Empada, or empadinha (the diminutive of the word), is another traditional Brazilian salgadinho – the same category of savory bite-size treats that also includes the Coxinha. They look like tiny little two-crust pies, but they are savory. The empadinha’s dough can be mealy and somewhat dry (“empada de massa podre”), or thin and elastic (“empada de massa fina”, picture below), but the latter is a less common. Empadão, which is the augmentative of the word, are large savory pies sold in padarias and lanchonetes that Brazilians eat by the slice for a fast meal, usually sided by a small salad, and seasoned with some hot pepper sauce.
The most traditional empada fillings are chicken (same as the one used for Coxinha!), hearts of palm and shrimp, and all of them can include Catupiry® or requeijão (Brazilian creamy cheeses). But there are several other fillings. In large urban areas, such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, there are even places dedicated only to selling empadas, where they offer dozens of varieties.
The secret to a good empadinha is to have a moist filling and just the right amount of dough. Prepare the filling in advance, as it should be at room temperature or cold before it can be placed inside the dough shells. Baked empadas can be frozen and then reheated in the oven before serving. I hope you’ll end up enjoying these savory, tiny treats as much as I do.
Empadinha de massa podre
Hearts of palm filling
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup small dice onion
2 skinless, seedless, fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
400g (2x14oz cans) hearts of palm, diced (Roland® is a good brand)
1/2 cup frozen peas
7 small green olives, finely chopped
1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
salt, pepper and finely chopped Italian parsley to taste
1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and sauté the onion over high heat until golden brown.
2. Add the tomato and cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes.
3. Add the hearts of palm, season with salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat to medium and let cook, partially covered, for 5 minutes. Add a little water, if too dry.
4. Add the peas and the olives to the pan and stir to combine.
5. Dissolve the cornstarch in 1tbsp of the milk, then add this mixture to the remaining milk and stir well to combine. Pour the milk into the pan, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened.
6. Turn off the heat. Add the parsley, adjust the seasoning and let cool before using.
Mealy Dough for Empada
450g (1 lb) all-purpose flour + 50g (2 oz) to dust
150g (5 oz) vegetable shortening
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk for brushing
1 tsp salt
25ml (1 fl oz) cold water
1. Cut the butter and shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2. Add eggs, salt and water and knead to combine. Let rest for 30 minutes.
1. To make empadinha, take small portions of the dough (roughly 1 tbsp) and use it to line the bottom and sides of an empadinha mold (or mini cupcake mold), using the tips of your thumbs.2. Add the filling, being careful not to let it touch the rim.
3. Roll out a smaller circle of dough and cover the filling, pressing against the sides to seal and to trim the excess dough.
4. Preheat the oven to 350oF / 180oC. Brush the tops with egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp water and bake until golden brown. Serve warm or cold.