March is one of my favorite months. It is about happiness, celebration, “mărțișoare” ( trinkets), flowers and … mucenici. Even if here I can only find flowers as the “mucenici” and “mărtișor” are not part of the Italian traditions, I keep in my heart lots of sweet memories related to this month. I remember how every year on the 9th of March we used to go to my grandmother who would treat us with her delicious “mucenici” and a glass of her ruby wine. Mmmmm, they were so good.
“Mucenici” are a traditional Romanian dessert prepared only once a year for the 9th of March, the religious celebration of the 40 Martyrs of Sevastia. There are various recipes specific to the region they pertain.
Having Moldavian roots ( being born in the Moldavian region) I grew with the Moldavian mucenici, with a lot of honey and ground walnuts. Although I like them a lot and they were on my “to do list” for years,I haven’t manage to prepare them till this year. Maybe because I considered them too much of a job for me, maybe because I was afraid they wouldn’t me as delicious as the ones my grandmother used to prepare or, maybe because I haven’t found Florentina’s recipes @ Retete fel de fel. Tempted by the delicious mucenici from her photos I decided to beat my fears and I’ve managed to prepare them. Yay! There was a problem though - I couldn’t make my mind on what recipe to try so I combined two of them and the result was awesome.
- - 500 g flour
- - 85 g butter
- - 25 g fresh yeast
- - 150 ml milk
- - 2 eggs
- - 60 g sugar
- - a pinch o salt
- - lemon zest (1 lemon)
- - orange zest (1 orange)
- - 1 egg
- - 2 tablespoons milk
- - 300 ml water
- - 3 tablespoons sugar
- - 2 tablespoon honey
- - 1 vanilla bean
- - lemon zest
- - 5 tablespoons honey
- - 100 g ground walnuts
- Sift flour in a large bowl and make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast mixed with a spoon of lukewarm milk (from the give quantity).Let it stand for 10'.
- Beat eggs with sugar, salt, the lemon and orange zest, then add the lukewarm milk and melted butter.
- Pour the milk composition over the flour and knead until the dough comes together.Cover the bowl and let it rise for 40-60' until it doubles.
- Divide the dough in 24 equal portions (40 g each) and shape them into small balls. Roll each ball into a strand of 35 cm. Braid two strands together, make a circle and twist it into an eight figure.
- Place the mucenici into baking trays on baking paper and let them rise for 20'. Brush them with beaten egg with milk and bake for 25' in the preaheated oven to 180°.
- Meanwhile we prepare the syrup: put the water with sugar, honey and vanilla seeds in a sauce pan. Simmer until it gets thicker. Set aside to cool. Add the lemon zest.
- When the mucenici are ready, take them out from the oven, let them cool a bit and then soak them in the syrup (one by one) for few seconds then put them back on the baking paper.
- Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with ground walnuts.
- Keep them covered to prevent from drying.
- I used 250 g manitoba flour and 250 g 00 type
You cannot imagine the smell in my kitchen while baking these beauties – it took me back to my childhood in that celebrating atmosphere of March. I must admit that I am very proud of my first batch of mucenici and now that I’ve found the perfect recipe I think I am going to prepare them every year.
Their fluffiness and flavor were very appreciated. I couldn’t help myself so I had two as soon as they were ready and my first thought was how delicious they would be with a cup of milk in the morning :D.
Proud of my traditional dessert I wish you all a sunny spring and lots of delicious meals.
Hugs from Milan,