Today’s guest post is from Lana of Bibberche. She is a total sweetheart and I’ve long admired her from seeing her tweets. I was so shy to even ask her if she would want to do a guest post because she is so talented and I thought she would scoff at my request. Lucky for me (and for you!) she agreed to do a post on Serbian desserts. You’re really in for a treat.
I was one of the people who scorned technology and dismissed the computers as a way of communication when I was in college. But I have retracted my opinions a long time ago, and cannot imagine my life without the Internet. I keep in touch with my family scattered all over the world, I connect with old friends, and I make new ones. Amanda was one of the first people I met on Twitter. I realized from reading her blog that we have a lot in common (having married men from foreign countries being only the most obvious connection). I am grateful for our virtual friendship and enjoyed tremendously writing this guest post. Thank you, Amanda, for your hospitality!
The town was a mix of Christians and Muslims with early 10th century solid rock churches on the outskirts looking over the slender minarets in the center. Four centuries of Turkish Ottoman rule left a significant imprint on the area changing forever the religious and cultural milieu of the land. The Turks rode back east in the late nineteenth century, but a big part of their culture stayed behind.
We moved to central Serbia when I was a baby, and went back to Novi Pazar only occasionally to visit relatives and friends. I was always fascinated by this town which reminded me of 1001 Nights with its mosques, narrow cobble-stoned streets, small shops selling hand-made copper dishes and filigree gold, the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans, the high brick and mortar walls with gates facing the street, men in red fezes smoking unfiltered cigarettes and drinking tea for hours, the busy markets crowded with haggling shoppers, and people with strange sounding names.
We looked forward to these weekend two-hour trips by car, feeling as if we were going not only away in space, but back in time. The language had a different rhythm, the pace was slower, the sounds exotic, and the smells coming out of the kitchens unusual and romantic. The breads were flatter, the meat was definitely lamb, and thick yogurt accompanied many restaurant dishes.
Around noon, housewives would leave their chores at home and venture out into the streets, the yards of silk undulating around their legs, long, curly locks hidden behind a colorful scarf. They would visit each other, spending a leisurely hour drinking freshly ground and brewed Turkish coffee and spreading the neighborhood news whispered in confidence over the walls separating the houses.
Turkish coffee is strong, and wise women knew many tricks to prepare the gullet for enjoying it. Sometimes there were only sugar cubes to dunk into a small fildzan of hot, dark liquid. Sometimes there was rose or bergamot flavored rahat-lokum* on a saucer with an accompanying glass of water served as a refreshment before the coffee. Sometimes the hostess would offer her latest homemade fruit preserves, watching with hawk-like attention for her friends’ reactions.
And sometimes there would be desserts cut into small squares and drowned in sweet, lemony syrup. As kids, we learned quickly which houses promised the best feast and ran behind mothers, aunts, friends, and neighbors, eagerly anticipating the flavorful, exotic sugar rush.
Every time I go back to Serbia, I try to go to Novi Pazar to visit my relatives. The town has joined the 21st century with power lines swooping overhead and cell phones at every other ear, but if you squint, you can imagine yourself embraced by a sleepy, romantic air of bygone days, filled with smells and sounds reminiscent of the East. To bring that feeling to my family in America, I try to introduce all my friends to the wonderful ritual of drinking Turkish coffee. I offer sugar cubes, rahat-lokum my parents regularly send from Serbia, and home-made fruit preserves. And sometimes I even make the sweet, simple desserts, covered in lemony syrup.
*rahat-lokum is known in English as Turkish Delight, a candy made of powdered sugar, starch, and aromatics, often containing nuts.
(“Hurma” is a Turkish word for a date; these cookies are shaped to resemble dates. “Brdo” is a wiry part of a loom; when they are formed, the cookies were rolled against a loom, or later a grater to get the ubiquitous marks.)
- I stick (115g) unsalted butter, melted
- 9 Tbsp (125ml) sunflower oil
- 2 egg yolks
- ¾ cup (150g) plain yogurt
- 400g all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- zest of 1 lemon
For the syrup:
- 500gr (1lb) sugar
- 500ml (2 cups) water
- 1 lemon cut into circles
Mix butter, oil, egg yolks, and yogurt until smooth. Separately sift flour and baking powder, and add lemon zest. Pour the liquid into the flour and mix to combine. The dough should not be too dense, but it should easily come away from the walls of the bowl.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Take a walnut-sized piece of dough, flatten it a bit, and roll against the side of the grater with small squares, forming it into an elliptical shape resembling a shell, or a date, with the sides coming together in the middle with a seem. Lay it on cookie sheet (no need to grease it) and continue with the rest of the dough, leaving some space between the cookies.
Bake for 30 minutes, until just barely golden.
In the meantime prepare the syrup. Heat the sugar and water until sugar dissolves, add the lemon slices, and continue simmering on medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until slightly thickened. Pour hot syrup over cooled cookies and let them sit to absorb it for several hours.
- 6 medium-sized apples (choose firmer apples that do not fall apart under heat)
- 400ml (1 ½ cups) water
- 400gr (15 oz) granulated sugar
- juice of 1 lemon
- 150gr (5 oz) ground walnuts
- 250ml (1cup) heavy whipping cream
- 1-2 Tbsp sugar
Peel and core the apples (make the hole 1 inch in diameter) and lay them in a pot. Cover with water, sugar, and lemon juice, and cook for 15-20 minutes until softened, but still holding their shape. Take the apples out of the liquid and place them in a serving dish with walls at least 2 inches high. Continue simmering the liquid until it slightly thickens, another 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, fill the holes in cooked apples with ground walnuts. Pour the hot liquid over the apples and nuts. Add more nuts if necessary. Chill in the refrigerator. Whip the heavy whipping cream until the soft peaks form, add the sugar, and serve on top of the apples.