Fresh Pumpkin Filling
4 to 5 pound pumpkin (orange or striped)
2 cups water
3 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
16 ounces piloncillo or 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
Canned evaporated milk or egg white
Cinnamon-sugar mixture (1 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed with 1/4 cup sugar)
Make pumpkin filling:
Rinse off the exterior of the pumpkin in cool or warm water, no soap. Using a serrated knife cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the pumpkin seeds. Scrape out the stringy layer (pulp) with a spoon. Discard seeds and pulp. Cut pumpkin into 3- to 4-inch slices leaving the skin on.
In a steamer or large pot, steam the pumpkin in the 2 cups of water, making sure to keep the lid on tight, for 20 to 40 minutes, or until pumpkin is tender. The pumpkin is ready when your fork slides easily into the flesh.
Let the pumpkin cool. Once cooled, scoop the pumpkin flesh off the skins and into a mixing bowl. Discard the skins. Mash the steamed pumpkin with a potato masher and strain the liquid into a bowl. Reserve the liquid and set pumpkin puree aside.
In the same large pot, put the reserved liquid from the pumpkin (about 1/2 to 2/3 cup) and add cinnamon sticks and cloves. Bring liquid to a boil and then remove from the heat. Replace lid and let steep for 30 minutes.
Remove cinnamon and cloves and add pumpkin puree to the liquid. Add the piloncillo and over medium-low heat let it melt into the pumpkin puree, stirring occasionally so it will not burn or stick to the pot. The pumpkin puree will turn a dark color with the piloncillo making it sweeter.
Once the piloncillo has melted, lower the heat to low and let simmer uncovered until all the water evaporates. Remove from heat and allow pumpkin puree to cool down before refrigerating, about 15 minutes.
To help puree set, place in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight. If some liquid separates, remove it with a spoon before using so the filling is not watery.
You can make the empanada dough after your filling has chilled.
Make empanada dough:
Mix the first 3 dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening. It is best to use your hands. Add the eggs, milk, sugar, and cinnamon. Continue to work in with your hands until you have a soft dough. Split the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Assemble and bake empanadas:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Take out half the dough and split it into 12 equal balls of dough.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough balls into small round circles. Place a small dollop of pumpkin filling on one half of each of the dough circles. Wet the bottom edge of the circles with water to help seal the two halves. Fold over the dough to cover filling and seal off the edges with a fork by pressing down along the edges. This also makes for a pretty pattern when baked. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Brush each empanada with some canned evaporated milk or egg whites, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Puncture the top of each empanada with a fork to allow steam to escape while baking.
Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray, place the empanadas on the cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes on middle rack in the oven. If after 15 minutes you notice the bottoms of the empanadas starting to brown, move the cookie sheet to the top rack and continue to bake for the last 5 minutes, until golden brown.
Enjoy the empanadas warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate baked empanadas for a few days. Reheat in a toaster oven or bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.