I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).
It’s been a rough couple of weeks on top of a rough couple of years.
At times like this, you’re supposed to talk about turning lemons into lemonade.
But, let’s be real, guys, lemonade isn’t that darn great.
So I say, when life hands you lemons, just shove those in the crisper drawer of your fridge where you will inevitably forget about them and then need to throw them away in a few weeks when they get all gross.
And in the meantime, make something actually good instead, like something fried.
Admittedly, this doesn’t have the same ring to it as the lemons to lemonade thing, but I find it works better.
Because do you know who likes fried food? Everyone.
Which leads me to this week’s baking challenge – savory parcels. In Season 1 Episode 7 of GBBS, contestants were charged with making a fried pastry with a savory filling.
I chose to make an empanada – a stuffed, fried pastry popular in Spain, and Latin American countries and well, here, too, because they are delicious.
I didn’t go with just any empanada though, I made Gloria’s Empanadas from the Modern Family cookbook.
(Because of course I have a Modern Family cookbook. Thanks, Mom, for buying me a gift that perfectly combines my love of T.V. with my even greater love for food.)
Whenever I get a new cookbook, I meticulously go through it and mark all of the recipes I want to try with a little Post-it-Note. I’ve had this recipe marked for years, but I didn’t make it because it seemed like a whole hell of a lot of work. And I just wasn’t feeling it most days.
Turns out I was right to be leery of this recipe. Gloria’s empanadas were so much work. Like, it took me most of an afternoon work.
The recipe wasn’t hard exactly, but it took some time because I made everything from scratch – the filling, the dough, and the accompanying salsa. And though none of these steps were hard – they were nonetheless, time-consuming.
Like this recipe just kept going on and on and on…
The filling was pretty easy though. It was just needed a potato, vegetable oil, an onion, garlic, ground beef, cumin, tomato sauce, pimento-stuffed green olives, capers and pepper. It looked like this:
Embarrassing sidenote: for longer than I want to admit, I thought capers were fish. Like, I was stone-cold positive capers were fish until I was well into my twenties. Okay, until well into my thirties. Okay, until like a few months ago.
Turns out, capers are not fish. They’re this – which you probably already know. I didn’t though, because I had never actually seen them, or when I saw them, I didn’t know what I was seeing. It just knew there was a thing called capers and they sounded like fish and I hate fish so I figured I hated capers too.
But turns out I really like capers, because they are totally not fish.
For the dough, things were a bit more complicated, because I needed masa for arepas or precooked instant cornmeal. I couldn’t find in my regular grocery store, so I just got it on Amazon.
I could have gotten it from a local specialty store, and I probably should have. But I’ll be honest, it’s cold out there and I’m avoiding going outside as much as possible at this point. This is pretty much exactly what I have looked like for the past two months. But grouchier and with slightly less mustache.
I may never leave the house again. Instead, I will get all my necessities, like fancy flours, delivered straight to my door.
To make the dough, I just had to put together the special flour, some hot water, a bit of butter and a pinch each of sugar and salt. Then I kneaded it a bit, waited a bit and it was done. Easy peasy.
The hard part, or just the time-consuming part, was getting the empanadas ready to fry.
To set up the empanadas, I had to make 32 lil’ balls of dough and then smash those 32 lil balls into four-inch flat circles. Then I took a tablespoon of filling and placed that into the middle of each circle. From there, I had to fold the circle around the filling to make 32 lil half-moon empanadas.
Note to self: next time, don’t use a recipe that makes 32 individual things. Because when you make 32 individual things, that means you have to do a bunch of things 32 times. Which, not surprisingly, takes forever.
After that came the important part, the reason for the deliciousness – the frying. The recipe called for me to put two inches of oil in a large pot and heat it to 350 F. But I didn’t do that.
Instead, I used my handy dandy deep fat fryer. (Shout-out to Mattie for buying me a deep fat fryer a few years back.) I just programmed the deep fat fryer to 350 F and set the timer to about eight minutes for each batch and it worked like a dream.
Which is more than I can say for my favorite GBBS contestant, Kate, who was eliminated from the show this episode. She was kicked out of the competition, in part, because she didn’t have her deep fat fryer programmed right and it shut off during cooking.
I didn’t do that, thank goodness. Though, if it did, it wouldn’t have really mattered, since I’m just in my kitchen and not in a reality T.V. baking show and I just would have turned it back on.
So I guess, for me, it’s no biggie.
Though if I were in a reality T.V. baking show, these empanadas wouldn’t have gotten me kicked out. They were pretty good. They were crispy and miraculously not burned (that much). The filling was well, filling. And the simple salsa with just tomatoes, green onions, hot sauce and cilantro was good too.
In fact, everything was so good, I might actually make this again.
Of course, I’d cut the recipe in half though, because 32 empanadas is too many empanadas to make. It’s not too many too eat, but it’s definitely too many to make.
Thankfully, next week’s challenge only requires me to make 12 things. Unfortunately those 12 things are Kouign Amanns – a Breton cake that none of the GBBS contestants had even heard of before the show. Which I am totally not scared about at all, obviously.
Anyway… tune in next time to see what may well be a massive disaster, or you know a smashing success, whichever.
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