October is a month of processions, masks, creole music, and Doña Pepa’s Turrones. This desert is just as historical as the festivities for the Lord of Miracles. Though the main feast is in Lima, in Cusco both visitors and locals look to be drawn into the joy and energy of the feast, especially with the taste of the famous dessert, that sweet molasses-style syrup that bathes every level of the turrón. It identifies us as Peruvians.
The tradition of eating Doña Pepa’s turrones is kept faithfully, as if it were one of the steps of the processions in which each years the faithful dress in purple to honor the Purple Lord, the Lord of Miracles (El Señor de los Milagros). It is said that this turrón is of Arabic origin and that the Spanish brought it to our shores in colonial times. What is not to be doubted in any way it that the demand for this sweet pastry continues to grow throughout Peru. It is eaten more and more every year.
There are people who are filled with pride for the birth of this month filled with color. I remember a friend say that it something was a delicious as eating a Doña Pepa’s turrón accompanied by a cup of coffee latté. It is even more special and delicious because it is only in this month that it fills our eyes everywhere and our palates with such sweetness and flavor. My uncle in Lima sends us a box of 20/S turron, the more expensive one. We share it in family and eat it slowly, little by little. We make it last for three days. When I go to my mother’s house this time of year, I have to break with my diet and eat it, because it is frankly irresistible.
Peruvians who live outside our country miss tasting this treat from Peru. Although family may send it to them it just is not the same to have this dessert outside Peru. When I visited Bolivia, I was in a café in La Paz and was looking on line for information about places to visit. A link suddenly remitted me to the page of Gastón Acurio, the recognized Peruvian chef, and there I saw a picture of Doña Pepa’s turrón.
I saw three layers of spiced cookie logs, each covered in syrup made from chancaca (molasses sugar). On top it had colorful candies and looked as if a rainbow had come down and laid sparkles of colored light all over it. The rainbow stuck to the syrup.
People from all over the world made tempting comments about that image. On reading it my mouth filled with desire to eat a bit of turrón. It is punishment to see it online in another country and not be able to have some.
Nowadays, though, you can find a whole variety of recipes in Spanish online in case you wish to try to make this turrón at home.
Yesterday I was able to buy this pasty in a pastry shop on the Avenida Garcilaso, in our Cusco. I saw it in the display case and it drew my attention far more than any other sweet pastry or dessert. They wrapped it up on a disposable plate and I wanted to get it home as fast as possible to taste it. I made a cup of hot coffee and, as I served the turrón, it shone in my hands from the syrup and colorful sparkles.
It only had two layers but still was provocative. The first mouthful and all the ingredients rushed to my senses. There was the flavor of aniseed and sesame seeds. The syrup was fresh and very sweet though dark and rich from the chancaca. From the eggs it obtained softness. Even though it was sticky sweet and stuck to my teeth, the combination with the coffee was outstanding. When I finished I was transformed and very happy.
You can buy this turrón year round, but in this month it shines and appears everywhere. You will find it in pastry shops and in grocery stores and super markets. Many vendors will guarantee you one of quality and people in the market will discuss with you the merits of different brands.
There is even a cookie covered in chocolate and covered with colorful sprinkles called Doña Pepa as merchants hop on the wagon of sales. It is a clear allusion to the turrón, but the turrón rules alone at the season of the year. It is the queen of pastries these days.