Cinco de Mayo might be over, but the fiesta continues in your kitchens. From coconut-y trembleque to a towering tres leche cake and gooey alfajores, here are 8 desserts inspired by Latin America.
'Latin American desserts' on Serious Eats
The reason this French dessert is surfacing here under a Spanish alias is that islas flotantes are a served in many homes and restaurants around Latin America. The construction is the same as in their land of provenance: small mounds of feathery meringues float swanlike in a still, chilled pool of crème anglaise threaded with amber caramel sauce.
Though some recipes call for baking the meringues and then slipping them into the custard, I follow the more traditional route and poach them. A bite reveals that these islands are rather more like clouds.
What we were there to get: one large box of Kellogg's Corn Flakes and one can of sweetened condensed milk. Someone sprinted to the living room to return the keys while someone else fetched a stool. Yet another would rattle and rummage for a large pot and a long-handled wooden stirring spoon. I would fill a bowl with water while baking sheets were set up in the dining room. This was a house of seven children, though some were too young to participate, and I loved the buzz of activity and sense that everyone had a task, much like Cinderella's mice.
Instead of Rice Krispies treats, many Latin Americans grow up eating these (no-bake!) clusters of cereal, sugar, and sweetened condensed milk. At a glance, the recipe appears too sweet, but the burnt sugar adds nuance and complexity to these irresistible morsels.
Buñuelos de rodilla are just such a recipe. These "knee fritters" are named that way because the flat disks of translucent dough are shaped upon the knees of women. Imagine spending a whole day carefully stretching hundred of buñuelos, crafting them so they fry up crisp, golden, and airy. The picture of this scene is wondrous and really illustrates how even the humblest foods are treated with respect and affection.
While buñuelos de rodilla can be found year-round in some areas of México, they are often served as a Christmas treat, either acaramelizados (crisp) or garritos (soaked in a simple syrup) during supper on nochebuena (Christmas Eve).
Pío V—allegedly named for 16th century Pope Pius V, though there are no written records or even verbal conjectures to explain the odd handle—is a Nicarguan dessert typically served around Christmastime. The name is quaint and speaks to the Nicaraguan history of Catholicism, but what I love most is that within the name are hidden another three, given that Pío V is made up of marquesote, sopa borracha, and manjar.
Pío V—allegedly named for 16th century Pope Pius V, though there are no written records or even verbal conjectures to explain the odd handle—is a Nicarguan dessert typically served around Christmastime.
We all do it: we wander around the airport waiting for our flight to begin boarding, killing time by stepping in and out of newsstands, perusing the latest paperback crime thrillers, leafing through fashion glossies, wondering whether we should buy one of those vibrating neck pillows.
The result: buns that are candied on the outside and soft, buttery, cheesy, and spiced inside their coils.
The flavor is delicate cocoa, orange, honey, and almond, coated in chocolate, and naturally, generously filled with rich dulce de leche.
The custard-soaked and baked dessert is also a sensible way to salvage stale bread scraps that would otherwise find themselves tossed out with the fish guts and vegetable parings.
Even if you won't be rapping your knuckles on stranger's doors on behalf of your calaverita, this is a festive and curious bread that's worth trying.