Salteñas, a Bolivian pastry, are filled with meat. This recipe also calls for hard-cooked eggs as well as olives and raisins. STYLING BY LESLY SOBEL / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

Treats with a Bolivian twist: Metro Atlanta baker shares recipes that remind her of home

Lesly Sobel of Sweet Rossy Bolivian Bakery moved to the United States from Sucre, Bolivia, in 2016. She married her American husband, Jacob, in the States and went back to Bolivia a year later to celebrate with a religious ceremony and a big party. Before long, pregnant and craving the comfort of the food she loved from home, she started baking for herself. “There are really no Bolivian bakeries or restaurants here. My mother has a bakery back home, so when I started baking for myself, I found that everything I made carried the memory of my mother and her baking.”

When asked to share some favorite recipes from home, Sobel started with Bolivian Tres Leches cake. That’s what reminds her most of her mother and the family’s bakery in Bolivia. “Very elaborate cakes are my mother’s specialty. We Bolivians love our cake,” she said. “I really like her Tres Leches cake. It’s so moist and the flavor is really good.”

Her mother-in-law, Debbie Cohen, helped persuade her to carry on her mother’s tradition of baking for others. “My mother-in-law is in a book club, and she asked me to prepare Tres Leches cake for her and her friends. Then her friends started asking if I would make cakes for them.”

And so Sweet Rossy Bolivian Bakery was born. The name honors her mother, Rosemary, whose nickname is Rossy. Now Sobel sells her baked goods at the Sunday Avondale Estates Farmers Market and on Thursdays at the Tucker Farmers Market. She’s found the farmers markets are a good way to start a business since she does not have a storefront.

Baker Lesly Sobel shares several comfort food dishes from Bolivia, some of which she sells at her Sweet Rossy Bolivian Bakery and at local farmers markets. STYLING BY LESLY SOBEL / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

Sobel also shared the recipe for buñuelos, a traditional sweet she also remembers making with her family. “We always eat these at Christmas and all the family is in the kitchen. Some are making the buñuelos while others are making hot chocolate.”

In her business, and in the recipes she shared, she’s not just concentrating on sweets. She bakes savory empanadas and salteñas, which make perfect hand-held snacks to enjoy at the markets or take home for a snack or for lunch.

As Jennifer Joyner, marketing manager for the Avondale Estates Farmers Market, said, “It’s food that’s recognizable, but delicious and different.” These savory turnovers are popular in Bolivia for breakfast or to enjoy with afternoon tea.

“In Latin America, we have all kinds of turnovers and empanadas. … I remember making them for my sister’s birthday with my mom, my dad, my aunt, my cousins, all of us together. These are our favorites and I find my customers really like them,” said Sobel.

She and her sister grew up spending time in their mother’s bakery, starting first with helping to mix, then graduating to decorating cakes. “It’s crazy how people in Bolivia love cake. For Mother’s Day, we might sell 1,000 cakes in two days. They might be chocolate or vanilla, but vanilla is the favorite. And frosted with whipping cream.”

Sobel’s recipes come from Bolivian cookbooks, but also from her most treasured source, a notebook of her mother’s own recipes. “I am far away from my home. My children’s life is here. I worry that maybe all my traditions will be lost. That they will not grow up with these traditions,” Sobel said. “My mother’s notebook helps me make sure my son, and my future children, will share some of these memories.”

RECIPES

Lesly Sobel of Sweet Rossy Bolivian Bakery enjoys sharing her baking with people in Atlanta. Here she provides recipes for baked and fried treats that are as delicious here as they are at home in Bolivia.

Salteñas, which are filled with meat, are one of the foods that remind baker Lesly Sobel of her homeland, Bolivia. STYLING BY LESLY SOBEL / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

Salteñas

Salteñas are a Bolivian pastry, always filled with meat. The dough here is a pleasure to work with. The annatto makes it a beautiful yellow color, and the dough consistency is perfect for forming a pretty crimped edge. You can find annatto in stores that carry Hispanic groceries. If you go to the Buford Highway Farmers Market, you can also find Aji Panca Pepper Paste, which Sobel says is very similar to the jalapeno sauce she would use at home in Bolivia.

The twisted edge that seals the salteñas is called “repulgado” in Spanish and makes a beautiful ropelike decoration.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Lesly Sobel of Sweet Rossy Bolivian Bakery.

In Bolivia, a cheese empanada can serve as a lunch or a snack. STYLING BY LESLY SOBEL / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography
These spinach-cheese empanadas include mozzarella, feta and part-skim ricotta cheeses. STYLING BY LESLY SOBEL / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

Cheese or Spinach-Cheese Empanada

One dough, two filling options. The cheese empanada is a typical Bolivian lunch or snack, but Sobel also makes the spinach-cheese version based on a Croatian filling recipe from her husband’s grandmother. For a shinier crust, brush the filled empanadas with an egg wash, as in the recipe for the salteñas.

Note that you may need to increase the cheese filling recipe to have enough for all the empanadas, or be a bit sparing as you divide the filling.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Lesly Sobel of Sweet Rossy Bolivian Bakery.

Tres Leches Cake reminds Lesly Sobel of her mother and the family’s bakery back home in Bolivia. STYLING BY LESLY SOBEL / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

Tres Leches Cake

If you don’t want to end up with half cans of condensed and evaporated milk, then double the recipe. Or Sobel says you can use the entire contents of both cans for a really moist result. Pour some on the cake in the pan and then use some as a sauce at the table when serving.

She prefers Nestle’s brand for those two canned milk products and likes the flavor of butter extract in this cake.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Lesly Sobel of Sweet Rossy Bolivian Bakery.

Bolivian Buñuelos, shown with honey, are a Christmas tradition in baker Lesly Sobel’s homeland. STYLING BY LESLY SOBEL / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

Bolivian Buñuelos

Sobel says buñuelos are a Christmas tradition, served with a cup of hot chocolate. At home, the batter would be flavored with singani, a liquor made only in Bolivia and not widely distributed in the United States. Sobel suggests using white rum instead.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Lesly Sobel of Sweet Rossy Bolivian Bakery.

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