If you follow this blog you know I am not a traditional cook. Most of the time I like to experiment and make new recipes and new versions of old recipes.
But every once in a while when I am feeling nostalgic or I’m too busy or tired.
Or it’s food for a holiday. On holidays I might make some new dishes, but always include the traditional tried-and-true also.
I guess that’s part of the nostalgia thing. But it’s more too. Cooking treasured family recipes is a way of carrying on, of bringing my heritage and memories into the present and, hopefully, into the future.
So, for our annual Yom Kippur Break-the-Fast I am making Turte, a Romanian specialty from my grandma. This dessert is similar to Baklava but made with almonds instead of walnuts and sugar syrup instead of honey.
I never actually did any research about this dessert until recently, when I discovered that it is a specialty particular to the eastern part of Romania called Moldavia (the part where my grandparents were born). And apparently it is a Christmas and Easter dish.
For us, a Yom Kippur Break-the-Fast dish!
There are many versions. You can make it with thin pancakes or thin, homemade pitas. My grandmother made her own strudel dough.
I use packaged phyllo pastry. Much easier.
This is such a rich and wonderful treat, sweet and sticky and crumbly and tender all at once. My family recipe included cinnamon. I added some grated orange peel, which was a refreshing addition.
1/2 pound phyllo dough
1/2 pound melted butter
cookie or cake crumbs or ground nuts
1-1/2 cups finely chopped almonds
2 tablespoons sugar
2-3 teaspoons freshly grated orange peel
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon orange flower water or 2 tablespoons orange-flavored brandy or 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Layer half the phyllo dough in an 8” or 9” square baking pan, brushing melted butter and scattering crumbs between layers. In a bowl, combine the chopped almonds, 2 tablespoons sugar, orange peel, cinnamon and nutmeg. Place the nut mixture over the layers of dough. Cover the nut mixture with the remaining phyllo leaves, separating them as above. Brush the top layer with melted butter. Score the dough with the tip of a sharp knife, into squares or rectangles. Bake for 20 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 degrees and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Make the syrup by combining the 3/4 cup sugar and the water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring only until sugar dissolves. Cook at a boil for a few minutes until the liquid has thickened to the consistency of cream. Do not let it become too thick or caramel colored. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange flavoring. Pour the syrup over the warm cake. Let the cake cool and cut it into pieces where you have scored the top. Makes 8-12 servings