The countries of South America generally aren’t celebrated around the world for breakthroughs in gastronomy. But all it takes is one bite of their utterly scrumptious desserts to wipe away all preconceived notions of food snobbery you might have carried. Each dish carries fascinatingly strong ties to the culture it was born in, bearing a place in the hearts and sweet tooths of locals. Read on and don’t miss out on these desserts during your next trip to South America.
Argentina’s premiere birthday cake, but no worries, it graces dessert menus across the country regardless of the day. Several layers of dulce de leche—milk and sugar custard boiled into a custard—wedged between neighboring slabs of queso crema—a cream cheese/sour cream fusion. Each strata gets caked in crushed chocolate cookies which also get used for a solid bottom layer. The result is blissfully creamy with the right amount of crunchy chocolate foundation.
Helados De Paila-Columbia
Ice cream appears to be a modern luxury, yet the Pasto Indians of the Nariño devised their own recipe centuries ago. They’d scrape ice from the peak of Volcán Cumbal into a copper bucket. From this, they’d add fruit pulp, sugar, cream, and egg whites. The bucket would then be placed into a larger tub of ice where it’s spun around and stirred by a wooden spoon. Eventually, the ingredients freeze and solidify into fruity sherbet. Street stalls use the same method to this day, able to whip up a fresh bowl in minutes. Flavors include any fruit native to the region like passion fruit, mango, tamarind, and even the spiky soursop.
Brigadier Eduardo Gomez ran for president of Brazil in 1945 and lost. Yet, his name has been forever enshrined throughout the annals of history in the form of a popular Brazilian delicacy. His wife, the mastermind, created the recipe to draw further support from bystanders at fundraising events. The South American cupcakes certainly caught on since major holidays and birthdays rest incomplete without a platter of brigadeiros. Cocoa powder, condensed milk, butter, and granulated chocolate, plus chocolate sprinkles after baking. Oh, and if that doesn’t sound appealing, then keep it to yourself. Jamie Oliver didn’t, and it sparked nationwide fury through angry editorials, threatening online comments, and boycotts. It’s a national treasure at this point, you’d do best to treat it as such.
Poet Jose Galvez called it “sigh of Lima”, presumably after the “light and sweet” quality of a woman’s sigh. Its hyper sweet base is an almost direct mirror of manjarblanco, introduced by Spanish colonies. It’s simply crafted by heating sweetened condensed and evaporated milk together before adding in thoroughly whisked egg yolks. The crisp meringue topping emboldens the dish with the finer flavor of Port wine. Said to go down well with a cup of Pisco.
These doughnut look-alikes that are anything but first appeared in Lima when it was controlled by colonial Spain in the Viceroyalty era. Their conception was originally sparked by buñuelos, or fried orbs of wheat dough. Yet, picarones set themselves apart from the buñuelos, doughnuts, and beignets of the world. Why? Because flour and eggs do not compose their foundation. Rather, an unlikely duo of a camote sweet potato and macre squash are boiled, then melded into a fine paste. Yeast, flour, and sugar are then coated on, morphing its consistency into that of bread dough. Once fermented, it’s deep fried into ring-like shapes. As the crisp and steamy ringlets are set to cool, they’re slathered with chincaca—grated molds of raw sugar dissolved in hot water before being heated into a light and airy molasses.
Dulce De Guayaba-Paraguay
Lucky Paraguayn families lovingly spin up this sweet dessert topping using the fruits from their very own backyard guava trees. Unlike commercial guava meant to survive weeks in shipping containers, the naturally grown variety has a very small window for ripeness. Meeting this demand pays off, though, as a tender, sweet guava makes the best jam. Fresh cinnamon sticks are best as well, as they flavor the water that boils the guavas. As the guava, cinnamon water, and sugar are pureed together and heated into a golden brown consistency, there’s a choice to make. For a glaze, you’ll stop boiling just as it thickens from a watery substance. For jam, wait until the consistency is yogurt-like. Should candied cubes be on the menu, let it thicken considerably, then cool it in a shallow square tin before cutting into squares. The sweet little tarts are the perfect confectioneries for high-class cheese and cracker events.
Fluffed meringue topping and a gently arced apricot slice commandeer the two sponge layers below. And what sits between these sponge layers but more meringue and peaches. The charming yellow and orange layers resemble the trifle in English cuisine, and could pass as such if slipped into a wine glass. Speaking of which, rum or peach-flavored vodka is traditionally used to spice up the sponge portion of the chajá. Dulce de leche is oft-used to top it off, but such a practice is looked down upon in many circles of Uruguayn chefs. Why? Who knows, it’s just as mysterious as the reason for naming this dessert after a <a href="https://www.simonhampel.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/2008-01-25_-_40