The name ‘mucenici’ (pronounced moo-cheh-neech)comes from ‘mucenicie’ which means martyrdom in Romanian. The story of the Saint Martyrs(Mucenici) which gave their life for believing in Jesus Christ and for spreading Christianism is sad, but inspiring.
The martyrdom of the 40 Saints was very important for Christianity. They were soldiers in the Roman army, but of different nationalities: Greek, Armean and Roman. It was around the year 308 when the Roman emperor Licinus was ruling. They were in Armenia when their commander, Agricolae, found out about their Christian beliefs and asked them to give up to their beliefs and change to Roman idols.
The soldiers wouldn’t do that so the commander ordered their torture by throwing rocks at them. Agricolae even tried to bribe the soldiers with expensive gifts, but it was useless. So he ordered them to be drowned in a frozen lake. It was Spring and still freezing, but while the soldiers were in that lake, praying, a miracle happened and the lake got heated and each got an aura above their heads, so they were saved. However, they were tortured to death afterwards and their bodies were burned and thrown in the lake.
The soldiers’ martyrdom has been celebrated ever since in our country as they became Saints Martyrs through this miracle. For their mentioning, we cook some delicious cookies, which have the same name of ‘mucenici’. They are cooked differently depending on which of our geographical zones they are made. But all must have the shape of the number 8. This 8-shape symbolizes a human figure, of the Saints.
Also, on this day, tradition says that men should drink or just taste wine out of 40 glasses, which symbolizes the blood of the martyrs. Here is the recipe. Enjoy!
Ingredients (makes about 20):
For the dough:
- 1 fresh yeast cube (42 g)
- 2-3 tablespoons warm water
- 500 g flour (plus extra for kneading)
- 100 g sugar
- 2 eggs
- 250 ml milk
- 70 ml sunflower oil (or melted butter)
- 1 egg yolk
For the syrup:
- 200 ml water
- 40 ml orange liquor (or amaretto or rum)
- zest of one orange, grated
- 7-8 tablespoons sugar
- some honey and ground walnuts to serve
Break the fresh yeast into crumbles in a bowl. Pour the warm water over it and mix well. Let it rest for 15 minutes. In a food processor mix the flour and sugar. Pour the yeast mix over them. Mix slowly until even, then gradually incorporate the eggs (lightly beaten before this step), the oil and milk, a little at a time, until you have an even dough. Let it rest for 2 hours until very puffed:. Put it on a flour-covered surface and knead it, adding maybe a bit more flour until you have a dough not so sticky (that you can work with). Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Get a handful of dough and roll it into a long log, then twist it into an eight. Place it on the tray and repeat (leaving a little space between them). Brush them with the lightly beaten yolk and bake for 25-30 minutes. You might need to repeat this with the remaining dough. Take the mucenici out of the tray and place in a large bowl. For the syrup, bring the sugar and water to a boil, add the zest and the liquor. Mix again and let it cook for 4-5 more minutes. Lightly toast (dry fry) the walnuts and grind them also.
To serve, arrange 2 mucenici on a plate, poke little holes in them and pour 1-2 tablespoons of syrup. Let them soak it up, then top with 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 of ground walnuts. Let some honey and walnuts nearby so everyone can help themselves with a little extra to taste.