Delicious Gluten-Free Empanadas
Being Latino and gluten-free can be a tough and lonely road to travel. Surprisingly though, a lot of our traditional foods are naturally gluten-free—rice and beans, for example, or corn tortillas—which made my transition pretty easy. You see, both my mother and I have a hard time digesting gluten. We’re gluten-sensitive, and that sensitivity runs the gamut from a simple stomach ache, to full-on celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, much like rheumatoid arthritis, which primarily affects non-Hispanic whites, though Latinos are also affected.
A Mayo Clinic analysis that investigated the prevalence of celiac disease revealed that around 1.8 million people in the U.S. suffer from the disease. However, about 1.4 million are unaware they even have the disease.
So what exactly does gluten have to do with celiac? Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats (due to cross-contamination). If you suffer from celiac disease, or you have a gluten-sensitivity, those grains are harder to digest than for others.
For me, it causes some really uncomfortable stomach issues. I won’t bother you with the details; so let’s just say, it’s not fun. For others, it can damage their small intestines to the point where they can’t absorb any nutrients. This can lead to iron deficiencies, bone loss, and even osteoporosis.
So how do you know if you’re gluten-sensitive, or if you have celiac disease? According to the U.S. Department of Health, there is a blood test you can take. It measures the levels of autoantibodies in your blood, which are proteins that react against your body’s own cells and tissues. And while celiac disease requires a shift in lifestyle, luckily, you can get better by following a gluten-free diet.
My mother jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon a few years ago. It turns out gluten-sensitivity is hereditary. So if you have it, chances are someone else in your family does too. She responded to her diagnosis with positivity and joy, and has since come up with some delicious gluten-free alternatives to traditionally gluten-full Puerto Rican recipes. Most notably, her famous gluten-free empanadas, which she has graciously decided to share with HLE.
Carmen’s GF Empanadas
Ingredients & Method
This recipe is easy, and deliciously gluten-free. Empanadas are traditionally fried, but you can bake them if you’re looking for a healthy option. Baking instructions below.
- 3 1/3 cups of your favorite GF bread mix
- 3 tbsp vegetable shortening
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cups of warm water
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 packet of yeast (comes with the bread mix)
- 3 tbsp sugar
- Parchment paper
In a small bowl, mix warm water, sugar and yeast and let stand for 10 minutes. Then combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix in the vegetable shortening with your fingers, until the mix resembles small crumbs. Fold in the egg with the water mixture, and add to the dry ingredients, stirring until well incorporated. The dough will be sticky. Use the rest of the flour mix to knead the dough until it is uniform and no longer sticks to your fingers. Form the dough into a cylinder with about a 3-4 inch diameter. Cover the bowl and let rest in a warm place for about 1 hour. Slice the cylinder into 1-inch thick slices and roll out each slice on a separate piece of parchment paper until it is about 1/8 of an inch thin. Leaving each slice on their parchment paper, stack them together and seal them in a freezer bag. Refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to stuff them.
Fill them with everything from spiced meat, chicken, turkey, or your favorite cheese. Just place a tablespoon of filling near the center, and fold over, crimping with a fork or your index finger. To go for a heart-healthy option bake them, brush them with an organic egg wash (an egg and a splash of water, whisked together), and bake on a greased cookie sheet at 400°F degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. As a dessert, fill with sliced apples sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. After they’re cooked, dust with powdered sugar and you got yourself a mini apple pie!