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.
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Best. Cookies. Ever. Chewy chocolate chip cookies are one of my very favorite things. Out of desperation I rummaged through my cupboards in search of chocolate chips, only to find out that there weren’t any. What to do, what to do? Melt down a 1/4 jar of nutella and make Nutella chips of course!
How to make the Nutella “chips” is pretty easy. I used 1/4 jar of Nutella and melted it in the microwave until it was very loose, but not burned. Then sprayed a lipped cookie sheet with Pam Baking Spray (if you have a silicone mat, that would work great too). Spread out the Nutella as evenly as possible on the cookie sheet and pop into the freezer. It will need to be there overnight to harden up. Once hard, remove and break into pieces quickly. This will not stay frozen long so you must work fast. Pop back into the freezer until ready to mix into cookie mix.
For the rest of the cookie I poked around and found The New York Times Thick and Gooey Chocolate Chip cookie. I hate crunchy cookies – totally takes away from the point of a cookie in my opinion. I was very optimistic about this recipe. And it was a huge success. Even as I was writing this and fixing the pictures M peeked over and said “You’re going to make those tonight right?”
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 8 ounces butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Broken apart Nutella piece
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
2. In a mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy, 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla. Add the flour mixture all at once and blend until a dough forms. Fold in the chocolate Nutella pieces. Chill the dough.
3. Roll 1/4 -cup lumps of dough into balls, then place on the baking sheet and flatten to 1/2 -inch-thick disks spaced 2 inches apart. Chill the dough between batches. Bake until the edges turn golden, 14 to 17 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet, then transfer to a baking rack.
You can let them cool if you want or eat them while hot with a big glass of cold milk. Amazing!
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My recipe today is for Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake with a gingersnap crust. This is a good blending of Mediterranean and American style desserts. Pumpkin is often found in Morocco, mixed into couscous most predominantly. I have found that pumpkins there are a little sweeter than they are here, which might be attributed to more sun and less storage time before consumption.
This is a dessert plate that I made recently along with Whoopie Pies and Cake Balls.
- 1 can of pumpkin puree (about 14 oz)
- 1 package of cream cheese (8oz) softened
- pumpkin pie spice (mix of cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg)
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 c brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 seeds of 1 vanilla bean
- 1/2 box ginger snaps
- 6 tbsp melted butter
Beat everything (except butter and gingersnaps) together in a large mixing bowl until smooth and set aside. In a food processor crush ginger snaps and add in butter. They will become sticky but will remain loose.
Grease a muffin tin of your choice size. In the bottom of each well, press a tbsp of ginger snap mixture. Top each with the cheesecake mixture, allowing the cups to be full almost to the top. Place into a 350F preheated oven for 15 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the size of the cheesecake you make. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Top with whipped cream before serving.
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A staple in Morocco for Ramadan is the chebekia a flavored cookie that is fried and then soaked in honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds. I love these cookies but they are a little difficult to make. I attempted to extract the exact recipe from my mother in law but they don’t measure anything and they also make these in HUGE batches – and by huge I mean about 10-15kg at a time. Because they are so time consuming many families will get together to split the work and then share the bounty. I’m going to use Christine’s recipe to share with you because it’s really good and why re-invent the wheel? This recipe will make about 2 kg of cookies (or a little over 4 pounds).
- 1/2 kg (about 4 cups) flour, plus additional if necessary
- 1 soup bowl full (about 200 g or 7 oz.) of golden unhulled sesame seeds, toasted
- 1 teaspoon ground anise
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
- 1/4 teaspoon Moroccan yellow colorant
- pinch of Gum Arabic grains (gum acacia, mastic) – mix with 1/4 teaspoon of sugar and crush to a powder
- 1 extra-large egg
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1/4 cup orange flower water
- 2 teaspoons yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 kg (about 3 lbs.) honey
- 2 tablespoons orange flower water
- 1 1/2 liters vegetable oil, for frying
- 1/2 cup golden unhulled sesame seeds, toasted, for decorating
Ahead of time, pick through the sesame seeds to remove any debris. Spread them on a baking pan and toast the sesame in a 400° F (200° C) oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sesame seeds are crunchy and nutty-flavored. Allow them to cool thoroughly, and then store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Make the Chebakia Dough
Grind one bowlful of toasted sesame in a food processor until it turns powdery. Keep grinding until the powder becomes moist enough to press or pack.
Mix the ground sesame with the flour and other dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix with your hands to form a dough. Add more flour if necessary to achieve a dough that is rather stiff but pliable.
Knead the dough by hand for seven to eight minutes or in a mixer with dough hook for four to five minutes. Divide the dough into four portions, shape each into a smooth mound, and place the dough in a plastic bag to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Roll and Cut the Dough
The rolling out and folding process is described below, but if you’ve never made Chebakia, it will be helpful to see the photo tutorial How to Make Chebakia.
Take one of the portions of dough, and roll it out to the thickness of a thin piece of cardboard. Lightly flour your work surface if necessary.
