Just before the second part of our article about Elatochori and the last destination of our long trip to Western and Central Macedonia, Veria, we will take a short, sweet break, since we made a dessert that we definitely want to share with you!
In our new article we will see our traditional sweets differently; with more modern approaches, in combination with mousses and creams, or as elements in more complex desserts. Getting inspiration we will make our own “modern”, fasting and vegan semolina halva, with hazelnuts, in combination with a chocolate semolina cream.
As you know, we translate our articles into English, with the aim of promoting the beauties, the history and the tradition of our country abroad too. For this reason, in this article we will make a brief description of each traditional sweet that we will mention. So let’s go see our traditional sweets, with different looks and get ideas on how we can make our own modern desserts, with elements of our tradition.
The first dessert that we will approach we chose to be baklava, since it is of course one of our favorites here in Greece, but we have noticed that they love it very much abroad. It is a dessert found in many cuisines of the Middle East. It is made with filo dough smeared with fresh butter, stuffed with nuts, usually walnuts, and syruped with a syrup flavored with cloves, cinnamon and lemon.
A fantastic recipe that we saw on foreign websites and we definitely want to try is baklava cheesecake. This is a New York type cheesecake, with cream cheese baked in the oven, but with a baklava base. Perfect?
But also in our country baklava has won a place in the best restaurants. A typical example is the decomposed baklava of the very good confectioner Thodoris Moussidis that was served at Varoulko Seaside in 2017. Caramelized, crunchy filo sheets and a frozen pistachio mousse from Aegina, on a base of pistachio cake and orange cream…
And another nice, sweet idea: baklava tart with chocolate! A variation of the classic baklava with walnuts and almonds made in a tart pan, coated with chocolate ganache.
Next favorite syrupy, fasting sweet, kadayifi! A dessert that, apart from Greece, is also found in many countries of the Middle East. It has a very original ingredient, its dough, which is essentially very thin, elastic dough fibers. To make it, we have to open and fluff the dough, fill it with a filling of walnuts or pistachios and cinnamon, wrap it and pour melted butter over it. After cooking, syrup it with lemon-flavored syrup.
The classic recipe that uses kadayifi as an element of a more complex dessert is ekmek kadayifi. A layer of syrupy kadayifi, a layer of vanilla cream, a layer of whipped cream, sprinkling with nuts and the dessert is ready! In a patisserie in Nicosia we found a different ekmek kadayifi, with praline cream on top of the syrupy base.
Kadayifi is a very special item that can take off a restaurant dessert. Very often we come across it in combination with ice cream, an idea that we really like! An interesting example is the dessert of the restaurant Aneton of 2020: vanilla ice cream with quince paste, crunchy kadayifi and syrup from Vinsanto, a wine of Santorini.
But we also found a nice winter idea: a kadayifi cake with apples, with kadayifi instead of sponge cake and stuffing of caramelized apples… Wonderful!
What can one say about galaktoboureko? Crispy, syrupy filo sheets and inside a delicious, fluffy cream with semolina and vanilla and lemon aroma… It is made like this: we prepare the syrup and the cream, we butter the leaves, we fill them with the cream, we bake and we syrup. Its success lies in the crispness of the dough, the right syrup and the rich taste of the cream.
Its ingredients, dough, cream and syrup, are ideal for many variations and many experiments. We often come across high-quality pastry dishes that deconstruct this dessert and redefine it with new flavor combinations and original platings. One such dessert could be tried at the Sense Restaurant, whose chef is Alexandros Charalambopoulos, in 2018, in which the classic galaktoboureko was combined with an orange-tahini sorbet and an aromatic cream of orange peels.
Another version of galaktoboureko was served by the restaurant The Three Little Pigs in Thessaloniki by chef Dimos Kalaitsidis in 2020. Galaktoboureko with traditional cream in cinnamon tempura on a crispy filo dough, syrup flavored with mandarin liqueur and ice cream. We notice that the modern versions of galaktoboureko maintain its combination with aromas and flavors of citrus, and we really like that!
Of course, galaktoboureko could not be combined with chocolate! Many online recipes prove it…
Orange pie is one of our most special traditional sweets, starring orange. It is made with a broken filo dough, which is soaked in a cream of orange, eggs and yogurt, baked and syruped with an orange syrup. Orange at its best, very often with ice cream!
