THIS MONTH I HAVE BEEN…
Alfajores come in different forms in different parts of the world. Here in Peru they are most easily described as a sandwich biscuit, however they are so much more than that.
Two layers of plain biscuit filled with manjar blanco (as a norm), and then dusted with a fine layer of icing sugar. They are normally bitesize, so you can eat about 20 before you start to feel like maybe you shouldn’t have! I say normally, because they actually come in many different sizes, from a mere mouthful to a cake-sized sharing alfajor.
The biscuit is from a simple recipe made with a wheat flour alongside butter/fat and baking powder. I would describe it as a less rich shortbread, but neither as sweet or as buttery. This recipe does change to allow for a variety in alfajores. For example, the recipe alters when maicena (cornflour UK/corn starch US) is used in place of wheat flour, or when cocoa powder is added for a chocolate biscuit.
The recipe is also changed to make way for honey to fill the alfajor instead of manager blanco. These little guys are quite different from their manjar blanco brothers, and you will find that people often have a preference for one or the other.
Alfajores are perfect when you just need a mouthful of something sweet. Perhaps to serve alongside a cup of tea, or as an end to a meal. They are the perfect little ‘bocadito’.
Where would I recommend in Lima to eat alfajores?
This is a small chain with little shops and stalls through Lima – with a couple in other provinces. They are exactly what their name suggests and serve alfajores in a variety of flavours and sizes. I love their little box of 10 wheat alfajores, or their boxes of 8 maicena alfajores rolled in coconut (see picture above). They also sell ‘make-your-own’ packs (these are comprised of little biscuits, manjar blanco and icing sugar), which make for great souvenirs or gifts. As do their pots flavoured manjar blanco, ranging from the classic manjar to the flavours of lúcuma or coffee.
There are many stores throughout Lima. Check here for addresses and maps!
I love this little cafe in the neighbourhood of Monterrico, and they serve the best alfajores de miel (honey alfajores). They’re about the same size as a regular alfajor, but they have these little holes in each of the 3 thin layers of biscuit and in between these layers you find the sweet, sticky honey. It’s not a runny honey (could you imagine how messy that would be!), but instead a thick, syrupy honey that adheres the biscuits together. These are delightful, and the fact that the biscuits are not sugary means that the overall level of sweetness is just perfect.
Calle Torre Tagle 249, Miraflores
Av. El Polo 297, Santiago de Surco
What about outside of Lima….?
We need to go very far afield for this one and back to my homeland. Lima in London was started by the Peruvian chef Virgilio Martinez, who also owns the extremely successful restaurant here in Lima, Central. I was lucky enough to go to Lima when I was last home, and try their Sunday Lunch menu. The dessert came as a trio, and one of these samplings was an alfajor. I have honestly never tasted an alfajor quite like it. The biscuit quite literally melted in my mouth, and actually was much more similar to a shortbread than the ones here in Peru. It was as light as a feather and so delicate, but there was enough of the biscuit to not be overpowered by the manjar blanco. Absolutely beautiful.
31 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1JH
1// Mint Choc Chip and Amaretto sundae at Laritza D’. Summer = ice cream!!
2// Salchipapas (sausage & chips) w/ egg at Tanta. I love salchipapas. Great for soaking up those pisco sours!
3// Amazing queso mantecoso (creamy, mild, salty cheese) from the area of Cajamarca in the north-east of Peru. I am afraid I have no location of where to buy this cheese, because it was a gift, but check out the label and have a search for it if you are travelling up that way!
4// The buffet at Mangos at Larcomar in Miraflores. Super tasty food and a great place to eat in the summer, because their location is right on the clifftop overlooking the sea. Amazeballs. (S/.55 for the lunch buffet)
5// Papa rellena (mashed potato shaped around a filling, normally beef, and fried) at Panchita, one of Gaston Acurio’s restaurants specialising in traditional Peruvian food. It was by far the best papa rellena I have ever eaten. Continue reading
And at last we arrive at the dessert namesake of this blog. Pie de Limon, or Lemon Meringue Pie, is a favourite in about a bazillion countries. (Bazillion = a lot x 1000….. approximately…..maybe).
