Have you ever heard of Peru’s Turrón de Doña Pepa? Or why it holds such a special place in the hearts of Peruvians around the world? Read on and find out more about this Peruvian food miracle!
What Is Turrón de Doña Pepa
Simply put, Turron de Doña Pepa is a sweet, cookie layered anise flavored treat soaked in brown sugar cane syrup (called chancaca) and topped with candy sprinkles. While it is now enjoyed all year round in Peru, it is most popular during the celebratory month of October, also known as El Mes Morado.
What Is El Mes Morado
Translated, El Mes Morado means, the Purple Month. So, what is the significance of the Purple Month? Purple is the color of the Nazerenas nuns in Lima, Peru. Every October, a series of religious processions are held in the city of Lima. Peruvian men and women walk the city streets clothed in purple dress.
In fact, the color purple is prominently displayed throughout the city; purple clothing, purple banners, purple flowers, and even purple food. The food most closley associated with El Mes Morado is the traditional Peruvian purple dessert, Turron de Doña Pepa.
Turrón de Doña Pepa History
The reason this Peruvian dessert is so closely tied to El Mes Morado is because of a religious miracle.
El Señor de los Milagros
Along the Peruvian coast the most worshipped image of Christ is the “Lord of Miracles”, also known as “El Señor de los Milagros”. Back in the early 1600’s an African slave had painted his image in Las Nazarenas Church, which was once in the district of Pachacamilla but is today downtown Lima.
When a massive earthquake hit Lima in 1655, much of the area was destroyed including most of the church. Miraculously, the one wall left standing in Las Nazarenas church was the one displaying this image of Christ.
As word spread of the miraculous occurrence, people across the country made the trek to the district of Pachacamilla to see and pay homage to the image. Worshippers began to believe that the image could not only provide protection from earthquakes but also cure illnesses and diseases.
One such person was an Afro-Peruvian slave from Cañete Valley, Josefa Maraminillo, also known as Doña Pepa. She suffered badly from paralysis in both her arms and legs yet traveled to Lima in hopes of a miracle. After much prayer to El Señor de los Milagros and asking for help with her paralysis, she was miraculously cured and able to regain use of both her arms and legs.
Soon after being cured, angels appeared to her in her dreams and provided her with a special dessert recipe. In honor and as a display of appreciation, the following day Dona Pepa walked through the crowds at Las Nazarenas and began to hand out this holy sweet to all.
Thereafter it became a tradition of hers, as she would return to Lima every October and share the classic sweet which we know today as Turrón de Doña Pepa.
Today the Tradition Lives On
Even today, during the month of October, you’ll find turron de Dona pepa sold virtually everywhere; on street corners, at bakeries and in supermarkets. Peruvians continue to carry on Josefa Maraminillo’s tradition in honor of El Señor de los Milagros some 400 years later.
Turrón de Doña Pepa Recipe
So now you know everything there is to know about Turron de Dona Pepa. But how to make turron de Dona Pepa. Just follow the easy steps below and you’ll be enjoying this Peruvian dessert in no time.
Ingredients to Make the Dough
- 3 tablespoons anise seed
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 cups flour
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 1 lb shortening
- 5 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted and ground
Ingredients to Make the Syrup or Chancaca
- 8 cups water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 cloves
- 2 oranges, cut in fourths
- 2 green apples, cut in fourths
- 1 quince, cut in fourths
- 3 cups of sugar
- Skin from 1 pineapple
- 4 cups brown sugar
- 2 fig leaves
- Add 1 tablespoon of anise seeds to 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, remove from the heat and set the infusion aside to cool.
- Place the the flour, salt and shortening in a food processor. Mix until it looks like oatmeal. Add the yolks and aniseed infusion, little by little, until dough is formed. Work with this dough until it no longer sticks to your hands.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and lightly knead, incorporating the toasted sesame seeds. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to at 350 °F for the dough.
- Divide the dough into small portions and form 8.5- by 8.5-inch square pieces about 1/2” thick. Arrange the squares on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the dough has dried. Let cool on a cooling rack. Do not transfer the bars straight out of the oven, they might break.
- To prepare the honey: Add water, cloves, orange and apple slices, quince, and pineapple skin to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the apple pieces are soft. Strain and remove the solids.
- Put the liquid back on the burner and add the sugar, dark brown sugar and fig leaves until boiling. Remove from the heat and cool for about 5 minutes. It should be slightly thick in texture.
- To assemble: Arrange a layer of nougat bars in the bottom of a pan that is lined with wax paper, filling in all the open spaces with any of the pieces of broken bars. They should be evenly spaced out. Coat with honey and make another layer of bars, having them go opposite direction of the bottom layer, coating once again with honey. Repeat these steps finishing with a top layer of honey. Cover the top generously with candy sprinkles.
- Let the turron rest for several hours until completely cool.
- To serve, lift the wax paper to remove the turron from the pan and slice it into the desired number of pieces. This is a sweet treat enjoyed in smaller portions.
Where To Buy Turrón de Doña Pepa
If you don’t have the time or simply not interested in making it yourself, you should be able to find it at a local ethnic specialty food store near you.
More Peruvian Foods to Explore
Peruvian cuisine has so much to offer the rest of the world. It’s no wonder its popularity has exploded here in the Unites States. To learn more about some tasty Peruvian desserts, read our 9 Peruvian Desserts You’ll Die For.
Or if you are looking for a new main dish to try, check out 17 Best Peruvian Foods You Have To Try.
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