Use a pastry cutter to cut the dough into rectangles approximately the size of your palm. Make four evenly spaced cuts lengthwise in each rectangle. These cuts should be almost the length of the rectangle, but should not cut through to the edges of the dough. The resulting rectangle will have five strips of attached dough.
Fold the Chebakia
Take a rectangle, and thread the middle finger of your right hand through alternating strips of dough. This enables the rectangle to drape over your finger.
With your left hand, pinch together the outer corners of dough which hang over the tip of your finger. This will form the center of the flower shape.
While holding the pinched corners with your left hand, allow the strips of dough to slide down off your right finger while gently turning them inside-out around the pinched portion. Gently pinch the opposite corners closed once the dough is turned inside out. If done correctly, you’ll have formed the dough into an elongated flower shape.
Place the folded piece of dough on a baking sheet or tray. Repeat the process with the remaining rectangles and mounds of dough. Gather together the scraps of dough as you work, mold them together into a mound, and return them to the bag to rest before you try rolling them out again.
Use up all of your dough in this manner. Cover the trays of folded dough with a towel until ready to fry.
Frying the Chebakia
Heat one inch of oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. At the same time, heat the honey almost to boiling in a large pot. When the honey is frothy but not bubbling, add the orange flower water to the honey and turn off the heat.
When the oil is hot, cook the chebakia in batches. Adjust the heat as necessary to slowly fry each batch of chebakia to a medium brown color. This should take about 10 minutes if the oil is the correct temperature. If the oil is too hot, the chebakia will color quickly but the insides will not be cooked crispy.
Soaking the Chebakia in Honey
When the chebakia are cooked to a medium golden brown, use a slotted spoon or strainer to transfer them from the oil directly to the hot honey. Gently push down on the chebakia to submerge them in the honey, and allow them to soak for 5 to 7 minutes. They’ll turn a rich, glossy amber color as they absorb the honey. In the meantime, you can begin frying another batch of cookies.
Note: The longer you soak the chebakia, the more honey they will absorb, and the sweeter and less crispy they become. How long to soak them is a matter of personal preference. However, too short of a soaking will result in pale-colored chebakia that eventually lose their glossy coating.
When the chebakia have finished soaking, remove them from the honey to a strainer or colander, and allow them to drain for only a few minutes. Gently transfer them while hot to a large platter or tray, and sprinkle the centers with sesame. As you finish soaking other batches of chebakia in the honey, simply drain and add them to the platter in a mound, garnishing each batch with sesame.
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I think one of my very favorite Moroccan foods is beghrir. They are light airy pancakes that are cooked only on one side and are incredibly versatile. I have toyed with the idea of making them savory instead of sweet something like an accompaniment to moo shu chicken (since we don’t do pork). It hasn’t happened yet but it’s on the back burner! For now I will stick with the sweet version.
One of the great things about living in the Midwest is wild fruit. It’s that time of summer where the bushes are full of wild raspberries, huckleberries, thimble berries, blackberries, blueberries, and soon to come pears and apples. I remember that picking wild fruit was a big part of my childhood and I spent a lot of time with my grandpa and my dad picking fruit. This past week I was in Upper Michigan with my grandparents and found the raspberries and blueberries in full bloom. I can’t take credit for the raspberries as my cousin and uncle picked those but the blueberries I did help with! (I’ll be sharing a recipe for almond blueberry scones with those soon!)
Onto the beghrir. I’ve always struggled with the consistency of this batter. It’s a difficult thing to get right. This time I used this recipe from Dinners and Dreams with a few minor changes. It was simple and had a great result.
2 cups fine semolina or cornmeal (preferably semolina)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp dry yeast
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 cup milk, warm but comfortable to the touch
2 cups water, warm but comfortable to the touch
s="Apple-style-span" style="font-size: small;">Mix all of the ingredients together and beat until blended well. I didn’t use a blender just a wire wisk and mixed until it started to form a lot of bubbles. Allow it to rest 20-30 minutes. Heat a non stick skillet on medium heat until hot, I add a little butter on the first batch to make sure the pan is ready. Cook on one side until the exposed side is full of little bubbles and dry. These pancakes only cook on one side. Traditionally they are served with honey butter but I used nutella and rolled them up and served with some raspberries and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
1c pitted dates (medjool are my favorite – sweet and soft)
1c blanched, toasted almonds OR 1c almond meal
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp orange blossom water
If using whole almonds with skins – boil for 2-3 minutes, drain and squeeze individually to remove the skins. Toast in a warm oven until browned. Place in a food processor and process until broken down to a flour like mixture.
Place dates (alone) in a food processor and blend until broken apart. Add the almond meal and mix together. It will come out as a crumbly mixture. Turn out into a large bowl. Add in the honey and orange blossom water and mix by hand. Shape into balls about half the size of a golf ball. Roll balls in powdered sugar to coat. Store in an airtight container in the fridge (if they are not all eaten right away!)
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