Peruvian Cuisine, Recipes, Uncategorized

A New Standard of Novo-Andean Cuisine, Pastel de Choclo (Sweet Corn Cake)

A Piece of Sweet Corn Cake-Pastel de Choclo (Photo: A Mi Estilo Peru)

Its soft and gentler kernels arrive from the Sacred Valley of the Incas to be the main actor in this great Peruvian dessert. For many years now, the sweet has taken over the taste buds and pleasure of Peruvians.

When I think of my childhood, my mind fills with childhood memories of family: when we would stroll through the historical plazas of Lima, enjoying the fountains in front of the Palace of Government; playing with my brothers, sister and cousins; eating ice cream or what ever struck our fancy. One day, a sweet scent of something recently baked but completely unknown to me at the time grabbed me.

I looked to find the source of that fantastic perfume and saw a humble woman in broad skirts (polleras) standing there. Next to her was a small cart and from it emanated these amazing smells.

I begged my mother to let me go see what it was. We walked up and the woman told us she was offering “pastel de choclo”, sweet corn cake.

Confusion overwhelmed me. I had often eaten choclo, sweet corn, but as part of savory meals. I could not imagine that one could make a cake from that ingredient or that it could possible send off such wonderful odors.

In any case, I just had to taste it. The woman pulled out a bag and gave me a slice of that warm cake. On tasting it I felt amazed at the flavor and texture of that dessert. It was so soft, sweet, and humid. It was perfect for me at that time.

Fresh Sweet Corn from Cuzco (Photo: Wayra)
Fresh Sweet Corn from Cuzco (Photo: Wayra)

Afterwards whenever my parents said let go for a stroll in the city it meant enjoying that dessert.

You could say that the pastel de choclo derives from the famous humitas of the highlands which, when they came to the coast, were slowly modified. New techniques were used and this new dessert came into being.

This delight came to the coast with the migration of highlanders to the city of Lima. They hope to fulfill their dreams and have a better quality of life. Many of them relied on their culinary skills as a means of livelihood. They made the same recipes they knew from home having faith the coastal population would like them. Their only display case was a metal cart and nothing more. With only that, they went into the streets to encounter their future buyers.

What is this pastel de choclo (sweet corn cake)? What makes it so delicious?

To put it simply, the qualities of the kernels of corn that make it soft, sweet, and moist.

The great qualities of the corn make it a wonderful ingredient for many desserts. In the cake it is the principal ingredient. Top it is added flour, butter, eggs, and raisins. They help it to take on the body of a cake and differentiate it from the humita. This latter is compact.

Pastel de Choclo (Sweet Corn Cake: Photo, A MI Estilo Peru
Pastel de Choclo (Sweet Corn Cake: Photo, A MI Estilo Peru

The corn cake becomes golden and its surface develops crunch from baking. It is like a biscocho—soft, moist, and sweet, though it has more weight. Of course, the scent of sweet corn baking gives it the perfect golden touch. It is amazing.

Nowadays it is one of the standard Novo-Andean desserts, very important in Peruvian gastronomy. No longer is it solely found in the streets of the city made and sold by strolling sellers. Instead, it is included on the menus of the best coffee shops and pastry shops of Lima. They often serve it with ice cream as a substitution for the famous brownie in Sundays. It is very widely accepted and many people have tried it now. As a result, the owners of the establishments are confident it will be popular with their guests as they introduce our ordinary people’s cuisine to the upper reaches of society. They raise consciousness of the great potential of our Peruvian recipes.

Recipe

(according to A mi estilo peru http://zoylita.blogspot.com/2012/10/pastel-de-choclo-receta-peruana.html)

4 cups of Peruvian corn kernels (preferable white corn. You can obtain this from Peruvian grocers abroad in frozen form)
¾ cup evaporated milk (unmixed with water)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup all purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder.
3 whole eggs
¼ cup good quality vegetable oil
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon aniseed
¼ cup raisins

In your blender add the kernels and little by little grind them. You add milk bit by bit as well as the eggs. Then you add the oil, the sugar, and the salt. Once all this is blended into a homogeneous form you add the flour and the baking powder. It should not be very loose, but rather a thickish batter. Otherwise it will take much more time to cook.

Without using the blender mix in the aniseed. Place in a well buttered and floured cake pan.

The dough will not rise much while cooking. But when it comes out it will seem a well flavored humita. You toss raisins on it, trying to get them to sink in a bit.

Bake in a preheated oven at 385-390 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour. It took me an hour and fifteen minutes. When I tested the dough with a toothpick its was still too moist. As a result I gave it more time. It all depends on the real temperature of your oven.

Once done, remove and let chill before taking it from the cake pan, if you wish.

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