How Sweet It Is: Sekerpare

Hello my friends. How was everybody’s weekend out there in yonder?

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Mine was good. Busy, as I find summer weekends often to be.  Today I did normal Sunday stuff, but yesterday was lots of fun…I guess normal Saturday stuff…barbecues, flash floods, dancing.  One of the highlights was seeing Jersey Boys with my friend Nectarine. I guess you can say Nectarine is a bit obsessed- she’s seen the Broadway show five times, but despite good intentions followed by weak efforts on my part, I never have. I was excited to see it because I vaguely recall that I might like the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  In any case, I love me a musical.

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I’ll leave it to you to make a judgment on the movie one way or the other, but ever since I left the theatre, I haven’t been able to get the music out of my head, which means for the past two days I’ve been rocking out to my Frankie Valli Pandora station.  I’m a bit obsessed at the moment, and it’s provided a snappy backdrop for all my kitchen and gym escapades.  Also, let’s just say that 1) I felt like I had traveled back in time, which made the flowery apron I wear seem more appropriate and 2) it’s been a dance party all weekend.  At time, I’m pretty sure my neighbors saw me through open blinds. Oops.

Now, about those kitchen escapades…this week I’m leaving the cuisine of Turkey, Greece and the Middle East behind and my kitchen and I are trekking in what is very decidedly Eastern Europe. I’m very sad about it since I love what I’ve been whipping up so so much. I’ve loved the simply-prepared-but-succulently-flavored meats, salads and desserts and know a bit about what I’m getting into as I head north.  Heavy foods. Heavy times.  The food of my people. Well, half of my people.

But first, in a final so long, farewell to Turkey, a dessert.  Sekerpare.

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I almost forgot about this tasty treat, but when I went digging through my pictures from Turkey, I realized that this was actually our trio’s favorite. Over every other sweet that we saw in every shop window, this was the winner.

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Lettuce, enjoying the dessert. I’m pretty sure she’s reading this thinking…I still wear that dress. This was 2009. No judgment here, Lettuce.

Sekerpare is similar in preparation to baklava-most of the sweetness comes from the sugar syrup poured atop everything to get it all sticky and good. The difference is the base-these cookies (though they are sort of cake-like) contain semolina flour, which as I saw is an oft-used Middle Eastern ingredient.

After experiencing a few fails, I came across this charming blog that provided a mom-recipe, and adapted that recipe in a few ways. Gluten-free, dairy-free over here, remember? (That baklava was much loved by Legume and Fava last Tuesday).  I didn’t want to have to give this one away.

Here’s what I did:

Quinoa flour: This was one was tricky, but since one of the quirks about semolina flour is more protein compared to regular white flour, I went with a high protein flour substitute and quinoa four seemed to work quite well.

Vegan margarine: I KNOW. I hated using it on principle, but I had fails on this front using coconut and olive oil. This gave the dough the soft texture necessary to make for soft cookies.

Pumpkin: I added it. Why the heck not? Who doesn’t like pumpkin? Yeah, I realize it’s not the fall (happy first day of summer, by the way), but I’m of the persuasion that pumpkin is not seasonal. So I used it rather than yogurt in the original recipe.  Plus, I just made pumpkin bread, and had some leftover. I told you, it’s not a seasonal ingredients in my mind. Or my kitchen.

Cinnamon: Since I added the pumpkin, I felt it appropriate to add cinnamon (pumpkin pie spice would have worked well too, but this, I did not have).  Because of this, I did not add the lemon since I wasn’t sure it’d work. Plus, I wanted to differentiate this from the baklava which, if you recall, had a lemon simple syrup.

All in all, I thought they were delicious. However, the texture wasn’t completely authentic- I recall the real ones in Turkey being really cake-like, where mine were a bit more cookie-like, so I wonder if it’s to do with the changes I made above.  Whatever. Down the river and through the gums they went without a second thought.

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Makes about 12 cookies

Ingredients

¼ cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar

1 egg

5 TB vegan shortening (or butter)

1 cup gluten-free flour mix

¼ cup quinoa flour

2 TB pure pumpkin

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp cinnamon, heaping

12 whole almonds, for the garnish

For the syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Directions

1.  First, make the syrup.  Mix water and sugar and cook it until it boils. Let boil for 15 minutes.  Turn off the stove and let it reach room temperature.

2.  In a bowl (or, I used the dough hook on my food processor, which worked well), mix powdered sugar, egg and salt until smooth.  Add in the shortening and continue mixing.

3.  Add the pumpkin, both flours, baking powder and cinnamon and mix (or pulse) until combined well.  The dough  will be soft, but not sticky dough. You can add a little extra flour or pumpkin if needed.

4.  Preheat oven at 350F.  Drop small balls or make oval shapes and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

5.  Cook them 25 minutes until golden.

6.  Remove cookies from oven and pour syrup on them.  Let them sit at least 4 hours before serving so that cookies can absorb syrup well.

Garnish with extra nuts, if you like.

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