When you sink your teeth into a caramel apple you experience a sensation of sticky sweet caramel adhering to your teeth and the subsequent thrill of the milky thick sugar on your tongue. In the blink of an eye, your taste buds become enflamed by the acidic apple, and you’re forced to take another bite to once again experience the caramel rush.
What if that sweet milky caramel could be experienced without the after-taste of a healthy apple and, instead, with the after-taste of sticky sweet meringue? I am here to tell you that it is possible, with Lima, Peru’s delicious manjar blanco confection called Suspiro de Limeña, translated as “the sigh of a lady of Lima”
Manjar blanco, also known as dulce de leche, makes up the foundation of the dessert. However, the defining factor, which distinguishes Suspiro de Limeña from other caramel creations, is the port meringue. It covers the dulce de leche with a cinnamon covered snow peak made from whipped egg whites, sugar, and port wine.
The first account of this recipe is found in the New Dictionary of American Cuisine from 1868, under the name of “the Royal Delicacy of Peru.” The New Dictionary deals extensively with this dessert and describes an important Islamic influence in its preparation. However, both the caramel and meringue came to Peru after the conquest as ingredients brought by the Spaniards.
It is the poetic naming of Suspiro de Limeña that truly makes this dessert as rich, in a cultural sense, as its captivating flavor. History tells us that the 19th century Peruvian writer and poet José Gálvez Barrenechea named the dessert after trying a version of the sweet prepared by his wife Amparo Ayarez, who had a reputation as an exceptional cook. Apparently, the taste and texture of the confection swept him off his feet.
According to the chronicles of the time, the poet said that the creation was “soft and sweet like the sigh of a woman.” Ayarez’s recipe for the creation was said to contain caramel, egg yolks, and syrup meringue.
Today, in Lima, you can find Suspiro de Limeña on the dessert menus of restaurants across the country. But, why not try making it at home? Here’s the recipe by Sandra Plevisani:
Add sugar and wine to a sauce pan to make the syrup. Put on low heat and bring to a boil. To make the manjar blanco, add the cans of milk to another pan and on low heat bring to a boil while stirring. In a mixer, add the four egg whites while adding the syrup to make the meringue. Set aside to cool.
Put the manjar blanco through a strainer and let cool until lukewarm. Then, stir in the yolks. In glassware of your choice, add the manjar and put in refrigerator until cool. Using a pastry bag, decorate the manjar with the meringue on top. Sprinkle cinnamon and enjoy!
A bit of personal advice: Make sure when enjoying Suspiro de Limeña you have either a large glass of water or tea on hand. It is one of the sweetest desserts I have ever tried and I found that only with water could I handle its intensity. Suspiro de Limeña is certainly not for the faint of heart, but in small portions it is an indulgence that should not be skipped.
Cover photo: Elcomercio.pe
This article has been updated from its original publication on Oct 10, 2014, written by Hannah Orland.
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