As you can imagine, orange pie is a versatile ingredient that can be combined with various flavors – orange goes especially well with chocolate, for example. This is how chef Leonidas Koutsopoulos combined it in a well-known culinary reality show, with Swiss meringue and namelaka. Namelaka is an extremely creamy chocolate cream, with a texture located somewhere between the ganache and the mousse. Very interesting combination, we have to say!
Last but not least, the rice pudding of our childhood. A hot or cold cream flavored with vanilla, lemon or orange, with glasse rice or arborio (the one used in risotto), sprinkled with cinnamon. It is made very easily, placing all the ingredients in a saucepan to boil – the art is to boil the rice, to soften and thicken the mixture. The greatness of simplicity…
The simplicity of rice pudding makes it a very easy to use and flexible material to be combined with other flavors that will highlight it and take it off. Citrus is one of the most classic combinations and in the restaurant Kiouzin in Kolonaki in 2020 they had the lead! Rice pudding with orange sorbet in an open fresh orange… Awesome!
When two great chefs meet in a classic dessert, something magical emerges: rice pudding with almond milk and fresh herbs, almond crumble and caramelized apples flavored with rose geranium by Dimitris Chronopoulos and Giannis Baxevanis!
Making this short journey to our traditional sweets, seen in a classic way, but also differently, we end up at the semolina halva, to which this article is dedicated. Semolina halva is a sweet that is found in many parts of Greece, as well as in many other countries in the East and the West. The Greeks of Smyrna and Constantinople brought it to our country. You can read its history in detail in our oldest article on semolina halva.
Semolina halva goes very well with chocolate, and chocolate goes well with hazelnuts… Semolina halva is syrupy and has a dense texture, so it would go well with a light cream on top… We thought about these and decided to make a semolina halva with hazelnuts, with a chocolate semolina cream on top, vegan and fasting, to be suitable for those of us who are fasting during this period of preparation for Christmas!
Semolina halva with chocolate semolina cream
Chocolate semolina cream
- 1 liter of chocolate soya drink (with sugar)
- 120 gr fine semolina
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 50 gr couverture chocolate
Finely chop the couverture chocolate.
Pour the chocolate soya drink in a saucepan on medium heat.
Just before the drink starts to boil, when it starts to steam, add the semolina and stir constantly with the whisk.
Your cream will be ready to be removed from the heat as soon as it has started to coagulate. See the right texture here:
After removing the cream from the heat, add the chopped couverture chocolate and stir well with the whisk.
Finally, add 1 tbsp vanilla extract or a vanillin capsule if you do not have extract.
Transfer the cream to a cake mold, preferably silicone, and leave it on the counter until it comes to room temperature.
Next, place the mold in the fridge, and prepare your halva.
- 1 cup fine semolina
- 1 cup coarse semolina
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp cinnamon powder
- 1 cup hazelnuts
For the syrup:
- 3 cups water
- 1½ cup of honey (or agave syrup to make it vegan)
- ½ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- The halves of the orange and peel of 1 tangerine
Prepare the syrup first. Bring the water with the mandarin peels, the orange halves and the cinnamon stick to a boil for 3 minutes.
Add the orange juice and boil for another 2 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the honey (or agave syrup) and mix well. Do not add honey from the beginning so as not to damage its nutrients.
The finished syrup should look something like this:
Leave the syrup aside and heat the oil.
Add the hazelnuts and the fine and course semolina.
Roast, stirring constantly, with a wooden spoon, until it gets a nice color and a delicious scent, about 7-8 minutes.
The mixture will be ready when it comes off the sides of the pot, like the choux dough (pâte à choux):
Finally, add 1 tbsp of cinnamon and stir.
With great care, because it will splash, begin to pour the syrup into the halva mixture with a ladle. Stir constantly until one ladle is absorbed and add the next one.
Your halva will be ready as soon as it has absorbed the entire amount of syrup:
Remove the form with the semolina cream from the fridge and add your halva on top. Wait until it comes to room temperature and put the mold in the fridge for a few hours.
Once your dessert has cooled, cut a large piece and enjoy it with your loved ones!
Enjoy our dear friends and good preparations for the beautiful holidays to come!
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