Pie de Limon consists of 3 layers. A base made from crushed biscuits and butter, although pastry is used instead equally as much; a layer of a smooth, sweet, but tangy, lemon curd-y filling; and finally a fluffy meringue topping, usually toasted on top with a blowtorch perhaps or popped briefly in the oven.
I do have to point out briefly that in the UK, and other countries too, they make the pie with lemons (kind of obvious, no?), but here in Peru they make it with limon. Limon is a small citrus fruit with it’s closest comparison being a Key Lime. The taste is slightly different, but to be honest it’s not a giant leap away.
Pie de Limon is super tasty if you make it correctly and that means all 3 layers of equal tastiness. In my pie vision, for example, I hate a crispy meringue or a lemon layer that tastes too much of condensed milk. I’m not sure why condensed milk is often used as an ingredient here in Peru for this part of the pie, I’m pretty sure lemon curd does not include condensed milk. Actually I’m convinced it does not include condensed milk. Please stop this madness.
Also, I would always recommend having a slice cut from a larger pie as opposed to individual tartlets. The filling to base ratio is much better in a slice and you usually get a whole heap more of meringue. I’ve tried a few individual ones here in Lima and none have been as satisfying as a giant slice.
A good Pie de Limon is a happy thing.
Turrón is extremely popular here in Lima, and I guess throughout Peru too. There are different kinds of turrón (plain, chocolate…), but the one I am concentrating on is Turrón de Doña Pepa. Although this type of turrón is sold throughout the year, October is the month where you will see it the most. This is due to it being the celebratory sweet food for the procession of ‘Señor de los Milagros’ (the Lord of the Miracles) which takes place in October.
It was originally made by a lady as a thank you gift for the Lord of the Miracles during the annual processions she visited, and it has become a tradition ever since. (If you want to read more about the history of the Turrón de Doña Pepa, have a look at Peru Delights who explain more about it, and give you a recipe to make it yourself!)
Turrón de Doña Pepa is made up of sticks of pastry-style dough (normally about 3-layers deep), stuck together with a certain variety of honey or syrup, and sprinkled with brightly coloured hundreds and thousands, sprinkles and/or candy pieces. The amount of sprinkles used basically shout out ‘I am a party in a dessert’.
The pastry is flavoured with aniseed, and the honey is also flavoured, but this time with acidic fruits like orange and pineapple. The honey is syrupy and very sticky, but alongside an unsweetened pastry, they make the perfect combination. A very tasty sweet treat that can be eaten all the year round, not just in October!
Peru loves churros, and you can find them everywhere throughout Lima, from carts in the street to specialised churro stores in the malls. They are served all over the world, so I’m sure you will more than likely have eaten one at some point, but if you haven’t, then I can explain.
Churros are long sticks of dough piped out from a star shaped nozzle straight into hot oil, and fried. The star shape creates slight ridges along the dough making them the perfect texture to pick up the sugar they are normally rolled in after frying.
Each country likes to put a slightly different twist on their churros and here in Peru they predominantly fill them with manjar blanco (sometimes chocolate or vanilla, and occasionally other flavours).
1. Manolo. Manolo is an institution among locals, who say it’s where you go when you need that churro fix, and with more than 40 years experience, it is hard to doubt that. It’s a great location to stop and buy them individually, while you are wandering through Miraflores, either down to Larcomar or up to Parque Kennedy. I mean, you need a churro to help you along the way…right? Here you can choose between fillings of manjar blanco, chocolate or vanilla.
Av. Larco 608, Miraflores
2. La 73. I have said this before and I will say it again, these are epic. It is one of the restaurants’ desserts, made up of 6 fat churros, filled with manjar blanco, served with a chocolate dipping sauce and caramelised apples. Heaven. In Summer, or Winter to be honest, you can sit outside under the lanterns on their patio, at the front of their restaurant, and enjoy this little (ok, big) plate of fried wonders by themselves or perhaps after La 73’s quinoa risotto. After all, there is always space for dessert, especially this one. (La 73 also has an incredible chocolate melting fondant pudding….but we’ll save that story for another day.)
