Peruvians love sweet potatoes, and we often add them to Ceviche, or to the pickled seafood dish Escabeche de Pescado — but here, the sweet potato is the star of the show. Hailing from the southern Spain of the 1600’s, this dessert was originally a mixture of eggs, almonds, sugar, and cinnamon. But the addition of the sweet potato puree gives it a unique Peruvian touch, making it delightfully smooth and creamy.
As I often do when making a dessert, I consulted with Teresa Izquierdo’s recipe in the Larousse of Peruvian Desserts. But to save some time I decided to use canned sweet potato puree instead of cooking the sweet potatoes and infusing them with the spices. As a result, all the measurements here are my own, and I had to do a lot of tasting along the way to make sure it turned out just right.
The key to making this dessert is to slow cook it on the stove top until it thickens to the desired consistency and all the flavors are balanced. Though I love to slow cook and actually enjoy stirring until the mixture is just right, it was a nice change of pace that this dessert didn’t take nearly as long as the Arroz con Leche or the Frejol Colado. So for those who are in a hurry for something sweet, this dessert is a great option.
And if you are curious about the name, “Bienmesabe” literally translates to “Ittastesgreattome” — which is very confusing because if all Peruvian dishes taste great to me, how am I supposed to distinguish one from the other? So for simplicity, I am giving it a different name. With over 300 years in the making, and combining ingredients from Spain and Peru, the one and only, Sweet Potato Delight.
- 2 cans of sweet potato purée (15 oz. cans)
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 egg yolks, beaten
- 1/2 cup almonds, toasted and ground
- 1/4 cup port
- 1 teaspoon essence of vanilla
In addition to the ingredients above, you’ll need a pot to cook the dessert, a skillet to toast the almonds, and a mortar and pestle to grind the almonds.
- Toast the almonds on a dry skillet over medium-low heat, tossing occasionally, less than 5 minutes.
- Grind the toasted almonds using a mortar and pestle, divide in two equal parts, and set aside.
- Combine the purée, dry spices, milk, and sugar in a pot over medium-low heat. Cook and stir until it forms a thick uniform mixture, about 30 minutes.
- Slowly stir in the egg yolks, then add the port and half of the ground almonds. Continue to cook, stirring until creamy, about 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in the essence of vanilla, and serve in small bowls or ramekins.
- Garnish each serving with the remaining ground almonds.
6 servings, about 4 oz. each.
I suspect that 300 years ago, the almonds were ground to a fine past to give the dessert the right consistency. But in this version, the purée is already creamy, so the almonds are more for flavor and are ground coarsely for texture. To test for the right consistency and doneness, scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon while cooking the purée. You should be able to see the bottom of the pot while the purée retains it’s shape. Note that while the purée is cooking, it will bubble as some steam is released, be careful with any hot splattering.