The saying goes, the Peruvian dessert, turron can be traced back to one person, Josefa Marmanillo, a slave that lived in the XVII century, who lived near Canete Valley and who’s hands were known to possess the art of cooking.
One day, Josefa contracted a rare illness that made it impossible for her to stop moving her arms. Immediately, she went to the capital of Peru, Lima to find a cure for this curious ailment and was brought to pay homage to the statue of Cristo Moreno, widely known as the Lord of Miracles or to some, Senor de Pachacamilla, a well-known saint in Peru and who Josefa was extremely devoted to, by attending the procession and other events held in his name.
According to legend, thanks to her faith and utter devotion, a miracle was performed. Josefa was cured! She was extremely grateful and in the name of her faith, she decided to create the dessert, turron using flour, sesame seeds, toasted anis, chancaca honey (made from unrefined sugar) and sprinkles as her main ingredients.
Ever since then, Dona Josefa who thereafter was endearingly referred to as Dona Pepa, would find herself making the long journey to Lima every October for the Lord of Miracles holiday celebration in order to sell and give away her now famous turron. Dona Josefa’s turron became known as “Turron de Dona Pepa” as we know it today and is now an essential Peruvian dessert and sweet found on the table of every Peruvian home and is the must-have culinary delight during the important holiday celebration in October throughout Latin America.
Turron was so significant in it’s time, that during the Republican era, there existed a job that was specifically dedicated to the preparation and selling of turron and they were given the job title of Turroneros” and/or “Turroneras”.
But lets go back in time a bit because the sweet known as turron or at least it’s ingredients do not have it’s origin in Peru, rather Peruvian turron is an adaptation of Alicante turron brought to Peru by the Spaniards. It’s base is the nearly identical consisting of almonds, sesame seeds or nuts, mixed with sugar and honey
Over the years, other names have been given to these sweets, such as “Turron del Senor de los Milagros” or “Turron de Miel”, but unlike those names, the name “Turron de Dona Pepa” has lasted the test of time and is known as such not only in Peru but in the world.
This sweet is so representative of Peru, that in October of 2009, someone prepared the world’s biggest Turron de Pepa in Lima, 307 meters in length. Later, in the year 2013, a contest was organized called “The biggest Turron.” Various turron specialists/bakers gathered and prepared a turron 200 meters in length in order to commemorate this magnificent tradition.
Even now, exists a commercial candy brand called “Dona Pepa” whose products are sold in every Peruvian shop, and that makes references to the turrones of Dona Pepa for the sprinkles used to decorate their products.
Because of this, the Turron de Dona Pepa is no longer sold exclusively in October and can be found all year long in a variety of shops and supermarkets all throughout the country.
But, how is the turron de Dona pepa part of our culture?
Not only is the turron special for religious reasons, it also is part of Peru’s gastronomical culture.
Just like a typical Peruvian breakfast consists of bread, coffee and a tamale, at around 5 or 6pm, Peruvians will gather to have a light dinner of bread, tamale, or leftovers from lunch. However, during the first 15 days of October, turron would normally be found on their table instead. This light evening dinner is called a “lonche.” Consumption of turron increases considerably during this religious celebration!
Bakeries have a long-standing tradition of preparing these delicious sweets dating back 90 years. San Martín Bakery is the oldest in existence and still use methods from long ago but there are more recent bakeries, like Fausta Pastry shop, located in Lima, that have risen in popularity.
Over the years, people have experimented preparing this traditional dessert in different and unique ways. New recipes are being invented all the time! You will likely be able to find a version to satisfy your unique taste buds. Are you looking for a healthier version of this recipe? Try dining out at the restaurant called, El Arandano (blueberry) when in Lima, Peru. On their menu you can find, “The Healthy Turron.” This popular version was introduced in 2020, consisting of almonds, whole wheat flour, honey made from fruits and a replacement of food additives with natural ingredients for a more nutritious option.
As time goes by, we can ensure that this unique Peruvian culinary tradition of eating turron will not be lost. Just as society evolves so do traditions. To enjoy this dessert in the traditional way or some other version will make it more accessible to everyone.
