Empanadas are versatile little pastries that can be filled with sweet or savory fillings. The Mexican version of turnovers is a small, filled pie that is quick to make and handy for lunchboxes or snacks. Apple empanadas are good for using up excess apples when your harvest is abundant. Use baking apples like McIntosh, Greening or Northern Spy for the best fresh-pie flavor. While traditional empanadas are usually fried, baking these treats gives the same flavor while cutting the fat and calories significantly.
Peel and core the apples and cut them into thin slices. Place the apples into a heavy pan, along with the sugar and the cinnamon. Place the pan on a stove over medium heat and cook, constantly stirring, until the apples have begun to soften. This will take about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat when the apples are soft and refrigerate it until the apples have cooled.
Mix the flour and salt into a bowl and add the shortening. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the shortening into the flour mixture until the result looks like small peas. Sprinkle this with 4 to 5 tbsp. of ice cold water and mix until the results turn into a flaky ball. You may need more or less water, depending on the humidity in your kitchen. Use one tablespoon at a time to make sure that you do not add too much.
Roll out the dough until it is 1/8 inch thick. Place a small dessert bowl upside-down onto the dough and cut around it, using it as a pattern to create small circles in the dough. Cut all of the dough into circles.
Spray your baking sheets with cooking spray. Place one dough circle onto a baking sheet. Place a large spoonful of the cooled apple mixture onto the center of the dough. Use your fingers to smooth water around the edge of the dough. Fold the top half of the dough circle over the bottom half, enclosing the apple mixture inside. Press all around the outside edge with the tines of a fork to seal the edge.
Prepare all of the empanadas on baking sheets and place the sheets into a 350 degree F oven. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the crust begins to turn brown. Remove the pans from the oven and allow the empanadas to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.