Bake

Turrón de Doña Pepa

October 28, 2019
Photo by Julia Gartland. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis.
Author Notes

The Turrón de Doña Pepa is an Afro-Peruvian dessert closely associated with the feast of the Lord of Miracles on October 28. It consists of layers of cookies and a fruit- and spice-flavored caramel, topped with colorful sprinkles and a prune or two. The caramel and cookies can be made several days in advance and assembled later. —Carlos C. Olaechea

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: The Miraculous History of Peru's Most Sacred Dessert. —The Editors

  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Makes 1 loaf pan
Ingredients
  • For the caramel
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 apple, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 banana, skin on, cut in two pieces and pricked with a fork
  • 3 dried apricots, halved
  • 2 dried figs, halved
  • 1 orange, halved
  • 3 slices dried pineapple
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • For the cookies and assembly
  • 3 teaspoons anise seeds
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups vegetable shortening
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground, untoasted sesame seeds
  • Nonpareil sprinkles, for decorating
  • 1 to 2 dried prunes, for decorating
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. For the caramel
  2. Place everything in a pot and simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugars. Be careful not to mush up the fruit too much. When the apples are fully cooked through and about to disintegrate, remove all the solids with a slotted spoon. (It's okay if some small pieces are still in there.) Press the solids through a sieve to remove any liquid or syrup and add it back into the pot.
  3. Turn up the heat to medium-high heat until the syrup reaches soft-ball stage (235°F to 245°F). To test without a thermometer, drop some syrup into a small bowl of ice water. If it clumps together into a ball of toffee-like consistency, it is ready.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and let the caramel come down to room temperature.
  1. For the cookies and assembly
  2. Steep 1 teaspoon anise seeds in 1 cup boiling water. Set aside until water comes to room temperature.
  3. Meanwhile, sift flour, salt, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the vegetable shortening until it is thoroughly combined. (This will have a paste-like consistency.)
  4. Stir in the egg yolks, sugar, sesame seeds, and remaining anise seeds. Add the anise tea a little bit at a time. I start out with about 1/2 cup. Add more if you feel it needs it. The consistency should be like a soft cookie dough. It shouldn’t really stick to your hands, but it should be soft and pliable. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two half cookie sheets with parchment paper. Have a loaf pan ready, as well. Use a mini ice cream scoop to scoop out even portions of cookie dough. Roll into little logs that are as long as the width of the loaf pan. Place logs on the cookie sheets about an inch apart. When you fill up a cookie sheet, place in the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour. Repeat with remaining cookie dough until you use it all up. You may end up with more cookies than you need.
  6. When the cookie dough is chilled, place one cookie sheet on the middle rack of your preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove cookies from oven and place on a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining cookies. Cookies can be stored for a couple of days until ready to assemble the turrón.
  7. To assemble the turrón, line your loaf pan with lightly greased wax paper. Place one layer of cookies closely together in the loaf pan. (Be careful; the cookies are very delicate.) Generously drizzle and gently spread a layer of caramel on top of the cookies (see Note below regarding caramel temperature). Be careful not to spread too forcefully or you will break the cookies. Add another layer of cookies, followed by another generous layer of caramel. Continue layering cookies and caramel until you reach the top of the loaf pan or finish using up the cookies.
  8. Add a final layer of caramel and decorate generously with sprinkles. Artfully place some prunes on top, as well. Cover the loaf pan with foil and place somewhere cool to set. When it has set, lift out of the loaf pan using the wax paper and place on a serving tray. You can also cut slices directly from the loaf pan.
  9. Caramel Note: Make sure your caramel is at the right temperature. If you made it the day before, it may be too stiff to spread over the cookies. If this is the case, place the container of caramel in a large bowl of hot water and stir. You want it to be loose enough to pour and spread, but not so hot that it is liquid. It should be barely warm to the touch.

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I was born in Peru to a Limeño father and a Texan mother. We moved to Miami when I was five, and I grew up in the "Kendall-suyo" neighborhood—often called the 5th province of the Inca Empire because of its large Peruvian population. I've been writing about food since I was 11 years old, and in 2016 I received a master's degree in Gastronomy from Boston University. A travel columnist at Food52, I'm currently based in Hollywood, Florida—another vibrant Peruvian community—where I am a writer, culinary tour guide, and consultant.