When I die, I hope my friends and family make pumpkin empañadas to put on my alter for the Day of the Dead. I’m teaching my son how to make them and since he’s a fall baby, I made them for his birthday treat to take to his kindergarten class. I normally make pumpkin empañadas for the Day of the Dead. This squash like fruit has its roots here in North America and particularly in Mexico, where the holiday originates. So, making pumpkin empañadas during this time encapsulates a little bit of history, tradition, and love.
I prefer to use a sugar pumpkin for any of my pumpkin related baked goods. First of all it’s smaller, so less scooping and messiness. Second, it has a bit of a sweeter taste than the jack-o-lantern variety. Thirdly, it’s called a sugar pumpkin, um cute!
Remember to preheat your oven from anywhere to 375-400 deg f* depending on the size of your pumpkin. Usually there is a little sticker on your squash with baking directions. I cut my pumpkin in half and with a sturdy spoon, scoop out all of the seeds and strings. If you like pumpkin seeds, then fill a bowl with water and throw your pumpkin seeds in there for a couple of minutes to wash off. Place your pumpkin halves face down and fill the pan with one inch of water. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Check tenderness after 35 minutes by poking the skin with a fork.
Once the pumpkin has cooled in its shell, squeeze or spoon out the flesh into a bowl. Get a masher or a large fork and mash away any remaining lumps. If you have a food processor and would like a smooth mash, then pulse away!
Pumpkin empañadas require little seasoning. Simply add some brown sugar (or piloncillo if you have it around), ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.
Scoop out 2 cups of mash (a sugar pumpkin will usually make about 2 cups of mash) and add sugar and spices.
Give the filing a good stir to incorporate all the ingredients. It’ll start to smell AMAZING!
I like to strain the pumpkin (usually prior to adding the sugar and spices) to get out all of the extra liquid. You don’t want to have a lot of excess liquid in your filling. It’ll make it harder and messier to fill empañadas later.
Now that your filling is ready, get your dough out of the fridge to start rolling out little rounds. This recipe has been doubled. Having small chunks of butter visible is a good thing! You don’t want to over blend your butter into the flour mixture.
Doubling your dough recipe should make about 24 medium to large sized rounds. If you’re like me and like to use every last bit of dough, then you can stretch it out to make about 40 small ones. Make sure not to add too much filling. You only want to add about a tablespoon to small rounds and about 2 tablespoons for the medium to large rounds. Holding the round in your hand and adding the filling will help you gauge the right amount.
Make sure to have a small bowl of water near by to rub around one edge of the dough to ensure a tight seal. You can use a pastry cutter, a fork, or crimp the dough to make a decorative edge.
Keep a baking tray near so you can place all your finished empañadas directly onto it. Once they are all stuffed and sealed, brush the tops with an egg wash, and place the whole tray directly into the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes prior to baking. A cold pastry bakes the best! Have the oven pre-heated to 350 f deg and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Take out of the oven and wait a few minutes before eating or else you’ll burn your mouth! I usually place them onto a cooling rack and then munch away after 10 minutes!
Pumpkin Empañada Filling
makes about 2 cups of filling
- 2 cups fresh, or canned, pumpkin mash
- 1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar
- a pinch of sea salt
- 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon ( you can always add nutmeg, clove, or ginger to the mixture too! )
Measure and place all ingredients into a bowl. Mix well. Place in the fridge until ready to use. Filling can last for up to a week in the fridge.