the appetizer:

Dulce: Desserts in the Latin-American Tradition by Joseluis Flores with Laura Zimmerman Maye, includes recipes like Liquid Chocolate Croquettes Croquetas de Chocolate Liquido; Mango Catalonian Crème Brûlée Crema Catalana de Mango; and Peruvian Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Fritters with Spiced Syrup Picarones con Miel de Especias.


Peruvian Sweet Potato and
Pumpkin Fritters with Spiced Syrup
Picarones con Miel de Especias

Serves 6 to 10
(2 or 3 fritters per person)

Peruvian Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Fritters


The first time I tried picarones was in a small Peruvian restaurant in Queens, New York. They were delightful and reminded me of Mexican buñuelos but with a slightly different flavor and texture. The picarones were doused with a flavorful syrup made from chancaca or panela, a candylike brick of sugar made from boiled sugarcane juice, and scented with cinnamon, star anise, and pineapple.

Picarones are one of the most classic Peruvian desserts, consumed every day in mercados and restaurants alike. While buñuelos are made with a yuca-based dough, picarones are made with a combination of zapallo (pumpkin) and camote dulce (sweet potato), giving them their characteristic crisp exterior, soft interior, and naturally sweet flavor. Today, you can even buy prepared mixes for picarones, just as you might a store-bought cake mix. But there's no substitute for fresh picarones right out of the fryer topped with a big splash of chancaca syrup.

For the batter:

For the syrup:

Make the batter: In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring 4 cups (960 milliliters) water, the sweet potato, pumpkin, star anise, cinnamon sticks, and cloves to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the sweet potato and pumpkin are fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid and discarding the star anise and cinnamon sticks, and mash.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Add the vanilla extract and the warm potato and pumpkin mixture with enough of the cooking liquid to form a loose dough. Mix for an additional 5 minutes, then let rise, covered with a towel in a warm place, for about 15 minutes, until doubled in volume. If not using the dough immediately, cover it with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours. Bring to room temperature before frying.

Make the syrup: In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the panela, halved vanilla bean (including seeds) or extract, chile, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, and 4 cups (960 milliliters) water to a boil. Lower the heat and cook until the mixture is reduced by half, creating a thick, flavorful syrup.

Fry the picarones: Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan to 350 degrres F. For a more homestyle fritter, simply drop tablespoonfuls of the dough into the fryer. Alternatively, quickly shape the dough into doughnut shapes using your fingertips, being careful not to overwork the dough; dip your fingertips in water to avoid sticking. Fry in batches of 6 to 8 pieces until deep golden brown and puffy, about 4 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain briefly on paper towels. Although you can serve picarones at room temperature, I prefer them served warm fresh from the oil.

To serve, arrange the picarones on a platter and drizzle generously with the syrup, serving the remaining syrup on the side.


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This page created September 2010