Peruvian gastronomy, one of the most recognized worldwide, is famous for its rich fusion of cultures, for emblematic ingredients such as corn, potatoes or tropical fruits, and for chefs and restaurants that reach the top of the rankings. world. Central, led by Virgilio Martínez is, this 2023, the best restaurant in the world. But, if there is something that produces an irresistible weakness in Peruvians, it is the passion and taste for their sweets.
This special bond originated in the 16th century with the arrival in the American continent of the Spanish conquerors, who brought with them inputs such as sugar cane and wheat, as well as cattle and goats. This meant a great discovery for the ancient Inca settlers, who hardly perceived the sweet taste of fruits such as lucuma and custard apple. From that moment on, products such as sugar, wheat flour and milk were available to them, which were used to prepare innumerable and exquisite desserts, allowing the birth of Peruvian confectionery, as unique as it is appreciated.
From alfajores to chocolate delicacies or tropical fruits such as aguaymanto —a superfood native to the Peruvian Andes— the variety of desserts present in the country's culture is immense. These four are some of the most representative of the country.
sigh to the limeña
As traditional as it is exquisite, the origin of this sweet dates back to the beginning of the 19th century, although similar recipes were tried out in the past with most of its ingredients brought from Spain during colonial times. It is made with manjar blanco and meringue and owes its name to the Peruvian writer José Gálvez Barrenechea; who named it that after trying a preparation made by his wife Amparo Ayarez, an experienced pastry chef.
The recipe is made with condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla essence and Port wine, and consists of two preparations. On the one hand, the manjar blanco and on the other, the meringue, which crowns the dessert with its singular appearance of a cloud.
With a history that dates back to colonial times, this sweet has won the hearts and palates of Peruvians and foreigners due to its refreshing flavor. The paradoxical thing about frozen cheese is that, contrary to popular belief, its recipe does not include cheese, but a set of ingredients where cow's milk predominates. At present, the ingenuity of the producers has given rise to other preparations that include pisco, whiskey, coffee and fruits of all kinds.
The traditional way of making it is on a wooden barrel filled with ice, in which a metal tank is placed to which the milk is added so that it freezes. This remains impregnated on the walls of the source, forming layers that, when served, have the appearance of white cheese. Hence, the name of this exquisite dessert, whose preparation today is similar to that of any other type of ice cream.
The origin of this traditional sweet dates back to pre-Hispanic times, when ancient civilizations prepared a similar recipe, based on yellow corn known as ishkupcha. After the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, new inputs such as cloves, cinnamon, quince and sugar were added to the recipe. However, what marked its success was the use of purple corn, which until then had not been widely used.
This typical sweet, traditionally consumed during the festivities of the Lord of Miracles, is also one of the ingredients of the famous Combinado dessert. The other is rice pudding, forming a unique but sweet combination.
Similar to a donut due to its presentation in the form of rings, but more similar in texture to fritters, picarones are a perfect delicacy for those with a sweet tooth. It is a crunchy dough made from pumpkin and sweet potato that, when bathed with chancaca honey, produces a pleasure on the palate. Although some of its ingredients date back to the time of the Incas, the current recipe is the result of the incorporation of wheat flour and sugar, which arrived with the Spanish after the conquest.
So great was the success and popularization of this dessert among the people of Lima that, over time, the recipe was passed from generation to generation, especially among the cooks of Afro-descendant families. Many of these women were town criers who advertised their products with verses or melodic songs. How rich! How rich! Hot picarones!... Round and toasty, well bathed in their honey, the rascals provoke old men and children, says the lyrics of La Picaronera, a composition by the Peruvian artist Rosa Mercedes Ayarza, which shows a print of this sweet tradition.