Cuzco’s Special Sweet Empanadas
By Hebert Edgardo Huamani Jara and David Knowlton
Cuzco has its own sweets, like the “Holy Week empanadas”. Though their largest demand is on Thursday of Holy Week and in the days and weeks near it, they are available year round. Looking like a kind of thin colorful cake on wax paper, they mound the display cases of bakeries and other stores in the city.
Parents will often buy them to take home to their children as a treat and a sign of love. Their sweetness and softness thrill the kids. Sometimes they eat them just as they are and other times they eat them with something hot to drink.
These Cuzco packets of delight are different from what one normally thinks of as empanadas. They are not pastries with either a savory or sweet filling. But locally they are called empanadas, even though the stuffed varieties are also commonly found.
According to Rosario Olivas Weston, there used to be a tradition in Cuzco of eating very lightly on Holy Week. As a result, she says, Cusqueños developed the custom of eating sweets to sustain them. She says the Holy Week empanada is the most characteristic. (p38).
Some people make them at home. After all girl’s schools in the city teach the recipe. But most people acquire them in bakeries, markets, pastry shops, grocery stores, and even on the streets. During their time of great demand women sell them from baskets on many streets to make it easy for people to obtain them and to enhance their own family economy. Almost entirely, the empanadas are hand made instead of being produced by large, industrial bakeries.
Not only is the recipe taught in schools, it is also taught in the various culinary institutes that have appeared recently in Cuzco.
No matter where they are obtained, the empanada enchants. First it grasps people with its scent of cinnamon and cake and then its texture intrigues them. Once they have taken a bit, the different tastes, of cake, the sugar flakes and sparkles on it in a universe of colors, as well as the toasted sesame seeds create a fiesta of flavor in the mouth.
The following is the recipe taught to the young women in the schools
1 kg pastry flour
1/2 kg lard
200 g corn starch
2 cups of pisco or an anise flavored liquor
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups of powdered sugar
2 eggs beaten with 3 tbs. milk
100 g of colored sugar sparkles and rounds and/ or sesame seeds
Waxed paper or parchment paper.
Cut paper into squares that are 20 CM X 20 CM
Sieve the dry ingredients three times.
Mix the dry ingredients with the lard and beat it well until it is a workable dough. Then add the liquor.
Separate small portions of the dough and place it on the cut paper and flatten them with the hand. Then lightly pass over them with a rolling pin until you achieve a sheet that is not too thin. Cut the borders to give it a regular square or rectangular form.
Fold the paper back over the border of the dough. Stick it with a little bit of the flour mixed with hot water.
Before baking, brush the egg and milk mixture over the top to make it shiny and then adorn it with the colored sugar and the sesame.
Bake for some 10-15 min. Being careful not to let them burn.
Let them chill.
Gives 35 potions.
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