Mucenici- a traditional Romanian honey and walnuts pastry is a recipe made only once a year on March 9th to celebrate the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste.
Mucenici (read: Moochaneech), these so traditional Romanian pastries are made only once a year, on March 9th. Every year on this date, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (commonly known in Romania as mucenici).
The mucenici celebration also coincides with the start of the agricultural year. For this occasion, Romanians (especially in the Moldova region) bake these pastries to honor the event.
The pastries are made from a yeast dough filled or not with walnuts, baked in the shape of an eight, soaked in a delicious syrup, and glazed with honey and more walnuts.
I usually make these pastries without the filling inside(just to cut on calories and sugar), but I tried something different this time.
The dough has a tiny amount of sugar, as there is so much honey and syrup in the glaze.
The pastries are fluffy, delicious, beautiful, and full of flavor.
How To Make Mucenici- A traditional Romanian honey and walnuts pastry:
Start by placing lukewarm milk in a medium bowl. Dissolve the yeast and a little bit of sugar in it. Let the mixture rise and bubble for 10-15 minutes.
When that is done, place the flour in a KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook. Add the yeast mixture, the eggs, and the melted butter.
Mix at a low speed to incorporate the ingredients. Add the sugar, lemon, orange zest, a little bit of salt, and vanilla.
Note: If you do not have a mixer, you can use a bowl to mix all the ingredients and knead the dough by hand.
Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it becomes smooth, elastic, and does not stick to the bowl or your hands. Oil a clean bowl and also the dough.
Place the dough in the bowl and cover it with a clean towel. Let it rise in a warm place for about an hour or until it doubles in size.
How to prepare the walnut filling:
Add powdered sugar and milk to the ground walnuts. Mix well. You should obtain a thick paste. Set aside.
How to fill the pastry:
When the dough doubles in volume, place it on the working table and flatten it. Split it into equal size pieces based on how big you want the pastries to be in size.
Traditionally, they should be about the size of your palm when done, so I split my dough into about 20 small pieces.
Form balls and place them on the table. Cover them with some plastic wrap to avoid forming a dry crust while working on the pastries.
Grab a piece of dough and form a roll about 7-8 inches long. Flatten the roll with your hands and stretch it with a rolling pin to make it about 10 inches long and 2-3 inches wide.
Place a dollop of walnut paste on the entire dough length. Roll the dough inside to cover the walnut filling and form back the roll.
Grab the ends of the roll and bring them together to form a ring. Twist the ring in the middle to create an eight.
Shape it nicely to look like the number 8. Place the dough on a parchment paper-lined baking tray.
Continue the same way until you finish the dough. Let the pastries rise again for about 20-30 minutes.
Brush them with beaten eggs and bake them at 350F for about 20 minutes.
How to glaze the pastry with syrup:
When done, they should be golden brown on top. Place the pastries on a cooling rack, and while they cool off, prepare the syrup.
Mix sugar, water, lemon, orange peel, and vanilla pod in a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. When ready, strain and place the syrup in a big bowl.
Soak each pastry on both sides for about 10 seconds in the hot syrup and place them back on the cooling rack.
To glaze the pastries, you will need to place the honey in the microwave for only 10 seconds to make it more fluid. Brush each pastry with the honey and dip the pastry top on the ground walnuts.
Serve. The Mucenici pastries go really well with coffee, tea, breakfast, or snacks.
This is how it looks when you bite into it:
I made a bunch of them and took them to work for my coworkers. They just loved them!
I hope you get in the kitchen and make them too. The pastries are not very difficult to prepare, and, oh boy, they look and taste delicious!
Here is another idea for Romanian pastries with cheese:
More recipes to love:
Mucenici- A Traditional Romanian Honey And Walnuts Pastry
For the dough:
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 4 cups of all purpose flour sifted
- 2 large eggs
- ½ stick unsalted butter melted but cool
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Zest from 1 lemon
- Zest from 1 orange
- pinch of salt
- 2 ½ cups ground walnuts
- 7 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 6 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 ½ cup water
- ¾ cups sugar
- Zest from 1 lemon
- Zest from 1 orange
- 1 vanilla pod
- ½ cup honey
- ¾ cup walnuts
To brush the dough before baking:
- 1 beaten egg
Make the dough:
- In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in half of the amount of milk we need for the recipe. Add a teaspoon of sugar to the mixture. The milk has to be lukewarm, not hot.
- Set aside and let it rise for 15 minutes.
- In a KitchenAid mixer bowl, place the sifted flour.
- Start mixing the flour at low speed, using a spiral dough hook attachment. One by one, add the yeast mixture, eggs, melted butter, the rest of sugar, lemon and orange zest, vanilla, and a pinch of salt.
- Slowly add the lukewarm milk and keep kneading until you form a dough.
- Let the machine knead the dough for about 7 to 10 minutes until you obtain a smooth, elastic dough that doesn't stick to the bowl or your hands.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise for an hour or until it doubles in volume.
Make the filling:
- While the dough is rising, make the filling. In a medium bowl, place the ground walnuts and powder sugar. Stir to combine.
- Add the milk slowly to form a thick mixture.
- When the dough has risen, place it on a working table and flatten it slightly.
- Cut the dough into 15-20 equal pieces. You can cut it into 8-10 pieces for bigger size pastries.
- Shape every piece into a ball and, if necessary, weigh them to make sure they are the same size.
- Place them on the table and cover them with plastic wrap so they don't dry out.
- Take one ball, shape it into a roll, flatten it with your hands and stretch it with a roller pin. It should be about 10 inches long and 2-3 inches wide.
- Add the walnut paste at the edge of the dough on an even layer, and roll it gently to form a roll.
- Bring the ends of the roll together and form a ring. Twist the ring in the middle to create an eight (8).
- Place the pastry on a parchment paper-lined baking tray.
- Continue to shape the rest of the dough. Let the pastries rise again on the tray for about 20-30 minutes.
- After the dough has risen, brush them with the beaten egg.
- Bake them 20 minutes at 350F.
- Remove them from the oven and place them on a cooling rack.
Prepare the syrup:
- Meanwhile, prepare the syrup by placing the water in a saucepan with the sugar, orange, lemon zest, and vanilla pod. Bring to a boil and simmer the syrup for about 5 minutes.
- Remove the syrup from the stove, strain it and place it into a clean bowl.
- Soak each pastry in the hot syrup for 10 seconds on each side, remove and place them back on the cooling rack.
Glazing the pastry:
- Place the honey in the microwave for 10 seconds to make it more fluid.
- Brush each pastry on the surface with honey and dip them in the ground walnuts.