Deep in cookbook research the past few weeks, this boniatillo has been on deck for awhile. Now that I’m (almost) ready to return to regular programming, I couldn’t go forward until I posted a favorite and final recipe from last year. Boniatillo – boiled sweet potatoes cooked down with syrup, spiced with cinnamon and spiked with rum – is a simple kind of dessert that would be easy enough to make before the holidays. Or so I thought.
I had planned it as a potential anniversary post from one of my favorites – A Taste of Old Cuba by Maria Josefa Lluria de O’Higgins. Of course, by the time I got to it, I was in the December pressure cooker and ending each day at least 3 hours short. Going ahead with it, I picked up boniatos from a nearby bodega but soon realized they were the wrong kind. It was too late to buy more and nothing would turn those bright orange sweet potatoes into the light yellow Cuban boniatos I needed. Under deadline duress, my sister (who has been asking be to make boniatillo for months) offered to pick up the right ones the next day. There was no turning back.
While the boniatillo chilled, I decided to make a quick meringue to top it off. Having drastically cut down on the sugar called for in the original (and most other traditional) recipes, it could bear to be a little sweeter. My great aunt Ninita served it this way and it was worth stopping the clocks to the get it right.
Boniatillo/Sweet Potato Dessert
Adapted from A Taste of Old Cuba by Maria Josefa Lluria de O’Higgins.
2 pounds boniato
3/4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
4 egg yolks, beaten
2 tablespoons rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
For the meringue (optional):
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1 cup of sugar
Cut the unpeeled boniatos into chunks, place them in a large sauce pan, and cover them with water. Bring them to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until they are tender, about 30 minutes.
Drain the boniatos and, when cool enough to handle, peel them. Mash them by hand until smooth, or process them until pureed. Return the puree to the saucepan.
Combine the water, sugar, and cinnamon stick in another saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook over medium heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 6 minutes. Remove it from the heat.
Bring the boniato purée to a simmer and slowly pour in the hot syrup, stirring constantly. Continue to cook gently, stirring until the purée tears away from the sides of the pan.
Stir in the egg yolks and then the rum and vanilla. Cook about 5 more minutes more, always stirring.
Place the desert in a serving dish and refrigerate until chilled.
To make the meringue:
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy, about a minute. Add a pinch of salt and cream of tartar and increase speed to medium until they hold soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar and beat on high speed until it forms stiff peaks.