Moldova: Brânzoaice

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And we’re back after the holidays! Happy holidays!!! And by “after the holidays” I mean, I baked this before the holidays, but then the holidays happened and I’m just now getting around to blogging about it! So hopefully I can remember back to when I baked this! (I’m one of those people who puts the “pro” in “procrastinating”. but also..holidays though).

So here we are in Moldova, and from what I understood from the recipe (that I ran through Google Translate), I think these little pastries originated in Romania, but spread out to neighboring countries (such as this one) where they were given their own twists.  These pastries I guess are very common in Moldova, and the author of the recipe I followed spoke very fondly of them. They are somewhat reminiscent of hot-cross buns by appearance (although made completely differently) made from a soft, puffy yeast dough, wrapped around a flavored cheese filling.

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Mine didn’t turn out exactly how they should, because my dough didn’t stick together when I wrapped it up around the filling, so they kind of “bloomed” out while rising and baking, and didn’t stay in a nice little packet-looking pastry. But hey, my yeast dough worked, which you will know if you’ve been following this blog, that I often have trouble with yeast doughs! But it worked!….maybe a little too well this time, but hey. Ya win some ya lose some, right?

Although the fact that they didn’t turn out quite right could also be due to the fact that I have a tendency of getting a little over zealous when putting filling in things. It’ll say “spoon a teaspoon of filling onto the dough” and I’ll look at a teaspoon and think “That cannot be enough filling” and then put more in. Of course, the result usually includes the filling oozing out while baking. Or in this case, preventing the dough from staying closed round it.

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A for effort, C for execution. 

One thing I have noticed to be a commonality between a lot of these European recipes, is the use of semolina. I really hadn’t heard of it before I embarked on this adventure, but I got a bag of it a few months ago for one of these projects (I forget the country I first needed it for), and I’ve ended up using it a few times, including this recipe. Maybe its because I’m an American, or maybe it’s because I’m just weird, but semolina is such a bizarre ingredient to me! It tends to be often used as a thickener in custards or cream fillings, but it seems to remain somewhat grainy, which I find odd in things that are supposed to be creamy and smooth. But hey, maybe I’m not using it correctly?? In fact, in this particular recipe, I’m pretty sure I used it incorrectly, since I was kind of guessing with it. The recipe I used, listed semolina in the method, but not in the ingredients list, soo…I wasn’t sure how much to use. I sort of just guessed and amount, but it ended up not really even helping much from what I could tell, so I may easily have just failed at using it effectively! If anyone tries to make this and can figure out how much semolina to use, let me know your results!

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I would also like in inquire to any European readers, when “fresh cheese” is listed in a recipe, do you just automatically know what it’s referring to? Cuz I do not. I mean, I know what “fresh cheese” is, and I have an idea of different kinds of cheeses that can be called “fresh cheese,” but I need specifics! This recipe simply said “fresh cheese” in the filling ingredients, but then later said “cream cheese.” But since I ran the recipe through a translator, it could have just translated as cream cheese, but meant more like creamED cheese. I ended up using the latter, Ricotta cheese that I mixed up until it became smooth. It worked decently enough in terms of flavor, however, I think actual american style cream cheese would also make a delicious filling, and may work a little better in terms of texture?? My ricotta filling was a little runny, hence the battle with the semolina, and I feel like cream cheese would be a bit thicker.

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The filling also calls for some other flavorings, like vanilla and/or lemon zest, as well as the addition of raisins. I divided my filling in half and added golden raisins to one half, and some dried blueberries to the other for a bit of a different take, as well as to spare my raisin-intolerant roommate. Both were good.

A few other notes: I think I could have rolled my dough a little bit thinner, some parts were nearly 1/4 in. thick, which was a bit too thick I think, and could be yet another reason why my lil bun things didn’t stay wrapped up. Another note, I reduced the recipe amount, because the original recipe yielded “36-54 pieces,” which was way more than I needed! I subjected myself to some math, and 2/3rd’s the dough recipe, and halved the filling. That gave me about 21 lil buns, though I probably could have gotten a few more, had I not gotten tired of pinching dough together!

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happy ingredients, as usual. 🙂
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Gettin that yeast dough going

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Dough and fillings, ready to go!

