Guatemala, a Central American country, has many different desserts to offer. Most of its food, sweet or savory, is quite similar to the Mexican ones due to their common influence of Mayan civilization. However, they also stand apart with distinctive tastes. Some of them are stuffed pastries, while others are crispy cookies and moist cakes. A hot cup of chocolate or coffee is a perfect accompaniment with these tasty desserts.
Polvorosas or shortbread cookies are a well-known dessert in Guatemala prepared from flour, butter, cinnamon, and powdered sugar. Traditionally, they are round in shape with a flat top. As the binding does not include eggs, they have a crumbly texture. Once put into the mouth, the crispy cookie immediately breaks and becomes powdery, earning it its name, ‘Polvo, meaning powder. Granulated sugar dusted on top at the end is what makes them different from the Venezuela and Colombia version. It is a common find in Guatemala bakeries and stores.
Borrachho or ‘Drunk Cake’ is a delicate cake soaked with rum syrup. Hence, the name as boraccho in Spanish translates to drunk. Apart from finding them in pastry shops, many Guatemalan households also prepare them on special occasions like birthday celebrations or family get-togethers. Milk pudding and fresh, exotic fruits go as their toppings, served chilled or at room temperature. Usually, each serving consists of a slice of the moist cake with the syrup drizzling from its sides.
Arroz en Leche is a rice pudding prepared by boiling rice, cinnamon stick, and salt until it attains a smooth consistency. Milk and sugar then go into the cooked rice. One can alter the thickness depending on how one prefers it. Enjoyed hot, the rice pudding, with sprinkles of cinnamon, has a rich flavor. Many also love having it cold as a refreshing dish during the summer months. Various other versions exist worldwide, one being the Arroz con Leche which is the Cuban version.
These deep-fried tasty little treats are a favorite among many. Several versions exist across Latin America in varied shapes. The Guatemalan version stands out due to the soft flour-based fried balls drenched in cinnamon-flavored sugar syrup. Commonly enjoyed during the Christmas holidays, this traditional dessert is best served hot.
Translated as ‘three kinds of milk,’ Tres Leches is a sponge cake made with whole milk, condensed milk, and evaporated milk. Topping of whipped cream goes into the soft cake soaked in milk. Fruits and nuts sprinkled on top add to its crunchiness. The Guatemalan tres leches version is one of the many versions throughout Latin America. However, the Mexican and Ecuadorian ones are the most popular, considered authentic.
These traditional stuffed desserts are unusual yet delicious ones. The outer layer is a dough made from mashed and cooked plantains. A filling of black beans, sweetened with chocolate or sugar, goes into them. Once fried, they are rolled in sugar before serving hot with sour cream or chocolate syrup. Though a typical street food, Guatemalans mainly enjoy it during Christmas Eve or in New Year.
Unlike the usual savory empanadas, the Guatemalan ones are mouth-watering delights with a sweet filling. The pocket-shaped pastries consist of a traditional cornstarch filling called manjar blanco. It is enjoyed warm or at room temperature with a dusting of powdered sugar over it. The outer layer has a crispy texture, while the inside is smooth and creamy. Guatemalan people commonly have this dessert during the Holy Week known as Semana Santa.
This dessert has nothing to do with its name, which funnily means slippers or flip-flops. Its main ingredient, chayote squash, is boiled or steamed until soft. Scooping out some of its flesh from the inside, a shell is ready to hold the fillings. It consists of the scooped out the flesh, mashed, and combined with egg yolks, sugar, almond, raisins, salt, and sweet wine. Before the stuffed chayote shells go into the oven, they are sprinkled with some bread crumbs. Eaten at room temperature, they are tender in the mouth with occasional crunches of nuts.
Quesadilla de Arroz is a moist pound cake. A typical cheese called queso fresco goes into its making, alongside other ingredients such as rice flour, butter, sugar, eggs, and baking powder. Teamed with a cup of coffee, it is sweet and cheesy with a creamy texture. Guatemalan bakeries serve it in butter paper wrapping to keep the flavors intact.
This sweet banana bread is easy to make with only four main ingredients: flour, bananas, eggs, and sugar. One can also add raisins and cinnamon into the batter to enhance the flavors. Once baked, a slice of it is served with a drizzle of honey for added sweetness. The flavorful bread is sweet, soft, and moist, with the banana flavor pervading.
Bocado de Reina is a Guatemalan dessert made with leftover bread. Its cake-like consistency makes it somewhat different from the usual bread pudding. For the preparation, bread crumbs, eggs, and condensed milk go into the mixture. An addition of vanilla extracts, cinnamons, and raisins makes it more flavorful. Rich and creamy, it is often enjoyed with a cup of hot coffee.
Corbatas in Spanish means tie. These puffed pastries get their name from the twisted shape resembling a tie. The additional sweet glaze and chopped almonds added before baking or frying them give the dessert an extra sweetness and crunchiness. Though enjoyed all year round, it is a unique item eaten mainly during Lent.
Champurradas are famous traditional round cookies. What makes it different from the regular flour cookie is masa harina, a limewater-soaked corn flour. The result is a sweet and crispy item with pervading buttery flavor. The sesame seeds sprinkled on the top give it extra flavor and crunch. Sold like hot cakes in Guatemalan bakeries, they’re best teamed with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee.
Besides these delicious sweet delicacies, Guatemalans also enjoy many cocktails and shakes with sugar and whipped cream as desserts. The main course dishes of the Guatemalans are as unique as their sweet platter, primarily prepared from meat.
Authentic Guatemalan Dessert: Borracho, Rellenitos de Platano, Polvorosas
Best Guatemalan Christmas Dessert: Buñuelos, Rellenitos de Platano
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