Food & Drinks

Chef’s Sunday: A Miraculous Sweet, Doña Pepa’s Turrón

Every year in October people celebrate the passage of the Lord of Miracles through the streets of Lima.  Thousands of faithful accompany the miraculous image praying and asking for improvements in health or solutions to the problems that they suffer.  But that is not all.  A traditional dessert also makes its presence known in October, the Turrón de Doña Pepa

Called the purple month because of the faithful`s robes, October embraces as well this dessert that becomes a protagonist in the celebrations of the Lord of Miracles.  In every family it is eaten at least once during the month.  You can imagine how large the production must be if every family in Lima and many throughout the country are at least going to have a taste. In Lima, the production reached 540,000 kilos in the bakeries affiliated with the Peruvian Association of Bread and Pastry Enterprises. 

This marvel is made from pastry logs with a subtle flavor of anise and lightly sweetened.  The logs are layered on top of one another in a criss cross and then bathed in chancaca (the best is either a syrup or unrefined chancaca).  You pile them, layer on layer, as if they were hot cakes, and then you scatter on the surface brilliantly colored candy sprinkles in a whole universe of colors.


Universe of Colors on the Turrón
Universe of Colors on the Turrón http://es.wikipedia .org/wiki/Turrón_de_Doña_Pepa)

According to Wikipedia we have the following.

During the Colonial and Republican epochs there was a profession dedicated exclusively to the sale of turrón.  It was known as turronero or turronera (that is the turrón vendors).  They were represented both in the costumbrista chronicles and water paintings, such as those of Pancho Fierro and the Frenchman Charles Angrand.  But how was this marvelous dessert invented.

They say that in the seventeenth century there was a slave name Josefa Marmanillo who was paralyzed in her arms.  Because of this handicap she was freed but was unable to do much work to support herself.  She had heard about the miraculous Lord of Pachacamilla.  The next time he came out of the temple she raised the turrón as an offering.  When she got back to  Cañete where she was from, Josefa claimed the image of Christ had smiled at her while blessing her offering.

Doña Pepa, Josefa de Marmanillo
Doña Pepa, Josefa de Marmanillo (ón_de_Doña_Pepa)


She kept going back to Lima every year to offer her turrón to the faithful during the religious feast.  As a result she became well known and it became the custom of the people of Lima to eat this sweet during October with its important feast of the Lord of Miracles.

Schools and universities will organizes sales of turrón to raise money for charitable work.  On the October 18, 2009 the students of a well known culinary school (D’Gallia) made the largest turrón on record at 307 meters long.

Whether as part of the celebration in August, or st because it strikes your fancy, it is always good to try this famous dessert wherever you are in the world.  It is part of Lima and Peru’s gastronomic culture.

The Lord of Miracles
The Lord of Miracles ( wiki/Lord_of_Miracles



Translator’s note:

Our sister blog the excellent Peru Delights has a recipe for turrón in English along with detailed instructions in its preparation.  Our congratulations to its two authors on their excellent blog.

For chancaca you can use molasses.

Besides being a miracle of taste and delight, this turrón with its story also deserves some further observations.

The great Lord of Miracles also known as the Lord of Pachacamilla is one of the most important religious images in Peru.  The great ethnohistorian María Rostworowski argues for a continuity between this advocation and the ancient Lord of Pachacamac where the Lurín river reaches the Pacific Ocean.  Pachacamac was a famous oracle with thousands of years of history.  The Incas built a temple to the Sun near the shrine of Pachacamac but allowed it to continue.  If Rostrorowski is right then the famous oracle continues in the figure of the Christ of Pacacamilla and his miracles.

Temple of the Sun at Pachacamac
Temple of the Sun at Pachacamac  ( wiki/Pachacamac)

If you have never visited the site of Pachacamac it is well worth your while

The story of Josefa the paralyzed slave is also of note for the many things it tells us about religious devotion in Peru.

By eating the turrón people are bringing into themselves not only a custom, but the sacredness of the Lord’s approbation and hopes for their own well being. The gaze of the Lord is very important not only here but elsewhere, such as in the  travels of the Lord of Temblors through Cuzco once a year.

Finally, the feasts of images such as the Lord of Miracles create a very important economy within Peru, in another continuity with the past where religious feasts are argued by Zuidema to have been a main economic motor of the Inca empire.

Because Cuzco Eats works binationally we had difficulty obtaining our own photographs to accompany this article.  It is our preference to publish our own photos, but today’s article is paired with pictures from Wikipedia sites with their Creative Commons License.  We think it important to always reference other people’s work.


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