The state of Guanajuato has a serious sweet tooth. Dulces típicos (traditional sweets) are produced in various cities across the state and consumed by the populace with appetite and pleasure. In the city of Guanajuato, there are wonderful sweets stands in the market and numerous traditional sweets shops boasting enormous selections and unique regional candies.
Among the most popular flavors in Mexico, cajeta (slowly simmered caramelized goat milk) is produced in the states of Guanjuato and Jalisco, most famously in the nearby city of Celaya. Popular throughout Mexico, cajeta is sold in jars as a caramel syrup or is incorporated into sweets. A popular treat is cajeta spread between two obleas, thin wafers made with the same process as the communion wafers served in Catholic churches, yet not blessed by a priest. Chewy milk caramels (dulce de leches) are also produced in the Bajío region and can be bought by the piece.
You’ll also find ate (sweetened fruit paste) produced in Guanajuato. Quince, guava, and mango are among the most popular flavors for ate, though it can be made of many different fruits (and is traditionally served with cheese as a dessert). Crystallized fruits and cactus are also popular desserts, commonly made from orange, fig, or lime stuffed with shredded coconut. In the desert environment, confectioners also make use of the abundance of cactus and succulents. You can find crystallized biznaga (barrel cactus) and xoconostle (sour prickly pear fruit) in many shops and sweet stands in Guanajuato.
For the adventurous, the strongly flavored queso de tuna (prickly-pear cheese) is one of the more unusual sweets of the semi-desert. While it’s difficult to get your hands on some, it is more widely available in the city of Guanajuato than in other nearby cities; look for it in the shops and stands surrounding the Mercado Hidalgo. This thick and heavy candy is made from ground prickly pear fruit mixed with unrefined sugar, which is slowly cooked until it forms a thick, dark paste. The paste is then cooled in giant molds and cut into blocks. The resulting sweet is unusually dense and chewy, with a rich and concentrated flavor quite unlike anything else.
Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon San Miguel de Allende.