whole pumpkin carrying business is less than ideal, I usual roast only one or two pumpkins over the course of the fall with the hopes of getting a few different recipes out of them. And because of their short season and the labor involved in roasting them, I am sure you probably do the same.
Originally these guys were going to be mini pumpkin hand pies, but when I posted a picture on Instagram a few people commented that they looked like empanadas. Sooo, I immediately consulted with my live-in empanada expert (Michael). He tried one and he agreed - these were totally empanadas. Really good empanadas.
mini pumpkin empanadas | vegan spelt crust
for the crust:
1 cup of spelt flour
1/2 cup of brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
7 tablespoons of vegan butter (or regular unsalted butter)
1/3 - 1/2 cup of ice water
olive oil + salt for brushing
for the pumpkin filling:
1 small-medium sized pumpkin / you want to end up with 3 cups of roasted pumpkin
a couple tablespoons of olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
1 clove of garlic, sliced
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
1/4 teaspoon of curry powder
a pinch or two of chili powder
salt + pepper
Make the dough:
- Place a small-medium sized bowl and the butter in the freezer for about 10 minutes while you measure out the other ingredients.
- Remove the bowl and butter from the freezer and combine the spelt, brown rice flour, and salt in that bowl. Then, work in the butter using a pastry cutter or a fork. You will want to work quickly because you want the butter to stay cold.
- Add in the ice water a tablespoon at a time and work it all together with your hands, being careful not over-work it. You want the dough to be wet and easy to work with but not too wet. I found that just a little more than 1/3 of a cup of the ice water worked for me, but you might need slightly more or less.
- Form the dough into a ball, place it back in the bowl, cover, and put it in the refrigerator for at least one hour. You can also make this a day or two ahead of time.
While the dough is chilling, prepare the pumpkin filling:
- Pre-heat your oven to 400º.
- Slice up the pumpkin into chunks, remove the seeds and guts (save the seeds for roasting, or another use). Place the pumpkin chunks on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast for about 30-40 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft and just starting to brown on the top.
- While the pumpkin is roasting, sauté the shallot and garlic in a small pan over medium heat with a little bit of olive oil. You want the shallot and garlic to be soft and just starting to brown but be careful not to burn. Remove from the heat.
- When the pumpkin is done, allow it to cool slightly before handling. Then, separate the pumpkin from the skin, measure out 3 cups and place it in a food processor. If you have extra pumpkin, save it for another use.
- Add the cooked shallot and garlic to the food processor, as well at the curry powder, chili powder, thyme, salt and pepper along with a drizzle of olive oil. Pulse until you have a smooth mixture. Taste and adjust any seasoning that is necessary.
- If your mixture is still warm, place it in the fridge until it has cooled down before assembling the empanadas.
Assemble the empanadas + bake:
- Reduce the oven temperature (or pre-heat again) to 375º.
- On a floured flat surface, flatten the dough ball with the palm of your hand. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is pretty thin. Note: when testing this recipe, I made the mistake of not making the dough thin enough the first time, which made it too crust-heavy, so be sure to roll it as thin as you can without it tearing. Also, if your dough is feeling dry, feel free to add in a little ice water.
- Using a wide-mouth glass or a cookie cutter, cut out circles tracing around the cup with a paring knife. The size does not really matter, but I like these to be small enough to be two-bite sized, but big enough to be able to fill with a teaspoon size amount of pumpkin filling without overflowing.
- Using a teaspoon, spoon the pumpkin mixture into the center of the dough circles, fold the edges over and press down with a fork to seal and crimp.
- Take the scraps, roll them into a ball, roll them out again and trace more circles to make more emapanads. Continute doing this until you have used all the dough.
- Transfer the empanadas to a baking sheet, brush the tops with some olive oil and lightly salt.
- Bake the empanadas for 20 minutes, being careful not to burn. Once they start to brown around the edges, remove them from the over. Allow them to cool slightly before serving. They are best served warm, right out of the oven, or they can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge and warmed up when you're ready to serve.