Mucenici – Moldavian or Romanian pastries soaked in syrup and topped with honey and walnuts, these soft and fluffy pastries are really addictive.
You will not be able to stop eating these Mucenici or Romanian pastries. Just one more, just one more until you are so full, you won’t be able to move anymore.
They are sooooo good, so worth your time and so worth all the calories they contain. The first time I’ve made them, there were about 40 of them on two large baking trays.
They are not particularly large, but still, I thought there’s no way we could possibly eat them all between 4 adults and 3 kids. I was already thinking about the possibility of freezing them later… but I was so wrong: there were only 3 of them left in the evening…
What are Mucenici?
Moldavian or Romanian pastries made with yeast, soaked in syrup, glazed with honey, and sprinkled with walnuts, some of the best pastries ever!
The recipe is one of the most famous Moldavian recipes for yeast pastry. They are usually baked on the 9th of March to celebrate the 40 martyrs (mucenici) of Sevastia.
Apparently these 40 martyrs were Christian Roman soldiers, who refused to give up their faith and were so sentenced to death and left to die in the freezing cold.
What do you need?
- Flour, sugar, milk, salt and yeast.
- You can use fresh yeast, about 60 g/ 2.1 oz fresh yeast OR 4 ½ tablespoons active dry yeast.
- Water, sugar, honey and walnuts. The rum aroma is optional, but nice. Some like it, some don’t.
How to form?
- Knead the risen dough shortly and divide it into 40 small balls.
- Roll each ball into a 30 cm/ 12 inches long dough “rope”.
- Form an 8 out of this “rope”.
- Place carefully on a baking tray and brush with egg-milk mixture.
- Form the second batch while the first one is baking.
Tips for making Mucenici
- The most important tip: use a digital kitchen scale to measure the ingredients, especially the flour, cup measuring is unreliable.
- You can easily halve the recipe.
- You can make the yeast dough without the food processor as well. Place the flour in a very large bowl, proof the yeast on top, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well with a spoon. Knead the dough thoroughly, until elastic and smooth. This might take about 10 minutes, so a food processor is always my first choice.
- If the kitchen is not warm enough for the dough, place the bowl in the oven and turn on the oven light. Just the light, NOT the oven.
- You need to brush the mucenici with syrup, honey, and walnuts as soon as they come out of the oven. To make sure that you have everything ready in time, roast the walnuts while the dough is still rising. Gather all the ingredients for the syrup and glaze as well.
- Place the water and sugar for the syrup already in a small pan. You will only have to boil it for 5 minutes while the first batch of pastries is in the oven.
- Also, mix the honey and the lukewarm water in another small bowl and stir well. The water is lukewarm in order to help the honey dissolve. Set aside.
- You will need to bake the mucenici in two batches. Form the second batch of pastries, while the first one is in the oven.
How to store?
Like all yeast pastries, mucenici are best served fresh, on the day you baked them. They can be served warm or at room temperature.
Wrap the leftovers in clean kitchen towels, they will still be nice the next day.
More Romanian pastries:
Mucenici – Romanian Pastries
- Yeast pastry:
- 60 g/ 2.1 oz fresh yeast OR 4 ½ tablespoons active dry yeast
- 400 ml – 430 ml/ 13.5 oz – 14.5 fl.oz/ about 1 ¾ cups lukewarm milk
- 200 g/ 7 oz/ 1 cup sugar
- 1 kg/ 35.3 oz/ 8 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 egg + 2 tablespoons milk
- Syrup and topping:
- 100 g/ about ¾ cup ground walnuts
- 200 ml/ 6.7 fl.oz/ scant 1 cup water
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz/ ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon rum aroma more to taste
- 3 tablespoons clear honey
- 3 tablespoons lukewarm water
- In a small bowl mix together the crumbled yeast, 50 ml/ 1.7 fl. oz/ about ¼ cup of the lukewarm milk, 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Sprinkle lightly with 1 tablespoon of the flour and let stand for 10-15 minutes.
- Place the rest of the flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of your kitchen machine. Mix well. Pour the yeast mixture on top and add most of the remaining lukewarm milk. Keep about ¼ cup of it aside and only add it if necessary when kneading. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Knead the dough with the kitchen machine for about 5 minutes. Turn the dough on the working surface and knead it with the hands for 2 or 3 minutes more.
- Place into a bowl, cover with a clean kitchen cloth, and let rise for about 40-45 minutes in a warm place.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
- Knead the risen dough shortly and divide it into 40 small balls. Roll each ball into a 30 cm/ 12 inches long dough “rope”. Form an 8 out of this “rope”.
- Mix the egg and 2 tablespoons milk in a small bowl. Brush the mucenici with this mixture and bake the first tray in the preheated oven while you form the second batch of pastries.
- Bake each tray for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your oven. The pastries should be golden brown.
Syrup and topping:
- The syrup should be ready when the mucenici are baked. Roast the walnuts and assemble the ingredients before you start forming the pastries.
- Roast the ground walnuts in a pan for a few minutes, until fragrant. Set aside.
- Place the water and the sugar into a small pot, bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Add the rum aroma.
- Mix the honey and the lukewarm water in another small bowl.
- Take the first tray of pastries out of the oven. Brush the second batch of the pastries with the egg-milk mixture and place it in the oven.
- Generously brush the baked pastries with half of the sugar syrup. Brush them with half of the honey mixture as well and sprinkle them with half of the roasted walnuts. Repeat with the second tray of yeast pastries.
- Enjoy warm or cold. Although best when served on the day you baked them, they are still good the next day. Keep them well wrapped in a clean kitchen cloth.