Though you may think these sweet treats look a lot like donuts, their flavor is uniquely Peruvian and unexpectedly different. Made with sweet potato and pumpkin, then drizzled with sticky sweet syrup, picarones require a stack of napkins, a sweet tooth and the kind of restraint that keeps one from eating a whole plateful.
Juice the orange and limes. Set the juices aside.
Use a vegetable peeler to peel the rind from the orange and limes, being careful to include only the zest and not the pith.
Stir the mixture and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and allow to cook until the mixture thickens slightly (about 15 minutes). When the mixture is close to the consistency of pancake syrup, strain to remove the rinds and whole spices. Set aside. Syrup will continue to thicken as it cools.
Wash and peel the sweet potatoes. Cut into large chunks and add to boiling water. Boil until soft (about 15 to 20 minutes).
Pierce with fork to test for tenderness. When fork slides easily into potato chunks, remove from water and allow to cool. When potato chunks are cool enough to touch, mash them or puree in blender or food processor.
In a small bowl of warm water, add the yeast and let sit for 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the following:
mashed sweet potato
Mix with dough hook attached until well blended. Gradually add flour, mixing until smooth (about 5 – 8 minutes). If the dough is sticky, add small amounts of flour until dough is stretchy but not sticky.
Move the dough to a clean, dry surface and cover with a kitchen towel. Let dough sit at room temperature to rise (about 1 hour).
Once the dough has risen, punch it with your fist to deflate.
In a large pot, heat oil to 350 degrees. You can use a deep-fry thermometer to measure the oil temperature.
Wet your fingers and form the dough into small balls (about 1 ½ to 2 inches wide). Roll out balls with your hands and stretch into rings, pressing two ends together. Let the rings rest for 10 minutes.
Using a spatula, lower the picarones rings in small batches into the heated oil. Fry until crispy and golden brown, turning once to brown both sides. Each batch takes about 2 minutes.
Remove each picarone from the oil and drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.
Serve right away with a drizzle of warm syrup on top.