Turrón de Doña Pepa

It’s October, and as the cold weather settles in and the nights get longer, it seems we could all do with a slice of sweet, colourful, and sticky Turrón de Doña Pepa!

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Turrón de Doña Pepa.

You’ll find this eccentric-looking cake everywhere in Peru during October, El Mes Morado – or The Purple Month – a reference to the colour of the Nazerenas nuns in Lima. During this time the Lord of Miracles (Señor de los Milagros) is venerated, normally with large processions and feasts. Folklore has it that in 1651 Pedro Dalcon, an Angolan man who had been taken to Peru as a slave, painted this image of Christ on the wall of the slave quarters in Pachacamilla. In October four years later, a devastating earthquake hit the city, destroying everything but Dalcon’s painting, leading to a growing religious following from around the world. The main image is now kept in Las Nazarenas Church in Lima.

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Señor de los Milagros in the Sanctuary of Las Nazarenas, Lima.

According to legend, some time in the 1700s an African-Peruvian woman named Josefa Marmanillo became ill after working many long hours as a slave. She made a promise to the Lord of Miracles (known as Cristo Moreno or Black Jesus due to its importance in the African-Peruvian community) that in exchange for her health she would invent a dessert in his name. Miraculously she became well again, and was guided in the kitchen by divine hands to invent the Turrón de Doña Pepa!

If you’d like to give it a go, there’s a recipe below!

Josefa Marmanillo holding the Turrón de Doña Pepa dessert.

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 3 tablespoons anise seeds
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon anise extract

Syrup:

  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 apple
  • 1 lime
  • 1 orange
  • 7-ounce bag of prunes
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons cloves
  • Optional: 1 whole allspice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses

+ candy sprinkles for the topping!

Method

  • Add 1 tbsp of anise seeds to 1/2 cup water and bring to the boil for 1 minute – then remove from the heat and let cool.
  • Toast the rest of the anise seeds at 150 c until golden.
  • Put the toasted anise seeds, sesame seeds, flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor. Then add the butter and vegetable shortening. Process until sandy in texture.
  • Add the yolks, vanilla, and anise extract and process briefly.
  • Add the cooled anise seeds and water a tablespoon at a time before it becomes a dough. Wrap the dough and chill for 1 hour.
  • Divide the dough into thin strips on a greased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until golden.

For the syrup:

  • Add 3 1/2 cps of water to a pot. Cut the apple, lime and orange  and add to the pot. Add the prunes, cinnamon sticks, salt, cloves, and allspice. Bring to the boil, then lower the temperature to a simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Strain the mixture and discard the fruit. Add the sugar, brown sugar, and molasses to the strained liquid and bring to the boil until it reaches 115 c, then let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Assemble by layering nougat bars in the bottom of lined baking tin, filling in all the open spaces with any of the pieces of broken bars. Coat with the syrup and create another layer of bars, having them go opposite direction of the bottom layer and then adding syrup again. Repeat these steps finishing with a top layer of syrup and garnish with sprinkles!

This recipe is adapted from a version published here.

Published 5/10/2020