Desserts with Character: Meet the Espumilla

(Originally appeared in Gambit Weekly in New Orleans,<a href=""></a>)

Many low carb desserts have their basis in heavy cream; if you're not a strictly low-carb eater, give another look at the versatility of meringue. Here we explore a Ecuadorean street food version, espumillas.

Imagine ice cream that doesn't melt. Meet the meringue's bold Ecuadorean cousin, the espumilla. Espumillas boast a magical quality in Latin bakeries. Crisp and dry outside, almost marshmallow-like inside, their glamour and sense of fun blows the traditional Southern meringues' daintiness out of the candy dish. Espumillas take on even more magical properties if served unbaked, the common method for street vendors in Ecuador. Like a cross between ice cream and a sno-ball, espumillas are served in cones garnished with aropa, a tart berry syrup. Traditionally, Ecuadorean cooks form the meringue with their hands, stretching and flipping the mixture.

This recipe simplifies that process by combining a number of techniques from traditional meringue recipes, but like all meringues, these require attention. In addition to sugar, this recipe uses agave nectar and fruit to provide sweetness. Guavas are the traditional choice, providing vitamins A and C, but berries and peaches also can be used. Puree them and cook off excess water to concentrate flavors and keep the meringue thick.


Serves 12 ice cream cones, with leftover meringue

  • 2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
  • 3 teaspoons water. Plus Extra for dissolving gelatin
  • 6-10 guavas (more if yellow variety, fewer if green)
  • 2/3 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/8 cup agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Dash cinnamon

In a small bowl, pour cold water over the gelatin according to package directions and combine. Let the mixture set until a disc of gelatin forms. Place a metal mixer bowl into the freezer to cool. Add measured water into a blender or food processor.

Peel guavas with a vegetable peeler, trim ends and add to blender to puree. Place a sieve over a saucepan and pour the puree into the sieve in batches, pushing and stirring the puree until only seeds remain in the sieve. Discard the seeds.

Move the guava-filled saucepan to the stove and heat over medium, adding sugar and gelatin. Stir or whisk until gelatin dissolves, no sugar lumps remain and the mixture resembles a thick paste. Remove from heat to cool. Next, separate egg whites. Remove mixing bowl from the freezer and rub with lemon. (This dissolves any residual fats left from previous uses, which can deflate a meringue.)

Add egg whites and cream of tartar and mix, increasing the speed when the egg whites resemble a very loose meringue. Once the meringue whitens and expands, add tablespoons of the guava mixture to the mixing bowl, waiting until the mixture is well blended before adding more. Do not be alarmed if the bowl heats up slightly, but avoid letting the mixture steam. If so, wait before adding more guava.

When all the guava mixture is added, add agave nectar, vanilla and cinnamon and mix until the bowl is cool to the touch and the merengue is extremely thick, about five to 10 minutes. Remove mixture, serve in ice cream cones and garnish with store-bought or homemade sauces (lime, peach or chocolate syrup or sweet potato butter thinned with milk all are possibilities).

Per serving (one cone, no syrup): calories 119, total fat 0.9 g, saturated fat 0.2 g, cholesterol 0 mg, sodium 49.9 mg, potassium 290.3 mg, total carbohydrate 25.4 g, dietary fiber 3 g, sugars 13.7 g, protein 3.3 g,