Today I am inviting you to a special coffee. I am going to explain why there are so many Latin American recipes on my blog. So grab a coffee or a tea and let me get started. You will see a traditional Colombian breakfast in the featured picture. These are tamales, which is food steamed in banana leaves accompanied by hot chocolate. Yes, this is something you will eat for breakfast in Colombia, I am not kidding. So just as this may be a very unusal coffee, I am also inviting you to grab something out of the ordinary for your “coffee”. The short answer to the original question is because I was born in Uruguay and because my husband is Colombian. Obviously both of us are interested in eating food we ate as a child. So there definitely is a nostalgic factor, for sure. But apart from the very simple and egoistic “I want to eat food I am familiar with”, I started this blog because I wanted to
A nostalgic recipe: Peach cake from my birth city Paysandú, Uruguay
Introduce Latin American dishes to Germans
Just as a little recap, I am German and my husband and me have been living in Germany for more than a decade. I wish that Latin American cuisine, especially desserts, pastries and the like, were more popular in Germany. Everyboy here knows what a brownie or cheesecake is and people are familiar with American carrot cupcakes. However, Latin American baking is practically unheard of. Do you know dulce de leche, which is used as much as Nutella in Europe? Have you every tried flan? Pão de queijo is a super popular Brazilian cheese puff many Latinos know about, but it is not as widely known here in Europe. Or let’s take the example of alfajores, sandwhich cookies, which are extremely popular in Argentina and Uruguay. I could probably go on for a long time. The simple fact is that in Germany Latin American food and especially baked goods, are not known. For that reason I see it as my mission to introduce Latin American baking (and yes, it does exist) in Germany.
Alfajores, sandwich cookies from Uruguay with dulce de leche
Writing down oral recipes with measurements
Many dishes in Latin America have been passed down orally as family secrets. Usually the story goes like this if I ask a Latino as to how and where they learned to make a dish. It was their grandma or “abuela” that watched, simply giving instructions like “add a little more of this” or “take a little bit away from that”. It reminds me of my own grandma who basically taught me the same way. One time I tried to write everything down, I stopped her every time she added an ingredient and measured the weight. Well, I gave that up after a couple of minutes because she secretely smuggled in a few more ingredients while I was busy measuring or felt that the consistency was still not right. Passing down recipes orally is at the core of Latin American cuisine. You cook and bake by taste, by sight, you do it by “feeling”. Yes, you will find cookbooks, but the sweet section, if there is one, is much shorter. Funnily enough, there are tons of Youtubers, Tiktokers, and Instagramers, showing with the camera eye what you mean is so much easier than writing it down. Yes, there are also bloggers, but at least as far as I know not as many. Yes, of course you can also find written-down recipes, but at least compared to what is available in Germany, it is less. I see it as my task to put oral recipes into measureable recipes with consistent outcomes. This is definitely a challenge, but one I like to face.
Preserving Latin American recipes
As so many recipes are only passed down orally, many are unfortunately lost. This is so tragic! I will never forget one conversation I had with my Colombian relatives. One grandfather turned out to be the baker of the entire village and he apparently knew a lot of cake and cookie recipes. While they were reminiscing, I asked whether they could teach me their favorites, you know the favorite cake of everybody. It turned out, they could not, one auntie finally managed to write one down by memory, but all other recipes got lost. Isn’t this sad? Isn’t this so terrible? One recipe could be saved, but no other. This is what I want to fight, I want to preserve, I want to keep the recipes alive, I want to pass on many local recipes to the next generation(s) to come. So I take it upon me to reconstruct recipes in another country with different ingredients, which brings me to the next point.
Making them with German ingredients
Yes, of course you will encounter some hurdles if you try to make a dish in another country with different ingredients. One example would be the cheese puffs called pandebono. One of the main issues is that Colombian cheese is hard to come by, if you find it, you will need to pay a fortune. Believe me, I am super proud that I already have two recipes for this delicious snack on my blog, every time we will replace the cheese with a variety that does exist in Germany. Obviously it took many tries until I finally was able to figure out this recipe. The same happened when I wanted to make buñuelos, cheese fritters from Colombia. In that instance I decided to make the cheese myself and guess what, they do taste very, very similar to the original.
One recipe for pandebonos mit mozzarella and feta
Another hurdle is if you simply cannot find the ingredient here. Guava, this exotic fruit, is a prime example. However, one trick is to replace it with a fruit that is local. Even within Latin America instead of guava you may find quince instead. Quince is very common in Germany. In Uruguay a jam/jelly you can actually cut, is called “dulce de membrillo“. In Argentina you will find pastries named facturas that are often filled with quince paste. Another popular tart is pastafrola, which again is similar to the Linzertorte.
Corn or cornmeal/flour is an ingredient widely used in Latin Amerian cooking. Compared to guava, it is pretty easy to come by, you will find it in larger supermarkets or Asia stores. However, this ingredients is barely ever used in German cuisine. So I see it it as my task to introduce the ingredient, to invite to try a recipe with it and taste it. For example as in this corn pound cake from Colombia. Yes, it is pretty similar to a pound cake, but it does use cornflour and thus has a slightly sweeter but drier texture. Of course I have a lot of recipes on my blog here with cornmeal. Prime example would be arepas, which is a flatbread from Colombia, homemade tacos from Mexico and Colombian empanadas. I am certain that there are going to be even more gluten-free recipes on this blog, simply because cornflour is much more common in Latin American recipes.
I like to experiment
Have recipes I tried failed? Yes, of course. Have I been close to giving up? Yes, I have. It is bound to happen if you are going to press something oral, something more flexible into strict measurements. Errors happen, just brush them off and move on. I cannot remember how many empanadas I tried to seal, I would either have too much or too little filling, half of them would be spilling their filling, it was a big mess. It comes as no surprise that I only published the big school of empanadas this year. I had to get six years of empanada making under my belt before I felt comfortable giving tips.
I hope that you understand now better why there are so many Latin American recipes on my blog. If you have any certain wishes or dish requests, let me know. I have on my list already tarta negra, bizcocho dominicano as well as arroz con pollo and some further arepa variations.
Since I am often asked what my favorite recipes are from Latin America, let me list three. Kindly note that they change all the time depending on my mood, but these are currently my favorite:
Brazo de reina from Colombia, or a sponge roll filled with strawberries and cream
Chocolate alfajores with dulce de leche filling from UruguayClic
Did you know that I have a full separate category listing all Latin American recipes? Click on the pictures to check out the recipes or click on the words “All” to see all:
Latin American Recipes All Latin American Recipes