Tava is a meticulously researched baking book celebrating centuries of diversity and overlapping cultures that form today’s cuisine in Romania. The author’s aim is to also share the story of those dishes that have come to represent the identity of different cultural communities across the country. Tava means tray in Romanian, a metaphor for how a whole culinary landscape is presented to the reader.
You will find Armenian pakhlava, Saxon plum pies, Swabian poppyseed crescents, Jewish fritters, and Hungarian langoși alongside plăcinte pies, alivenci corn cake, strudels and fruit dumplings. Rice or pearl barley puddings, donuts and gingerbread biscuits come with their own story, while chocolate mousses, meringues in custard sauce and coffee ice cream introduce you to the glamour of famous Romanian and Eastern European pastry shops.
The book is written with integrity and respect towards this rich heritage connecting the past with a present which can be encountered by the reader when travelling in Romania. The recipes are easy to follow, beautifully photographed, and tempt the reader to embrace the unfamiliar as much as the familiar, while enjoying their comforting and homely feel.
Tava: Eastern European Baking and Desserts From Romania & Beyond by
Rum Chocolate Cream Sandwich Cookies
A nostalgic treat, especially for Romanians who live abroad, these cookies are made of delicate langue de chat-style biscuits sandwiched together with a dark chocolate ganache. During the Communist regime, they were one of the very few types of cookies that we could still buy in stores. Paleuri became a touch of luxury, although eventually even they were ruined by the system’s faults, through the use of inferior substitute ingredients. This is a recipe that hopefully restores their true flavour and culinary dignity.
100 g (3½ oz) unsalted butter, softened
100 g (3½ oz/scant ½ cup) golden caster (superfine) sugar
2 medium eggs
120 g (4 oz/1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons dark rum
For the filling
75 g (2½ oz) dark chocolate, finely chopped
150 ml (5 fl oz/scant 2⁄3 cup) double (heavy) cream
5 teaspoons dark rum
For the drizzle
30 g (1 oz) dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 170°C (non-fan)/340°F/gas 3. Line a large baking sheet (or two) with baking paper.
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until soft, then add the eggs one by one, incorporating well after each addition. Mix in the flour, vanilla and rum and beat until creamy.
Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a 1-cm (1⁄2-in) nozzle, and pipe 36 circles, each about 3 cm (1¼ in) in diameter, on the lined baking sheet(s), keeping the nozzle vertical and without swirling. Dip a finger in cold water and tuck in any peaks that stick out.
Bake for 12–14 minutes until the edges turn a deep golden colour and the tops are lightly coloured. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Place the chocolate in a large bowl. Heat the cream in a small pan, then pour it over the chocolate. Allow to melt together for 1–2 minutes, then slowly mix to a smooth consistency, adding the rum towards the end. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator until firm but not solid.
When you are ready to fill the cookies, briefly whisk the chocolate cream filling to soft peaks. Pipe or use a teaspoon to sandwich two cookies together with a little of the filling. Repeat until you have 18 sandwich cookies, placing them close together on a wire rack or baking tray.
To decorate, melt the dark chocolate for the drizzle. Using a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle or just a small teaspoon, drizzle the chocolate over all the cookies at once, first going diagonally in one direction, then in the opposite direction to form a criss-cross pattern.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Hardie Grant Books.