Albania: Sheqerpare

Like many of their main dishes, most Albanian desserts, which are popular all over the Balkans, trace their roots from either Turkey or Greece. Many of their desserts incorporate local fruits with citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons being the most popular.

Along with the traditional Albanian cookie, Sheqerpare, a guest in an Albanian home may be offered Turkish coffee and raki, a clear, strong brandy made from grapes.

Sheqerpare (cookies in syrup)

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 egg yolks
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup water
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 to 3 whole cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In mixer, cream together butter and one cup of the sugar until fully incorporated. Add egg yolks, one at a time, until mixture is smooth. Stir in flour and baking soda a little at a time until a soft dough forms.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/3" thick. Cut into 2 inch rounds and place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.

While the cookies are baking, add the remaining sugar and water to a small saucepan and cook over medium to medium-high heat for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the syrup spins a long thread. Remove from heat. Season with vanilla and cloves to taste.

When cookies are done, remove from oven and place on rack to cool slightly. Pour hot syrup over cookies. Serve at room temperature.

Yields approximately 30 cookies.
Recipe Source: "The Best of Albanian Cooking" by Klementina and R. John Hysa (Hippocrene Books, $22.50)

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