The chilean Once
La Once is a mid-afternoon meal, born from the blend of popular craftiness and the refinements imported from England
Tradition tells us the story of old ladies gathered together around a warm brazier, who drank yerba mate tea and to warm up the body and improve blood circulation they added aguardiente brandy and milk. As drinking alcohol at mid-afternoon was not well seen, the little old ladies made a wink and calling for their yerba mate drinking meeting they mentioned Las Once, for the eleven letters of the word aguardiente.
But the sophistication of the national table came together with white tablecloths and embroidered napkins at five o’clock, when besides English tea, biscuits and cakes were tasted, too. From the union of these two traditions came up Las Once, where the Chilean pastries had an excellent reception. Some of them were born in the tranquility of convents, out of the celestial hands of nuns and much sugar.
Alfajores (Small round soft and dry shortbread)
Chilean alfajores are a lot simpler than Argentinean. Two single delicate “leaves” united by a layer of thick milk jam. They are just what it takes to invite someone to a delicious Once.
Arrope de uvas (Grape syrup)
Very sweet sauce made from black grapes and sugar prepared in the Central zone of Chile, especially meant for desserts and as sweetener for some fruits. The arrope can also be prepared with melon, raspberries and some other fruit of the season.
Calzones Rotos (“Torn panties”)
Typically Chilean, this preparation is a special treat for the once teatime. Sprinkled with powdered sugar, it is a strip of dough, butter, eggs, grated lemon rinds and, if it is meant for those cold winter days, where the only thing to do is to weave, some aguardiente brandy poured into the mixture.
Chancaca (Solid dark-brown sugar)
Unrefined sugar used in the preparation of several Chilean desserts, like the Mote con huesillos wheat hominy, dunked sopaipillas scones, dunked picarones crullers and as sweetener for the yerba mate tea with grape brandy. It is sold in solid blocks that must be soaked or hit to cut it in small bits.
This small cake made with puff pastry, milk jam and whipped yolk with sugar, adorned invites and meetings of all dressed up ladies who made a tradition of the Five O’clock Tea, to which it was adapted this essential representative of the Chilean bakery. The “Little Dove Ladies” of Curacaví used to sell them to passing drivers, along the old Santiago to Valparaíso road to the coast. Nowadays, they are sold at the Angostura toll gate or in any traditional bakery of the Central zone of Chile.
Dulce de Alcayota (Chilacayote melon)
The alcayota looks like a small melon, with which a jam is made to spread on bread. It is a traditional Chilean dessert; it has a fibrous texture that not everybody appreciates.
Dulce de Membrillo (Quince paste)
Nothing is more school-like than a crushed quince with salt for the break. However, as nowadays lunch is carried in hermetic bags and children eat most of all snacks, the tradition remains in that this quince paste is used as a dessert by itself or spread on a slice of hallulla round bread for teatime.
Empolvados (Buns with powdered sugar)
These pastries belong to one of the most traditional bakery preparations in Chile. They are delicate, spongy buns covered with powdered sugar, made with flour, egg yolks and whites, baking powder and chuño (potato flour). Once baked and filled with milk jam, the finest powdered sugar is sprinkled all over them to leave them all white and tempting even for the most demanding palate.
Palmeritas (“Pig’s ears” puff pastry)
It is a puff pastry biscuit with honey. It first appears in a bakery in El Quisco and El Tabo, in the coastline of Central Chile. Its origin is disputed between an Italian bakery and a Spanish one. The quarrel only improved the results and this product started to move from the coast to Santiago, as a summer souvenir from the beach resorts visited where, in addition to palmeritas, you could find stuffed churros and cuchuflí pastries.
Pan de huevo (Sweet egg bread)
This round bun, made with flour, milk, powdered sugar, baking powder, eggs and butter accompanies the schoolchildren in Chile, from March to December. It is sweet and sprinkled with powdered sugar and it was probably invented by some nun that delighted her pupils with this school preparation.
We are always asking in Chile about who invented the central hole of the picarones, this deep-fried dough with a hole through it and that is made with pumpkin, yeast, eggs, flour and milk. It is not totally Chilean, but the preparation of the soaked picarones ─ dipped in a special sauce of chancaca (see description) with chuño (see description), orange peel and cloves ─ is absolutely national, and particularly appreciated in the cold days of the southern winter.
Torta de milhojas (Napoleon puff pastry cake)
If there is something definitely Latin-American in Chilean bakery, it has to be manjar blanco or milk jam. The story goes that some nuns, a bit overwhelmed by the ways to preserve milk, cooked it at low flame adding a couple of eggs, a bit of cinnamon and lots of sugar, making a thick and golden cream. Thus was born the manjar blanco or simply manjar, which was forbidden from the New World exports to the ancient Europe, because its delicate and tempting sweet flavor was considered almost a sin of gluttony and lust. And that was how the Europeans missed out on manjar and we made the most of it with a special cake, made with delicate puff pastry, lard, water, eggs and a pinch of salt. The traditional manjar cake is filled with this sweet sin and with crushed almonds. Ideal for an old maid aunt’s birthday, so that she commits the sin of lust at least once in her life.