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I found some Swedish “Christmas Soda” at the Kristkindlmarkt here in Chicago, and I enjoyed that while making and devouring these. 🙂 

And now for some Moldovan current events!
-Moldova, like America, also has a new president who is up to some dubious things. The former president of Moldova’s neighbor, Romania, Traian Basescu, had been granted citizenship in Moldova last year. He was a pro-EU president, and during his term, he spoke of uniting Moldova and Romania together as one country. He also openly supported the opposing candidate to Igor Dodon, the new president of Moldova. As one could guess, Mr. Dodon doesn’t seem to be too fond of Basescu, and also is more in favor of a Russian influence over Moldova, so among his first acts as presided, he striped Mr. Basescu of his Moldovan citizenship. He also removed the EU flag from the presidential office. Source: here.
-I find it very interesting that the presidential situation in Moldova seems rather similar to the one here in America. Apparently the election was very close, and divided the entire country (sounds familiar!!). Dodon was sworn in on Dec. 23, and he called for unity among the people, and pledged to “maintain Moldova’s neutrality.” Here are some quotes from is inaugural speech: “‘Neutrality is a something sacred, which no one can take away from us,’ he said. ‘We will build bridges to the East and to the West.'” and “I would like to address those who had voted for other parties: let’s descend from the barricades and rally together for the sake of a better future. All of us — the Moldovans, the Russians, the Ukrainians, and the Gagauz, are all citizens of one country.'” Source: here
-It seems Moldova’s economy has been a bit unstable recently (didn’t know that), and the EU has given 45.3 million Euros to aid Moldova in efforts to “restore economic stability and reform an opaque banking system.” I am unclear on what exactly went down, but apparently last year, about $1 billion somehow disappeared from the banking system, which triggered an economic and political crisis. Moldova has been relying on the International Monetary Fund (IMU) and the EU for loans to fill in the gaps in their 2016 State budget. You can read more about this situation here.

OK! Now that we all feel better that our country isn’t the only one dealing with political turmoil and a stressful economy, let’s move on the recipe, shall we??

I will post the recipe as I found it, and not my obscure fractioned measurements, so if you would also like reduce the amounts, you can do the math your dang self. Also I didn’t write down the amounts I ended up using and I dont want to do more math.

Be sure to check out the original posting of this recipe, and run it through google Translate (if you can’t read Romanian) and read the authors interesting background info and stories about her experiences with this recipe, and history of these buns. You can find that lovely posting HERE.

Ingredients (36-54 pieces, depending on how big you want them)

For the dough:

  • 750 gr. flour
  • 25 gr. fresh yeast (I used active dry yeast)
  • 250 ml fresh milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 100 gr. butter
  • 100 gr. sugar (or to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • favorite flavors (taste); I put 2 sachets vanilla sugar and zest of 1 lemon appropriate size

For the filling:

  • 250 gr. fresh cheese (I used ricotta)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3-4 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
  • 1-2 tablespoons cream
  • 100 gr. raisins
  • semolina (…but I don’t know how much. Experiment! or just leave it out if you dont feel like dealing with that)
  • optional flavors: sugar 1 sachet vanilar, 1 ampoule rum, lemon zest from ½

For the top:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • powdered sugar

Method:

dough:

-Sift flour into a large bowl, and set aside.
-heat the milk until warm, and in a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter.

-It Prepares leaven yeast: in a large bowl with a fork crumble the yeast, (or measure your dry yeast into the bowl) add 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of flour, 2 tablespoons of warm milk and stir well until dissolved yeast. Cover the bowl with cling film or a towel, put in warm place for 10 to 15 minutes, until the yeast bubbles and doubles in volume.
-In the mean time, beat eggs with salt, add sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until sugar is nearly dissolved.
-Make a well in the bowl of flour, pour in the egg mixture and the yeast mixture and begin mixing the ingredients with a wooden spoon. Pour in the rest of the warm milk, gradually and continue mixing until a dough results.
-At this moment, add the lemon zest and a little melted butter warm and begin kneading dough by hand, pouring in a little more butter at at time, and continue kneading, until all the butter is incorporated. Kneading can be done either on an oiled or floured work surface, or directly in the bowl.
-If the dough is sticky, add a little more flour until it doesn’t stick to your hands or the surface anymore.
-Knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and is compact and elastic.

-While the dough is rising, mix cheese until smooth. Add in the eggs, sugar, cream, semolina (if using), raisins and flavors.
-When the dough has risen, flip it onto a floured work surface or smeared with a thin film of oil. I prefer flour.
-Roll out the dough into a rectangular sheet until it is about 3/8″-1/4″ thick (or between 0.5-1.0 cm). With a sharp knife for pizza cutter, cut the dough into small squares, 2.5-3 in. wide (7-8 cm).
-Place a teaspoon of  filling in the center of each square.
-Take two opposing corners of a square of dough and bring them together over the filling, pinching them tightly together. Take the other two corners and bring them to the center and pinch them together tightly. Repeat with each square.
-Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchement paper, 1-2″ apart. Let raise for another 25-30 minutes.
-Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
-Mix the egg yolk and the milk, and brush over the tops of each pastry. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until nicely browned.
-Remove from the oven and let cool.
-Sprinkle the tops with powdered sugar

 

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