Mucenici - a sweet Romanian tradition

By Adina Dosan (adinamiti) on March 9, 2011

Eversince I was a child I have been anxiously expecting this day of March 9th. It's religious significance wasn't of so much importance for me back then, although my Mom and my Grandparents were always telling me about it. What mattered to me on every March 9th was only the big pot with a sweet noodle soup in it which I would always find on the stove when I woke up.

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.

2011-03-09/adinamiti/da8dc4The soldiers' martyrdom has been celebrated eversince 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.

In the Muntenia region, the Southern part of Romania, we are making 'Mucenici muntenesti' which are also called the 'mucenici' soup. The soup is made of very small pasta eights, cooked like noodles, with water, sugar, cinnamon and walnuts.  The soup symbolizes the lake where the martyrs were thrown in to drown.2011-03-08/adinamiti/03e42e

In the Moldavia region, the Eastern part of our country, people are making the 'Moldavian mucenici' also called 'Little   Saints'. They must be 40, as in the number of the 40 Saints Martyrs. The Moldavian mucenici are dough cakes which are baked, dipped in orange syrup, then covered with honey and walnuts.

During the years, it has become accustomed that on this day to also celebrate the men in our country since they don't have any special day  like they have in the US, for example. 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.

Every year I'm cooking both Muntenesti and Moldavian  'mucenici'. Here are the recipes, maybe you'd like to try cooking it yourselves.

2011-03-08/adinamiti/671896"Little Moldavian Saints"- Moldavian Mucenici

Ingredients

For the dough

- half a kilogram of wheat flour (2 cups)

- 25g (o,6 ounce)cake compressed fresh yeast

- 150g melted butter (3/4 cup)

- a teaspoonful of salt

- 250 ml warm milk (1 cup)2011-03-08/adinamiti/6bec22

- 2 eggs

- 2 spoonfull of sugar

- vanilla, rhum essences

For the syrup

- 150g sugar ( 1/2 cup)

- 150 ml water (1/2 cup)

- 1/2 of an orange zest

For the topping

- 250g honey (1 cup)

- 250g grounded walnuts (1 cup)

2011-03-08/adinamiti/f06288For the dough : mix the yeast with a spoon of sugar, until it gets liquid, then add a spoon of flour and stir well, like beating . Cover it with a napkin-cloth and put it in a warm place to grow, until foamy, for 15 minutes.
Sift and measure the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the flour, pour the warm milk, eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla and the grown yeast into the well. Knit well the dough, then cover with a napkin-cloth and allow dough to rise in a warm room for 1 hour or until doubles volume. Do not set bowl on radiator or in hot place. Keep away from draughts. Allow dough to rise until doubled in bulk.
You can use a cooking machine for making the dough : pour the flour in the bowl of the cooking machine, add all ingredients. You turn on the CM and pour the warm milk and melted butter, until it forms a ball inside the bowl. I usually mix the ingredients in the CM for 1 minute. 2011-03-09/adinamiti/8e5c60Then you have to put the dough in a large bowl, cover it with a napkin-cloth and leave it in a warm place for 1 hour, to double its volume.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven. When the dough has doubled volume,  divide it into several equal parts, about 12-14. Take each part, make thin ropes, like a finger diameter and give it the shape of the figure 8. Stick very well the ends, by pressing. Then put the cakes in a pan and let them double volume, for another 20 minutes. Spread each "little saint", over the top, with egg yolk, then you can introduce the pan into the preheat oven at 180 degrees C = 350F(moderate temperature) for 30 minutes, until browned. Meanwhile turn to boil the sugar, water and orange zest to make the syrup. Let cool. When the "mucenici" are ready, take them out of the oven and, immediately, dip one by one into the syrup for a few seconds, on each surface, to get moist. Arrange them on a tray and let cool, then cover each with honey and roll it in ground walnuts. Good appetite !

2011-03-08/adinamiti/435a8cMucenici Muntenesti (Mucenici Soup)

Ingredients for the 'mucenici'

- 1cup flour

- 1/4 teaspoon salt

- 1/4 cup water

- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

You can use any other small pasta shapes you can buy from the store.

For the soup

- 3 quarts water

- 1 cup sugar, at your taste

- 1 cup grounded walnuts

- 1 cinnamon stick and powder

- 1 spoonful pinch of lemon and orange zeast

- vanilla and rhum essences

2011-03-09/adinamiti/46c3ddMix the flour, baking powder, salt and water into a mixing bowl, to make an elastic dough, rather tough and knead it for a few minutes. If sticks, add more flour. Form into a ball, cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Pinch small pieces of dough(as it comes between 3 fingers), roll it between your hands into a long, thin (about 1/4 inch=6 cm) rope, that just can wrap arround your finger. Pinch the edges together, to form a ring, then twist the middle to form an 8. Flour hands and work surface as nedeed. As you finish forming each little 8 (mucenic), place it on a flour-covered pan or waxed paper. Let dry for a few hours (make better a day before cooking). In Romania, we have a special 8-shaped instrument and we cut the 8s into the spreaded 5 mm(=0,2 in) thick dough. Fill a large 3 liters (=101, 44fl.oz) pot to 3/4 full with water, add a teaspoon of salt and turn to 2011-03-08/adinamiti/0475c0boil. When boiling, drop the pasta shapes into the liquid, turn to boil again, then lower the heat to moderate. Stir gently to be sure the pasta shapes don't stick on the bottom of the pot, then let boil to low heat for half an hour, if they are homemade. Otherwise, boil them according to the instructions on the package. If using homemade pasta shapes, they will normally be finished cooking once all are floating from the top of the water to the bottom. When the pasta shapes are cooked, add sugar to taste, then bring to boil again over high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and let cool. Add cinnamon powder, a spoon of lemon and orange zest (be sure to avoid using the white part, which will make the soup bitter), vanilla and rhum essences. Stir 1/4 of the ground walnuts with 1-2 spoons of cold water until whitened, add into the soup pot and stir well. You can transfer the soup into a large bowl and place it in the refrigerator until cool. Serve in bowls, with a spoonful of grounded walnuts and cinnamon powder on top.

For more detailed information about these recipes and also more pictures, you can check here.

Related articles:
40 Saints, dough, March 9th, martyrs, Moldavia, mucenici, recipe, religious celebration, Romania, sweet noodle soup

About Adina Dosan
I'm a gardener from Romania, happy to share things about my country with other people from all over the world.
I'm a dog lover, a plants addict and a happy grandma!

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Wonderful! weeds Mar 11, 2012 8:16 AM 3
Yet another wonderful cultural tradition. Zanymuse Mar 11, 2012 3:37 AM 5
Made ME hungry . . . . TwinLakesChef Mar 11, 2011 1:32 AM 6
Thanks for the memories eclayne Mar 11, 2011 1:31 AM 1

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