Suspiro de Limena (The sigh of a woman from Lima – caramel mousse with port and Italian meringue):
This recipe comes originally from The Art of Peruvian Cuisine, but it had a few surgeries to get it to its dairy-free version for the Fiest-themed Volk/Watson Christmas Extravaganza this year. If you’re making dairy-free dulce de leche give yourself a few hours and some good shoes in which to get it done. Also have a partner so you can trade off stirring responsibilities. The worst thing you can is stir for an hour and a half and then walk away for a minute, let it burn or curdle and spoil the whole thing. If the milk starts to burn in the pot, you have to change the pot immediately. Don’t let it boil over either. It’s finicky.
- One 14 oz cans coconut milk (not fat-free or light), equal to about 1 1/2 cups
1 1/2 cups almond milk (or just fill the coconut milk)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Generous pinch of salt
- 1 two-inch cinnamon stick (not ground)
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/4 tsp lemon juice, optional
- Port Italian Meringue:
- 4 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup Port wine
- Ground cinnamon, to sprinkle
- Place the coconut milk, almond milk, and agave nectar, cinnamon stick, baking soda, and pinch of salt in a heavy-bottomed pot. The salt isn’t traditional, but it brings out the flavour. I found it was overwhelmingly coconut-y so the salt really helps balance that too.
- Cook and stir over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes. The water will begin to evaporate as it cooks,thickening the milk (this is how you make “evaporated milk” – it’s just milk that has some of the liquid evaporated out of it). Stir steadily so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Adjust the temperature so that the mixture stays just barely at a simmer and doesn’t boil over. The mixture will darken as it thickens and the cinnamon infuses the cream.
- After about 45 minutes the mixture should be making big slow bubbles and be very thick. If not, keep reducing. Lift the spoon out of the pot and let it drizzle back into the pot. If it forms a ribbon that doesn’t disappear after 10 seconds, it’s ready. You can also check by dragging the spoon along the bottom of the pot. If you see the bottom of the pot for a few seconds before the thickened mixture closes in on itself and covers the bottom again it’s done.
- Remove the pot from the stove, transfer to a heat-proof dish, and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick, and stir in the vanilla (note: you can also use a vanilla bean and simmer it with the cinnamon stick. Take it out at the same time as the cinnamon). Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time (save the whites for the meringue), and add the lemon juice if desired (taste and see if it needs it. It will add a little acidity and balance the sweetness of the custard). Or add a pinch more salt.
- Let mixture cool slightly, then pour into individual serving dishes, parfait glasses, Champagne flutes, or one large bowl or casserole while still warm. It will serve 6-8 people, so portion accordingly.
- Now make the meringue. Bring Port, sugar, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a clean saucepan.
- Add the egg whites to a very clean and dry bowl (water will not help the whites rise). When the temperature of the port mixture reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit (115 degrees Celsius) on a candy thermometre (supposedly about 3 minutes, but much longer for me – don’t let it boil over!!), turn on the mixer and start beating the egg whites. Beat for 1 minute.
- Remove the syrup from the heat it should have reached 248 F by now. This is easy if you have a stand mixer. It’s a little harder if you have a hand mixer). The sugar syrup should have thickened a little and make thin threads if you drizzle it off of a fork.
- The egg whites should be forming stiff peaks now if you kept mixing while removing the syrup from the heat. Slowly pour the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl, into the beaten egg whites while still beating. This also works better if you have help from someone to hold and tilt the bowl. You should pour VERY slowly to not burn the egg whites. Continue to beat the meringue until it’s cool, about 5 minutes.
- Using a pastry bag with a round or star tip (or a ziplock or plastic bag with one corner cut off), pipe the meringue decoratively on top of the dulce de leche. Channel ice cream soft serve machine vendors or do whatever you want. It’s SO fun! You may end up with extra meringue. Consider yourself lucky.
- Chill the suspiro until you’re ready to serve. No need to cover it. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon (through a sieve to keep it powdery) and serve chilled or at room temperature. Hurray! Enjoy your sugar high!