Turron de Dona Pepa -- Anise Cookie Bar With Candy Syrup

Turrón de Doña Pepa.
By Dtarazona (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
    2 hrs
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In Peru, the month of October is known as "El Mes Morado," or "purple month," in honor of El Senor de los Milagros, or lord of miracles. Turron de Dona Pepa originally was only eaten during this celebration month. Now it can be found year-round in stores, but it still is mainly sold and made at home during el Mes Morado.

Turron de Dona Pepa is a sweet, sticky, anise-flavored treat. Like fruitcake, it's a bit of an acquired taste for some, and it's so much better homemade.

It's fun to make -- it's like playing with lincoln logs. The cookie sticks are layered, then soaked in a delicious brown sugar syrup, traditionally made with chancaca; you can substitute brown sugar and molasses. Turron de Dona Pepa will keep for several weeks in an airtight container.

What You'll Need

  • 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
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice (optional)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • Topping:
  • Candy sprinkles

How to Make It

Make the Dough

  1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with 2 pieces of overlapped wax paper. Leave extra paper hanging over the edges of the pan.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of anise seeds to 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil.
  3. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat and let cool.
  4. Toast the rest of the anise seeds and the sesame seeds at 300 F until golden and fragrant.
  5. Place the anise seeds, sesame seeds, flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor.
  1. Add the cold butter and vegetable shortening and process briefly until the mixture is sandy in texture.
  2. Add the egg yolks, vanilla and anise extract and process briefly.
  3. Add the cooled anise seeds and water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together into a dough.
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  6. On a floured surface, roll out half of the chilled dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Trim the dough into an 8.5- by 8.5-inch square.
  7. Cut the square lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips and place them on a baking sheet. Repeat with the other half of dough.
  8. Reroll the scraps and cut into similar strips until you have used all of the dough.
  9. Bake the cookie strips for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Make the Syrup

  1. Add 3 1/2 cups of water to a pot. Cut the apple, lime, and orange into quarters and add to the pot. Add the prunes, cinnamon sticks, salt, cloves, and allspice.
  2. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the apple pieces are soft and translucent.
  3. When the apple pieces are cooked and translucent, remove the fruit and water from the heat.
  4. Strain the mixture into a colander over a clean pot. Discard the fruit and spices.
  5. Add the sugar, brown sugar, and molasses to the strained liquid and bring to a boil.
  6. Boil until the mixture reaches 240 F. The syrup will form a thin thread when twirled from a spoon. Let the syrup cool for 3 to 5 minutes.

Assemble the Turron

  1. Cover the bottom of a pan lined with wax paper with the baked cookie strips placed side by side. Crumble one cookie strip and use the crumbs to fill in any holes between the strips.
  2. Make another layer of cookie strips on top of the first layer but put them down crosswise over the first layer. Fill in any holes with crumbs. Repeat until all the strips are used, stopping with a complete top layer.
  3. Carefully pour the hot syrup slowly over the cookies, letting it soak into all the nooks and crannies.
  4. Cover the top generously with candy sprinkles.
  5. Let the turron rest for several hours until completely cool.
  6. When it's cool, lift the wax paper to remove the turron from the pan and slice it into the desired number of pieces.