Ironic Chefs - South of the Border


Sweet Empanadas

Adapted from Rancho Cooking: Mexican and Californian Recipes by Jacqueline Higuera McMahan

Makes 12-14 empanadas

Choose one of the two following fillings.

Pumpkin Filling

2 cups pureed pumpkin
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine pumpkin, brown sugar, raisins, cinnamon, and salt in a medium saucepan. Simmer on low heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg and vanilla. Return to the heat and stir for one minute. Allow to cool.

Sweet Bean Filling

2 cups pink beans, pureed
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten

Combine ingredients in a medium saucepan. Simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring periodically. Remove from heat and allow to cool.


2 cups flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
4 Tbsp butter
5 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp brandy
cinnamon sugar

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in shortening and butter with a pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine milk and brandy, and sprinkle over flour mixture. Stir until moistened. Knead three or four times on a floured board. Form into a ball and chill, covered, for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Cut dough into two pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the other chilled. Roll each piece out on a floured surface to a thickness of about 1/8", and cut into 4"-5" circles. You should be able to make 6 or 7 circles total from each half of the dough (after picking up the scraps and rerolling). Put a heaping tablespoon of filling on one half of the each circle, fold the other half over, and press the edge to seal.

Bake 15-20 minutes. Place on a cooling rack and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

A note on filling the empanadas: We used a 4" biscuit cutter, but that produced circles too small to use all of the filling, so we rolled them out to about a 5" by 4" oval after cutting them. This worked quite well as a slightly oval shape, folded in half the long way, allows for a bit more filling than a circle and produces a nicely proportioned empanada. Either an oval cutter of about the right shape and size or a 4 1/2" round cutter would probably work well, or if you are very talented at overstuffing and still getting a good seal, you might manage with 4" circles. We found that we could maximally stuff the pastries as follows: Start with a conservative amount of filling, fold and, starting at one end, seal about 3/4 of the way around. Then, pick up the empanada and, using a small fork or spoon in the opening, pack the filling in a bit and fill as much as possible before sealing the opening.

Soft Molasses Cookies

Adapted from Rancho Cooking: Mexican and Californian Recipes by Jacqueline Higuera McMahan

Makes about 18 large cookies

1 stick butter (1/4 lb)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
3 Tbsp (brewed) coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup molasses
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in brown sugar, 1 egg, coffee, and vanilla. Stir the baking soda into the molasses; it will start to bubble. Beat the molasses into the butter-sugar mixture. In a separate bowl, mix the salt, ginger, and cinnamon into the flour. Gradually mix the flour into the wet ingredients until well blended. Divide dough in half, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Whisk remaining egg with 2 tsp water in a small bowl. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Roll out one of the pieces of dough on a floured surface to about 1/2" thick. Cut into shapes using large cookie cutters. Place on a parchment- or foil-lined cookie sheet. Chill the scraps while rolling out the second piece of dough.

Brush each cookie with the egg glaze. Bake 10-12 minutes. The cookies will still be very soft when done. Remove to a cooling rack.


(A Hot, Chocolaty Drink)

Adapted from Rancho Cooking: Mexican and Californian Recipes by Jacqueline Higuera McMahan

Serves 4

1/3 cup masa harina
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
4 cups milk
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
dash cinnamon
2 inch length of vanilla bean
4 cinnamon sticks

Whisk masa harina and cornstarch into cold water in a saucepan. Add milk and brown sugar. Cook on very low heat, stirring constantly. When the mixture begins to thicken, add the chocolate, ground cinnamon, and vanilla bean. Cook about 20 minutes more, until thick and smooth. Serve with cinnamon sticks.