The main agricultural crop in the Dominican Republic is sugar, so it is not surprising that sweets are an important part of Dominican cuisine. The national passion for very sweet coffee is a testament to the Dominican “sweet tooth” so it follows that Dominicans should adore their sweets, cakes and desserts.
This Quesillo (Coconut creme caramel) is one of the most popular ones.
Some Dominican dessert favorites, like creme caramel/flan, bread pudding/pudin de pan, dulce de leche and rice pudding/arroz con leche, are not exclusively Dominican, but many others are typically Dominican and provide a mouth-watering reflection of the abundant riches of the land. Dominican foremothers were certainly creative and inventive in devising the most delicious preparations with what the land has to offer. Tropical fruits that grow in the Dominican Republic, like papaya, guava and pineapple; grains like corn, and even root vegetables like sweet potato all find their way into dessert dishes. Coconut and peanuts also feature heavily in Dominican sweets.
The more unusual dishes deserve a special mention. Majarete is a yummy creamy pudding based on sweet corn, sold on roadsides and at all Dominican cake shops. The humble sweet potato is made into a tasty jalea de batata or pan de batata. Arepa in the Dominican Republic is a sweet pudding, made with coconut and maize. It is nothing like its Venezuelan namesake which is a blandish savory pattie. Jalao is a cheap and cheerful sweetmeat made with coconut and honey, lovely with coffee as a light sweet after a meal or as a roadside snack. Coconetes, simple coconut cookies, are sold at every colmado.
Roasted peanuts are used to make the toasty and tasty tooth-crunching dulce de mani, but who could forget habichuelas con dulce? This sweet bean cream is traditionally eaten at Easter time, and has a special place in the heart of all Dominicans. Exiles yearn for it, and every visitor to a Dominican home during the habichuelas con dulce season, having eaten their fill, is rarely allowed to leave the house without at least a week’s supply. Foreigners usually approach this concoction with caution, unaccustomed as they are to the alien concept of eating sweetened beans.
Then we have the empress of all Dominican desserts, the Dominican cake, compulsory for all special occasions and celebrations. You just have to read our Dominican Cooking forums to see the reverence, pride and passions it inspires, and the perfectionism and love that goes into creating this elaborate culinary work of art.
Different parts of the Dominican Republic have their typical regional sweets and desserts, perhaps the most famous being Bani, in the south west of the country. Santo Domingo’s colonial zone is home to several specialist sweet shops selling a wide range of these Dominican sweetmeats.
All these wonderful sweets and desserts are distinctively, deliciously Dominican. It is strange though, that coffee and cocoa, the most important Dominican crops along with sugar, do not appear as ingredients in Dominican dessert recipes. Or is Dominican coffee, served sweeter than sweet, a dessert in itself when downed after a meal?
The recipes for Dominican Quesillo (Coconut creme caramel) and flan may look the same to the naked eye… well, they are almost the same. But by using both yolks and egg whites quesillo has a different, lighter texture and the coconut milk adds a whole new layer of goodness.
The original recipe upon which ours is based was given to us by Adriana, one of our readers.
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1/3 cup of water
- 3 large eggs (or 4 medium)
- 1 1/2 cups of condensed milk
- 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk
- 1/2 of toasted coconut shavings (optional)
Heat oven to 350 ºF
Mix sugar and water and cook in heavy saucepan over low heat until a thick, light brown caramel syrup forms.
Pour carefully into 9" [23 cm] baking pan and cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Be careful, as hot caramel is indeed very hot and the pan will get very hot too. Set aside to cool down until the caramel hardens.
Mix together eggs, sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk. Sieve to get rid of undissolved egg parts. Pour carefully into baking pan, trying not to disturb the caramel layer.
Bake in hot water bath (bain marie) in oven for one hour or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool down to room temperature
Loosen edges of flan, place a serving plate on top of the mold (one which will retain the syrup) and invert.
Chill thoroughly before serving. Garnish with the coconut shavings.