What's not to love about empanadas?

Sandra A. GuiterrezSandra A. Gutierrez is a prolific food writer, with over 1,000 articles published to date. The former food editor for The Cary News, Sandra featured a weekly column covering various topics such as food history, ingredient-based cooking, ethnic and American cuisines, cookbook reviews, and cooking techniques. Although born in the US, Sandra grew up in Latin America, where she learned about many regional cuisines. As a recognized expert in Latin cuisines, she has taught cooking classes throughout the US and her work has been featured in publications across the globe.

Sandra recently released her third cookbook, Empanadas: The Hand-Held Pies of Latin America. (Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy). We asked her about the book, and she graciously provided us with the following mini-lesson on empanadas:

Empanadas are small pies that are filled with myriad kinds of succulent fillings. The stuff inside the dough can be sweet, savory, or a combination of both. In my newest cookbook, Empanadas: The Hand-Held Pies of Latin America, I explain the great story of these little pies and how they arrived to Latin America.

Did you know that Latin empanadas are made with different kinds of dough? That's right, we don't use only wheat-based dough, we also have some pretty delicious gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan kinds of dough that will surprise you.  Furthermore, in Latin America, empanadas can be large or small, shaped like half-moons, ravioli, or footballs. They can be fried, baked, or grilled. They also can be enjoyed for breakfast, as a meal alone or alongside salad, as appetizers or as desserts.

There are 21 Latin American countries and each one features their own diverse kinds of empanadas. Fillings can be varied too, from beef, to cheese, and to dulce de leche. If it can be stuffed into a pie, it can be put inside an empanada. In my book, you'll find my favorite versions, from the Nicaraguan fried chicken and olive pies that are rolled in sugar, to the Chilean beef pies that are famous around the world, and to Brazilian banana tarts, bejeweled in a sugar-cinnamon coating. You'll find empanadas all the way from Mexico, through Central America, the Latin Caribbean, and South America.

The idea for this book had been living in my subconscious for a while - I even wrote an entire chapter on the empanadas most likely to be found in the streets of Latin America in my second book, Latin American Street Food. I wrote this book with such enthusiasm because I'm in love with the theme - I mean, what's not to love about empanadas? Furthermore, I was also very happy to learn that this book will have an international release, which means that it will be released simultaneously in Europe, Canada, and elsewhere. This means that the measurements for each recipe are in both metric and imperial formulas, so that anyone around the world can make them and succeed.

Writing cookbooks is a labor of love because it takes a long time (years) to produce each book. First, there is a lot of research to be done (especially for the kinds of books I write which are filled with history, trivia, and authentic recipes). Then, the recipes have to be developed and written down. Then comes the best part of the project: testing, re-testing, and tasting all along! After that, recipes get sent to a professional tester.  Only after a recipe works perfectly, do I send it out to blind testers who recreate the recipes according to my exact written instructions.  It's a lot of work, but this ensures that every cook succeeds each and every time.

It is my hope that you'll enjoy reading and cooking from this book and that as you do so, you'll discover the great array of cuisines that make up Latin American cooking.

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