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Picarones : Traditional Peruvian Dessert

Similar in their globular shape to doughnuts and in texture to fritters, picarones are one of Peruvians’ favorite desserts, so much so that they are considered one of the most traditional and exquisite treats in Peruvian pastry. Drizzled with chancaca syrup, these delicacies have been present in popular culture for almost two centuries.

History of Picarones

The history of this Creole dessert dates back to the Viceroyalty era. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, stews were made in our territory using sweet potatoes and squash. After the conquest, ingredients such as wheat flour were added. This mixture, very similar to Iberian fritters, is what we now know as picarones.

As the conquerors, who were already familiar with delicious fritters, added wheat flour and sugar to the mixture. However, since it was a more compact dough, picarones took the shape of small loaves, which were adorned with chancaca.

Like any tradition, the recipe was passed down from generation to generation, and it was through the efforts of Afro-descendant cooks that this sweet treat became popular among the population.

These women would roam the streets selling their goods, especially during religious processions, with the most renowned being the feast of the Lord of Miracles, where it was impossible not to encounter the famous picarones.

Preparation of picarones
Preparation of picarones

Picarones Recipe

Ingredients:

For the Picarones dough:

  • 2 cups of water
  • 5 cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon of anise
  • 300g of peeled and cubed sweet potato
  • 300g of peeled and cubed pumpkin
  • 1 ½ cups of water (from boiling sweet potato and pumpkin)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of dry yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • 500g all-purpose flour
  • Oil for frying

For the Picarones syrup:

  • 600g of chancaca, panela, or sugar
  • 3 cups of water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of anise
  • Zest of 1 orange

Preparation:

For the Picarones dough:

  1. Place the peeled and cubed sweet potato and pumpkin in a pot with cold water. Add the anise, cinnamon, and cloves. Bring it to a boil and cook for 20 minutes or until the sweet potato is thoroughly cooked.
  2. Once cooked, drain the sweet potato and pumpkin, remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves (keep the anise), and reserve the cooking water.
  3. Once cooled, mash the pumpkin and sweet potato to remove any lumps. You can use a hand blender for a smoother consistency.
  4. Add sugar and yeast to the mixture and stir.
  5. Gradually add about ⅓ of the flour to the mixture and begin kneading. Add ¼ cup of the cooking water to help incorporate the flour. Alternate these steps until you’ve used all the flour and the dough doesn’t stick to your hands.
  6. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 2 hours.
  7. After resting, heat 4 to 6 cups of oil in a deep pan over high heat, then reduce to medium heat. Prepare 2 cups of water in a medium-sized bowl to wet your hands before handling the dough.
  8. To shape the picarones, wet your hands to prevent the dough from sticking. Take a small amount of dough (approximately 60 grams) and make a hole in the center. When it resembles a donut shape, place it in the oil and fry for about 4 minutes on each side.

For the Picarones syrup:

  1. In a pot, combine all the ingredients for the syrup and cover them with water. Let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until it starts to thicken.
  2. Then, strain and discard the orange zest, cloves, cinnamon, and anise. Cool to room temperature before serving.

Enjoy your homemade picarones!

sweet potato picarones
sweet potato picarones
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