Av. El Sol Oeste 175, Barranco
Tres Leches literally translates as three milks, and the milks that it refers to is condensed milk, evaporated milk and crema de leche. Don’t worry it’s not some kind of milky, flan-type panacotta monstrosity, the dessert is actually a light sponge cake soaked in the three milks and sometimes topped partly or completely with soft meringue. Now that sounds so much better, don’t you think?! Also, it normally comes served with all the excess sweet milky mixture, so no mouthful should ever be dry at all. This dessert is heavenly and very rich, especially if you like big fat slices like I do. Coming from the person least likely to drink/eat anything milk related, you know this cake must be awesome.
1. Maga…mis suspiros. It costs s/8.50 a slice and it’s so worth it (did I just sound like a shampoo advert?). It’s a good hearty slice, with an amazing flavour and comes topped with little dots of soft meringue (this is the one pictured above). Happy days! It’s probably good to share a slice like this but to be honest you could be selfish and polish this off all by yourself. This is a very popular place to come for tres leches, along with all of her other desserts on sale. It is a small shop but there are a few tables to sit in and eat, otherwise you can take away and enjoy in the comfort of your living room in your pyjamas.
Av. Benavides 1113, Miraflores (Between Paseo de la República and Republica de Panamá)
2. La Bodega de la Trattoría (started by Sandra Plevisani). I tried her Cinco Leches (Five Leches) at Mistura 2013 (Peru’s main food festival) for less than s/7 and I was incredibly lucky. Topped with a soft meringue and served with strawberries, this is some of the best ‘Tres’ Leches I have ever eaten, and don’t just take my word for it. According to El Comercio she sold 10,600 portions of this in just one day at Mistura last year! You can try it too but you will have to pay s/22 in her restaurant for the pleasure. (I have not tried it here but I can only assume it’s just as good!) Honestly, you will not regret paying the money for it once you eat it, but you will regret it if you leave without trying it!!
P.S. Do you want to know what the other ‘leches’ were that made this particular dessert up to a Cinco Leches? They were leche de coco (coconut milk) and manjar blanco (basically condensed milk boiled in the can).
The Cinco Leches is also available at her other restaurant La Trattoría di Mambrino.
Av. Primavera 712, Santiago de Surco. (there are 4 other locations for La Bodega de la Trattoría, so check the website for more details)
****ADDITION TO THE LIST (5/10/2014)!****
3. La Heladeria. Technically you do have to travel outside of Lima city to find this, but the beach town of Punta Hermosa is only about 25-30 minutes away and seeing as summer is approaching, you will be much more likely to find yourself heading out in this direction. This small cafe sells artesanal ice cream, desserts, juices and more, and obviously I have tried more than a couple of the desserts here. The Tres Leches at La Heladeria is sublime. Smooth, creamy and sweet. There is barely a taste of milk, which suits me perfectly, and it is finished with shavings of chocolate. This is absolutely one of the best Tres Leches I have eaten in Peru.
(The map on the Facebook page is not in the correct location and I cannot find the name of the street. Ask anyone in Playa Caballeros and they will be able to direct you to the location! Security guards are really helpful.)
Coming from ‘Playa Caballeros’ you take the road out from the beach called Av. Las Tres Bahias, go through the security gate and just to the left in front of you is La Heladeria, on the other side of the small roundabout.)
Feliz Día del Amor y la Amistad!
I much prefer this to the term ‘Valentine’s Day’, because it means Happy Love and Friendship Day. This makes me feel that anyone and everyone can celebrate and give thanks for those that are special in their lives, whether it be their boyfriend, brother, extended crazy family, their friends or even their tortoise. Who am I to judge, seeing as I can give thanks for all of those…even the tortoise.
We have reached the final day and I have a bumper pack for you today, with numbers 8,9 and 10, and these 3 I’m recommending to everyone, not just visitors. There aren’t any tourist-y bits, but there is a bit of something for all of you!
During the Summer months, sometimes the heat and humidity in the city can be too much and the Limeños escape to the beaches. Although the city itself is on the coast, I’m pretty sure it’s only surfers that brave those waters that border the city. Everybody else heads south on the Panamericana to the beach towns between about km 40 and km 95.