I guess I wouldn’t be too far off by saying that Albanian cuisine (including desserts) is quite similar to that of Afghanistan. Albanian desserts are again sweet, as the most common ones are covered or dipped in different syrups, they also use a lot of different nuts and dried fruits. There are also many varieties of puddings and marmalade.
It’s interesting that Albanians do not have distinct desserts of their own, as all of them originate either from Turkey or Greece. These dishes are also very popular around the Balkans, where desserts are again very similar to those of the Middle East.
Wikipedia lists these desserts as the most common ones:
- Turkish Delight or Llokume
- Tambëloriz or Sultjash (rice pudding)
- Shëndetlie me mjaltë
- Tollumba (fried dough pieces in syrup)
I also found some additional desserts at Wiki Recipes, which include, along with the above-mentioned, also:
So, I have decided to make the mysterious dish of Shëndetlie me mjaltë. Why mysterious? Because for some reason, there was no recipe for it on any of the sites that mention it. Also, if you simply Google “Shëndetlie me mjaltë”, you basically get nothing that would look useful in English. But sometimes it’s worth checking out even the strangest results, since that’s how I came across this site, which, unfortunately, is in Albanian. But I have the fortune to live in the era when I don’t have to go to the library, borrow a dictionary and spend hours translating a single recipe; Google is kind enough to do it for me in a split second. So I learned that “me mjaltë” actually just means “with honey” and the recipe is really quite simple.
Shëndetlie me mjaltë
- 200g sugar
- 2 eggs
- 120g butter at room temperature
- 80g nuts of your choice (I used almonds, because I really like them)
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 500g flour
- 3 cups water
- 3 cups sugar
- vanilla to taste
1. Making the dough
Beat the eggs and the sugar with an electric mixer until the mixture thickens and turns a very pale yellow. Add butter, nuts, honey, soda and flour.
Unfortunately, the recipe doesn’t say whether the nuts should be ground, chopped or whole, so I decided to experiment a little. I ground about one third of them and chopped the rest of them into a variety of sizes (I like things to be interesting). I also left some of the chopped ones to sprinkle them on top.
Anyway, continue kneading the dough with your hands, but it should remain soft and fluffy (not like cookie dough).
Put the dough in a pan, smooth it with a spatula and bake at 180°C for 35-40 minutes or until the surface is light brown. Take it out of the oven and let it cool.
Boil the water with the sugar and some vanilla for about 7 minutes, until it thickens, and continue stirring it the entire time. Let it cool down for a bit, until it is mildly warm and still relatively liquid.
4. Finishing touches
When the pastry is cool, pour the syrup over and sprinkle everything with the remaining nuts. Let the whole thing cool down, so the syrup really thickens.
I recommend you do as I did and cut it before you pour the syrup over, because that way the pastry really absorbs all of the syrup and makes the dessert much more juicy.
All and all, this is another quick, easy and delicious recipe.