The turron also caught the attention of a French baker. Madame Kintu, a dessert shop in Lima, introduced the “Kinturron.” This dessert is made with three layers. The base is a sponge cake otherwise known as Genova Mazapan bread. The second layer is creamy filling flavored with honey. The final layer is the classic nougat cookie with sprinkles on top. The photos on their Facebook page of this dessert will definitely make your tummy rumble.
Thanks to the ingenuity of Peruvians you can find other variations of this dessert, such as Turron Cheesecake, Turron Peruvian Truffles, and Turron waffles.
In this way we see that Doña Pepa's Turrón is not only a tradition in itself, but also, over time, it has served as inspiration for the creation of other desserts or sweets, offering more gastronomic opportunities for both Peruvians and foreigners, and at the same time uniting everyone.
But, How can you prepare Dona Pepa Turron?
Nowadays, turron is widely available to buy in bakeries, shops, and supermarkets, but there is always an option to make it at home. The following is a traditional Turron recipe:
- 5 tazas de harina sin preparar
- 2 tazas de manteca (shortening/butter/lard)
- 1 taza de mantequilla
- 3 yemas de huevo (egg yolk)
- 4 cucharaditas de azúcar
- 1 cucharaditas de ajonjolí tostado y molido (grounded, roasted sesame)
- 2 cucharaditas de polvo de hornear (baking powder)
- 1 cucharadita de anís molido (ground Anise)
- 5 cucharadita de agua de anís (anis wáter) This can be made at home or bought
- 1 cucharadita de sal
- 1 bola de chancaca (550g) (Panela, dark Brown sugar, molasses, substitute)
- ½ taza de agua
- ¼ de rodaja de naranja (orange slices)
- 1 limón
- 2 membrillos (Quince cheese is a sweet, thick jelly made of the pulp of the quince fruit)
- 1 plátano (plantain)
- ½ kilo de melocotones pequeños (peaches)
- 100 gr de higos secos (dried figs)
- 2 manzanas (apples)
- 6 clavos de olor (cloves)
- 3 palitos canelas (Cinnamon sticks) y 3 anís estrella (star anis)
Para la masa:
- En un bol cernir la harina, la sal y añadir la mantequilla a temperatura ambiente, incorporar gradualmente las yemas de huevo y el agua de anís.
- Amasar hasta obtener una mezcla suave y homogénea.
- Formar rollos de 1 cm de diámetro por 18 cm de largo, colocarlos en una fuente para horno engrasada con una ligera separación entre cada uno.
- Finalmente, hornear a 175° C durante 25 minutos, hasta que esté ligeramente dorado y luego de ello, dejar enfriar.
Para la miel:
- Hervir por aproximadamente 30 minutos, 1 bola de chancaca (550 gramos), ½ taza de agua, y todos los ingredientes hasta que la fruta se haya desecho y el líquido se reduzca a la mitad.
- Mover la preparación que debe encontrarse a 113° C en termómetro.
Si no se tiene a la mano un termómetro de caramelo, llenar un vaso de agua fría y echar una gota de la miel observando si se forma una masa suave.
Para el turrón:
- En una fuente colocar una capa de rollos muy juntos, uno al lado del otro y rociar con la miel fría. Repetir la operación colocando rollos en forma contraria a la capa anterior consecutivamente hasta que tenga tres niveles.
- Añadir grageas de colores y frutos secos a gusto.
Turron is not only a dessert, rather it is part of our national identity, a source of pride for Peruvians.
For this reason, every tourist and foreigner who finds themselves in Peru, who is experiencing the culinary delights Peru has to offer, must try this dessert that is so tied to Peruvian culture and Religion. You will not regret it!
To eat a Dona Pepa Turron, can transport a Peruvian person to a time when she/he sat down with their family one cold evening, surrounded by sweet smells in the air as the dessert is being prepared, with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate in hand, and more than one story to tell. It can bring your back to your youth and how you couldn’t wait for your grandparents to arrive with sweets, churros/crepes, and a box of Turrones which disappeared immediately once in the hands of the grandchildren. Turron is reminiscent of the happy moments in life. It can make you feel nostalgic and long for more time with family. Doña Pepa turron is togetherness, it’s Peru.