Happy Cinco de Mayo!

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I thought that I would make a pair of empanada earrings.

Now, I know that empanadas do not represent anything to do with the holiday really, and that Mexican heritage cannot be boiled down to a filled pastry, but hey….they look pretty cute right? So if you’d like to see how I made these, please click the “Continue reading” link below. But in the meantime…

I researched Cinco de Mayo today to find out what it was really about, because I was curious. I honestly didn’t know anything about the holiday, other than my personal speculation that it must be the happiest day of the year for the Corona beer company.

Turns out, the real story is way more interesting than margaritas and an excuse to wake up wearing a sombrero. Cinco de Mayo is not the observance of Mexican Independence day as one might think. It actually started as kind of a “Stick it to the Man” debt-free holiday.  And, honestly, can’t we relate to that concept pretty well these days?

It all started when Mexican president Benito Juárez decided that Mexico was going to stop paying interest on its debts to France. France, of course, was expectedly perturbed by this, so they threatened to occupy Mexico until the the debt was paid up. The French occupation suffered a pretty embarassing setback though when, on May 5th 1862, the Mexican militia was able to handily rout their opponent (translation: they OWNED the French army’s derrieres). The French army had not seen defeat in 50 years before that day, but, they sure got a good look at it in Puebla, México. Four-thousand Mexican troops defeated a better-equipped 8,000 french soldiers, and no foreign army has really invaded the Americas ever since.

So, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, and in honor of sticking it to your creditors “con estilo” (with style), I present to you, this empanada earring tutorial. And, if you read till the end you can see a cool Mexico-related video! Happy 5th all!

Supply list:

  • polymer clay in tan and white
  • rolling tool like a dowel or acrylic roller
  • 20 guage wire
  • round-nosed pliers
  • wire cutters
  • a needle or needle-like tool
  • paintbrush
  • brown chalk
  • cornstarch
  • an oven and a cookie sheet
  • matte sealer* (optional)
  • earring findings

First, you will need some tan polymer clay. I actually have no idea of the specific color of this clay. I must have torn off that information months ago. But, it is Sculpey III, I know that much. You’ll probably recognize it in the clay aisle of your craft store. Also, the number on the package in the picture might help.

I lightened it out with a little white Sculpey III until I was happy with the “lightly baked” color that you can hopefully approximate with the picture below.

Next, I rolled it out to the thickness of, let’s say, a nail file with a spare piece of dowel. I really didn’t go crazy trying for perfection here. This was a pretty quick, pretty satisfying project that I could bang out in a couple hours while doing other things.

Next, I used a quarter-sized circle cutter to cut out 2 rounds from the rolled clay. Again, no need to be to perfect. Real empanadas are not perfectly symmetrical, or smooth.

Next, a rolled a few small balls of clay from the leftover sheet I just cut my rounds from. I took the picture above to hopefully show you the scale of the clay balls in relation to the flattened rounds. Make about 3 little clay balls for each empanada.

Next, cut some lengths of 20 guage wire, silver or gold is fine, whatever you prefer. I got my wire in the floral section of A.C. Moore. I use it ALL the time for various projects. It’s cheaper than jewelry wire, and I can use it for a looooong time without running out. Use your round-nosed pliers to form little loops at the end. These are what will connect your empanada to your earring.

Now, fold your wire again as shown, using round-nose and/or flat-nosed pliers. I don’t really like to use glue to keep my findings in place in polymer clay, mostly because I am lazy. I like to just make it REALLY hard for the wire to escape the clay once the clay has been baked.

Next, fold one of your clay rounds in half, and place one of the wire pieces you just made inside the round as shown. Press the wire into the clay lightly to set it in place.

Next, take those 3 clay balls you made as “filling” for the empanada, and place them on top of the wire.

Now, pinch the edges of your empanada closed with your fingers.

Next, use a needle, or a scrap of wire, or whatever you have, to give the empanada that characteristic crimped edge. Now, repeat these last few steps for the other empanada. Try to make the 2nd earring symmetrical to the first, but don’t make it exactly the same as you made the first earring. Fold the empanada in the opposite direction the 2nd time around. Look at the picture after next to see what I mean.

Now, scratch some brown chalk away from the stick with a needle, or with an Xacto knife.

Paint this chalk on the empanadas with a paintbrush to represent “browning” on a baked good. Don’t go too heavy. If you would like a visual for reference, just google an image of an empanada and follow that.

Next, take a little cornstarch and brush it over the outside of your empanada, front and back. It will make your little pastry look like it has been rolled out in flour. Do this for the other empanada as well.

Next, bake your little goodies on a cookie sheet, following the directions on the polymer clay package. Chances are, you’ll cook ‘em for about 20-30 minutes at 265-275 degrees F.

Let the earrings cool. Now, you can either paint them with a little matte sealer like Mod Podge at this point, or leave them as is. Your chalk finish will absolutely stay longer if you seal the pastries, but you may like their floury chalkiness as is. Matte sealer will probably just look like an egg wash or pastry glaze if you chose to use it.  I didn’t seal the earrings for this tutorial, but I may decide to later.  If you DO want to use the sealer, just be careful that you do not brush off your chalk as you seal. If you do notice that the chalk or cornstarch is coming off as you paint the sealer on, try to sprinkle on a little more of the chalk/starch before the sealer dries.

Once your empanadas have dried/cooled, use your flat-nosed pliers to attach some earring findings to them. I used cheap-o value pack silver-colored earwires here.

Now wear these little guys around your pueblo or ciudad, and, if anyone asks, tell them proudly that you made them yourself. Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Now, as promised, please see the following video for your viewing pleasure (click the link). Apparently there is a folkloric dance that originates from Veracruz (traditionally done at weddings) in which the happy couple must tie a bow in a red ribbon together, only using their feet. It is done to the tune of La Bamba, and apparently has some connection to the promise of fidelity. Please ignore the REALLY silly voiceover at the beginning of the movie, and the misspelling in the video title. Enjoy!


1 Response to “Happy Cinco de Mayo!”

  1. 1 Ari December 4, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    awesome! my sister in law makes a living selling empanadas. i’m going to reproduce this for her. she’s gonna love me forever.
    you are very creative (and i’m such a copy cat…) thanks a lot!! now i’m going to see the rest of the blog.

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