March is an important month in the Romanian tradition. March means the start of spring and start of the agricultural season. People clean their houses and burn the winter garbage in the garden.
Long before the international woman day was introduced, the 8th of March was the traditional day to prepare Mucenici for the 9th of March. This day is an Orthodox holiday that celebrates the Forty Martyrs (known as Mucenici). At the same time, the 9th of March is the start of the agricultural year.
Romanian women prepare a typical dessert that looks like the figure 8 and has the same name: Mucenici. Obviously, it seems to be more than a coincidence having this form being prepared in the evening of the 8th. But tradition also says that the Mucenici represent a kind of human form of the martyrs themselves.
There are several variations of this desert depending on the region: in the Muntenia and Dobrogea region, the dough is very small and boiled in water with sugar, then served with cinnamon and crushed nuts, like a sugar soup.
Today, I will prepare the Moldovan version. “Mucenici Moldovenesti” are quite similar to the “cozonac”, another traditional Romanian dessert, but in the shape of an 8.
500 g flour
100 ml fat (vegetable oil or pork fat - untura)
125 g sugar
250 ml milk
Lemon zest, orange zest, vanilla bean
25 g active east
How to prepare
(1) Heat the milk with the sugar, lemon zest, orange zest and the vanilla seads and bean. Put the flour into a bowl. Heat the fat. The milk and the fat must not boil.
(2) Separate the eggs. Whisk the egg whites until they are at the soft peak stage.
(3) Make a whole into the flour, put the active east and a little bit of milk. Mix in the middle and let rise for 10 min. Add the egg whites, egg yolk, a little pinch of salt and work the dough. Add the milk little by little and work strongly the dough. By the end add the fat little by little and work the dough until the fat is incorporated. Repeat till the fat is all incorporated.
(4) Cover the dough with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.
(5) On a oiled surface, put a little bit of your dough and shape it into a ”8”. Put your mucenici on a baking oiled sheet and let them rise for another 20 min. Repeat the procedure with all dough.
(6) Bake them at 180 till golden brown. By the end, brush the mucenici with a beaten egg and let the in the oven another minute. Let them cool at room temperature.
(7) Heat a littkle bit of honey, brush the top of mucenici and then spred grounded nuts.
Enjoy your meal, pofta buna!
Juranda Kirschner, Guest writer
Photo credits: Terra Carpatica