This unusual and surprisingly tasty version of an empanada is an adaptation of a recipe in criski.com which was spotted by one of my daughters-in-law who is trying to reduce the amount and glycemic index of the carbohydrates she eats. It was served to general applause at a family birthday lunch. What makes it unusual is that the shell of the empanada is actually made of mozzarella, bound into a dough with almond flour and a few other ingredients. The taste of the shell after baking is almost all mozzarella. The filling was pretty conventional, and in fact the mozzarella shell could work well with a variety of other fillings, for example chicken and mushrooms in a cream sauce. (Basically anything which tastes good with mozzarella and can be chopped up into small pieces and used as a stuffing would be suitable.)
Note: Almond flour and xanthan gum can be found at most large supermarkets in the specialty flour section. Xanthan gum is a popular gluten substitute.
12 oz, low moisture mozzarella, coarsely grated
3.5 oz. almond flour
½ tsp. xanthan gum
1 egg, beaten
4 slices bacon, cut into lardons
10 oz. ground beef
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley.
To make the shell, mix together the almond flour and xanthan gum in a small bowl. Put the mozzarella into a microwavable bowl and microwave it for 2-3 minutes until the mozzarella is melted. Mix in the almond flour and xanthan gum mixture and then the beaten egg. Put the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer, and using the paddle attachment, beat until it forms an evenly mixed dough.
To make the filling, put the bacon in a large frying pan and cook over medium heat until the bacon is moderately crisp and has rendered its fat. Pour the fat into a bowl and reserve it to use as required for the rest of the filling. Drain the cooked bacon on paper towels and then put it into a medium bowl. Brown the ground beef adding back some of the bacon fat as required to keep the beef from sticking to the pan. Break the beef into little pieces. When cooked, add the beef to the bowl with the bacon. Saute the garlic and bell pepper in the pan, again adding some of the bacon fat as needed. When softened, add the garlic and bell pepper to the bowl with the beef and bacon. Add the chili powder, cumin, and salt, and taste for seasoning. Add the beaten egg and the chopped parsley and mix well.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Form the dough into a log and divide it into twelve pieces. Roll each of the pieces into a ball, flatten it, and then form it into a disk about 6 inches in diameter. The way we did this was with a tortilla press. We cut a gallon ziplock baggie into the two pieces, greased them with cooking spray, and used the baggie pieces to line a tortilla press. This worked very easily. It could also be done with a rolling pin.
Inside each disk put a large spoonful of the filling, making sure to leave a border about 1/3 inch wide. Crimp together the sides of the disk and form it into a half moon. Place the filled empanada on the baking sheet. Repeat until all 12 empanadas are stuffed.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes until golden. Serve plain, or with salsa or hot sauce.