Thursday, November 12, 2009

Greek - Loukoumades


Greek Honey Puffs, or Honey Tokens

     Two thousand seven hundred and eighty four years ago, in 776 B.C., the ancient Olympic Games were born.

     Victors were awarded a wreath fashioned from a small branch taken from a wild olive tree that stood in Zeus’ sacred grove at Olympia. The wreath is an unmistakable symbol of the importance of the olive and its cultivation to the Greeks, both past and present. Olive oil is a fundamental ingredient in Greek cooking and has been so from the most ancient times.

     The poet Callimachus tells us that one of the earliest prizes awarded to the winners were what is commonly translated as “honey tokens” , which were essentially fried balls of dough covered in honey. These were offered to the victorious athletes in a highly ritualized ceremony along with the kotinos wreath. Callimachus’ reference to these “honey tokens” is the earliest mention of any kind of pastry in European literature. Today, the “honey tokens” of Callimachus are known as Loukoumades (pronounced ‘loo-koo-MAH-thess) and can be found throughout Greece in special pastry shops that serve only Loukoumades.

Here is the recipe we followed today in class:

1 1/2 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
3 cups lukewarm milk
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 Tbsp vanilla
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt

2 cups honey
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup sugar

In a mixing bowl, mix the yeast and sugar with the warm milk.  Let rest for 5 minutes, then add the egg and vanilla,  flour and salt.   Mix until the batter is thick but smooth.   Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot to rise for about an hour. (don't stir again or it will deflate.) The result should be a bubbly batter.

In a deep fryer or a large heavy pot, heat four inches of oil to 375º F, making sure there are at least 2 inches between the oil surface and the top of the pot. This should take about 20 minutes.
While the oil is heating, prepare the syrup by warming the honey in a small pot over low heat (or in the microwave for a quick minute, then add the lemon juice.

Working in batches, slide dollops of the batter (about the size of a heaping tablespoonful each) into the hot oil at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan. The dollops will puff up and float to the top. Turn the puffs occasionally with a slotted spoon until they are a deep golden brown on all sides and very crisp, about 2-4 minutes total. Remove carefully and drain on paper towels or brown paper bags.

Drizzle with honey lemon syrup and dust the puffs generously with cinnamon-sugar.
Enjoy while warm, as they do not keep well.

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