I made “thaktila”, otherwise known as “ladies fingers” while I was in Canada. Post workshop, I also realise that I tend to jump around a lot in my posts – talking about a food photography workshop and then posting a random recipe for some strange Cypriot food that sounds more like a Halloween spoof-treat than a yummy dessert. While I will make efforts to ebb this space cadet characteristic of mine in future, I will share this recipe with you today, as it is what I made when I went on this little trip across the world. The random thing about not being in Cyprus, is that if you crave Cypriot food, you just have to make it yourself because you can’t really find its products that easily – (save for halloumi cheese). So I made “thaktila” with my mom, who had some leftover dough from making bourekya before I came. The name of this dessert is a bit weird. It’s not a Halloween recipe, but it sure sounds it. “Thaktila” is a type of Cypriot dessert. Imagine baklava fried in pastry dough and then drenched with syrup, and that’s basically what you have with this dessert.
People can choose to make the syrup different ways, I have enjoyed it with orange blossom water, and with rose water. This recipe though is a very classic syrup, using cinnamon and orange rind, and uses a decent amount of cinnamon in the nut mixture to add some flavour. So it is very “baklava” in taste. The dessert is typically enjoyed as a sweet with Greek coffee.
They are quite addictive, and I usually end up eating about 5 in one go. They are very sweet, and personally I love biting into one and tasting the syrup, which means these are usually good soon after they are made before the pastry becomes dry. They take a bit of effort to make, and I am not such a fan of deep frying, but once these are made, they fry very quickly so you aren’t in front of boiling oil for very long.
A tip to remember, is to go light on the filling you add to the middle of each pastry. You only need very little filling per “finger”. You will also notice that some of the “fingers” have diagonal ends and some have straight – you can opt to cut the ends as you wish. I prefer straight edges just because I like to make things quickly, but my mom prefers to cut them on a diagonal as that is how they are traditionally made. Enjoy.
for the dough: (you will have extra dough at the end)
2 cups flour (1 cup bread flour, 1 cup all purpose flour)
pinch of salt
2 tbs vegetable shortening
1 beaten egg
about 1/3 cup of warm water (you may need less or more)
for the filling: (you will need to make extra filling if you want to use it as garnish)
1 & 1/4 cups ground almonds
3 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
for the syrup:
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 peels of orange rind
1/2 a cinnamon stick
3 tbs honey (after it boils you add honey)
1. Put your flour in a large bowl and add the salt. Add in the shortening, rubbing it between your fingers with the flour to combine it together. Make a well in the middle of your flour, and add your beaten egg. Begin to add your warm water in order to make a stiff dough. Knead the dough well for 10 minutes. Let the dough rest in a warm place for 1 hour.
2. While the dough is resting, make your filling. Combine the coarsely chopped almonds, cinnamon and sugar.
3. While the dough is resting, prepare the syrup. Slowly heat and stir the sugar, water, orange rind, cinnamon stick and cloves. Once it reaches a low boil, turn of the heat and let slightly cool. Then add the honey and stir the syrup. Then let the syrup cool before using.
4. Once the dough has rested, roll the dough out so that it is very thin. Place 1/2 tsp of filling in a little rectangle piece of dough about 5cm by 8cm. Fold over the dough lengthways to cover the filling. Secure the edges using your fork, as in the picture above. Make all of the ladies fingers this way.
5. On the stove, heat vegetable oil for frying. Once hot, add the ladies fingers a few at a time. They will fry very quickly, and sort of “bubble”. Once they turn golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon, and then quickly dip into the cool syrup. Then transfer into a serving tray and allow to cool. Once cool, sprinkle some of the filling mixture on top of the ladies fingers as garnish and serve.