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Blackberry empanadas (Empanadas de zarzamora)

December 30, 2013

DSC_0911 The plan was to make apple empanadas today, but finding blackberries offered at a very low price at the supermarket made me switch gears and make a type of empanada I don’t recall coming across.  I’m sure they are popular somewhere in Latin America or maybe Spain.  I’m also sure every possible type of fruit has been made into a filling…   After I started to cook down the berries with sugar, I saw how much liquid was released and realized this was going to be  very different from the pumpkin empanadas I made several weeks ago.  Cost and a more problematic cooking process might be why they are not as common around here.  Unwittingly I was venturing into the territory of conserves and jams and thus preparing for a few rounds of trial and error.  I didn’t want to just follow a recipe for blackberry jam.  I learned about pectin and how to tell when a jam was “set”.  I considered going out to look for some.  Then I read that apples, oranges and lemon have natural pectin.  Some recipes for conserves use just fruit, sugar, and lemon.  Cornstarch to thicken was out of the question for me.  I know how cornstarch can change the natural character of foods. Ultimately I wanted to keep it simple since empanadas are labor intensive.  So I decided to add lemon zest and some lemon juice for flavor  Maybe it would help in thickening the blackberry “jam”.  I made five different batches and settled on the one I thought was best.  Only because the berries were so cheap could I get away with that.  The benefit I got was that I also ended up with a good supply of blackberry conserve.   I think what made it work was reducing the juices until it thickened enough to congeal.  For the dough I used Fany Gerson’s recipe from “My Sweet Mexico” again,  the same one I used for pumpkin empanadas.  Those empanadas I must say got raves from family and friends during Thanksgiving.



For about 20 empanadas:


2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of salt 3/4 cup unsalted butter cut into small cubes

1/2 cup crema or heavy cream plus a little for topping


4 heaping cups of fresh blackberries

1 1/4 cups sugar

juice of 1/2 lemon plus the zest of one whole lemon

Egg wash

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon heavy cream



For the dough

Mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl.  Add the butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  I have always kept the butter as cold as possible for this recipe.  Add the cream and mix until it’s just combined. Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and uniform, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  The dough will hold for 3 days in the refrigerator.

For the filling

Put the blueberries,  sugar,  juice of 1/2 a lemon, and the zest of a lemon in a heavy sauce pot.  Use a non-stick pot if possible. Over medium heat,  slowly bring to a boil.  Stir to help dissolve the sugar.  Lower the heat to medium low and simmer about 30 minutes to cook and soften the berries.   Strain the berries saving the liquid and put aside.  I had about 1 1/4 cups liquid.  Return the liquid to the pot and put on a slow simmer.  Stir from time to time to avoid possible scorching.  Reduce by at least 1/2.  This batch reduced to between 3/4 and 1/2 cups liquid.  The juice should be thick enough to set when cooled.  I also tested by dropping a teaspoon or so on a cold plate.  If it thickened, it was ready.  Those of you with fruit preserve experience can probably know by checking the temperature or by another method.  I’m a complete newcomer to making jams and conserves.   Remove the liquid from the heat and add the berries.   I then put it in the refrigerator to speed up the setting.

To make the empanadas

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Make an egg wash of 2 yolks and about 1 tablespoon heavy cream Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut out 4 1/2 to 5 inch circles with a cookie cutter or other mold.  Place about 1 tablespoon of the blackberry filling slightly off center.  Use the egg wash to help seal the empanada and use a fork to press together.  Place the empanadas on a parchment paper lined baking sheet or one that has been well oiled. Brush the empanadas with the egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar if desired.  If you plan to glaze the empanadas you may not need to sugar them. Bake for about 20 minutes or until they turn a light golden brown.  Rotate the pan if they are not browning evenly.  Set them on a wire rack to cool.

Tips:  It is a good idea to keep the dough cool when working with it.  If your kitchen is warm the dough will soften to a degree that makes it hard to keep nice shaped circles. Also keep the blackberry filling cold as you begin filling the empanadas.  It will more likely keep from getting too runny as it heats up in the oven.



I used ganache that was leftover from my Yule log  to glaze some of the empanadas.  I also dusted some with confectioner’s sugar.   Semi-sweet chocolate chips were added along with the blackberry filling to a few.


I had a little fun with my camera today.   Mostly however, it’s frustrating.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 30, 2013 12:51 am

    Se ven peligrosamente deliciosas!

    • December 30, 2013 12:57 am

      Muchisimas gracias Andre! Feliz Ano Nuevo!

      • December 30, 2013 3:37 am

        Igual para ti! Feliz 2014. Que el año nuevo te traiga muchas cosas buenas y sobre todo mucha salud!

  2. May 10, 2014 6:34 pm

    Oh my Gosh! I love such small pies with berry-filling, I bet they were delicious!

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