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Culinary Traditions

Passport & Plate - 40 Martyrs

Romania | Wednesday, March 12, 2014 | 5 photos

Ingredients – 20 pastry “martyrs”

550g wheat flour
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon salt
150g melted butter/ 50 ml sunflower oil
1 tablespoon dry yeast/ 25g cake compressed fresh yeast
1pk vanilla sugar
Peel from one small lemon, grated (if preferred also ½ orange peel, grated)

Before placing them in the oven:
1 egg yolk

300ml water
100g sugar
1pk vanilla sugar
1 rum essence

After baking:
250g grounded walnuts
50g sugar
100g honey


How to prepare this recipe
Let’s mix it up!
Old fashion way of making the dough:
Firstly, in the slightly warmed milk we add salt, sugar, vanilla sugar and the lemon peel. In a bigger bowl we add the flour. We make a small hole in the middle of the flour and add the yeast, the egg yolk and gradually include the milk composition and the melted butter. Knead the dough well for about 30 minutes until it becomes elastic and can easily be removed from your hands. Then cover it with a tea-towel and allow the dough to rise for approximately one hour in a warm room.

While we wait let’s get to the sweet part.
Take the syrup ingredients and mix them in a bowl making sure the sugar dilutes. You could heat up the composition just to make sure everything turns into a nice syrup.

Kitchen Crafts
Once the dough almost doubles in size we can begin to shape our “martyrs”.
Divide the dough into equal size portions which then you take one by one and roll into long and thin pieces. Make a chain out of the long thread of dough and then form a circle with it. Bend the circle in order to get an 8 shape which stands for the human form. While doing this process preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius or 350 F.
Place the shapes on a baking tray on which you sprinkled some flour or placed baking paper in order for the “martyrs” to not stick while baking.
Before they visit the warm oven they must receive a facial so we take the egg yoke in which we mixed a drop of sunflower oil and using a brush or kitchen towel we dab them slightly with the mixture. This will give them a nice shiny tan when they come back from their “vacation”.
Leave the shapes in the oven for approximately 20 minutes at medium heat until browned.

Sprinkles of joy
Once we get them out of the oven we can dip them in the syrup, coat them in honey and sprinkle the walnuts and sugar on for an extra sweet and crunchy effect.
They are served as desert that you can enjoy at any hour and go great with red wine.
Video: https://vimeo.com/88435929


The story behind this recipe
A warm ray of light across my face and the call of the rooster woke my heart ever day setting the tone for a new day at my grandparents, in the hills of Southern Romania. But this day I will tell you about was no ordinary day, it was Mother’s Day and I had a lot of flowers to pick, poems to recite and pastries to bake! Every year on the 8th of March we celebrate the person who gave birth to us and raised us and every year along with gifts and family dinners we have a cooking day with my mother and grandmother. The reason behind this tradition is the religious celebration that takes place each 9th March called The 40 Martyrs: the story of 40 Roman soldiers that confessed their Christian faith and were sentenced to death by being placed in a freezing lake. One of them yielded and rays of light fell upon the 39 remaining faithful. A guard who oversaw the events suddenly joined the prayers and the suffering becoming the 40th Christian who was sacrificed in the cold waters. My family, being very traditional and religious, respected the recipe every year and prepared the pastry on the 8th March in order to take the baked goods to church to get blessed. After the sermon we would all give away the pastry to people in need or to friends and neighbors. As tradition says for each figure 8 you eat you must drink a glass of red wine. I would not recommend so much wine although you can eat as many sweet “martyrs” as your heart desires. In the outdoor kitchen three generations would get to work on preparing the sweet treats. I always got to cut the walnuts and I admit I ate many of them in the process. My mother would get the dough ready as my grandmothers’ skilful hands would busily prepare the syrup. Imagine the birds singing, the smell of freshly cut grass coming from the garden and our faces merging into smiles of gratitude that we were blessed to have all the ingredients needed to make this pastry that unites us and that I will make with my children and grandchildren.

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