A traditional Greek dessert from the Peloponese, diples are light and airy fried dough dipped in honey.
Summer is coming, and with it, wedding season. We love everything about weddings; the blissful couple, the beautiful dress, the personal touches which permeate the entire event. There is so much to appreciate! What we love most however are the traditions. Whether they are cultural or religious or simply familial, these traditions situate the nuptials within something larger than the day itself. How lovely!
Within our family, and Greek culture, we have our own set of traditions. Some of these, of course, revolve around food. In the Messinia region of the Peloponnese, which is where our parents and grandparents (and great-grand parents) are from, one of these sweet traditions is diples. Offering diples at weddings represents a wish that as two individuals become one couple and one family, their joys and blessings double.
We were fortunate to be in Greece for the wedding of our cousin during the summer of 2008. We have been to many lovely weddings (including our own) but we both agree that this particular ceremony and celebration were remarkable. The bride was beautiful, the groom handsome, the flower girls (2 of whom happened to be our daughters) adorable.
The ceremony took place in the church of Agios Ioannis, the oldest church in Kalamata (built in the 1860’s). Our uncle (and the bride’s father) is the priest at this church, and he performed the ceremony along with priests that he had invited from neighbouring churches and towns. The Sacrament of Marriage is always special, but here it was incredible. Following the church service, the reception took place in an outdoor hall, at the very top of a mountain, where the air was fresh and we felt somehow suspended above reality. As night fell, looking up, the stars were close enough to touch, and looking down upon the city, the bright lights twinkled like heaven on earth. It was truly magical.
And so the day of the wedding was grand, but the festivities and preparations began well before the big event. Along with the special dinners and make-up and hair trials, was the making of the diples. A few days before the wedding, a group of women gathered in our aunt’s kitchen to help in the preparation of over 1,000 diples. On the first day, the dough was prepared and the diples were fried and shaped.
On the second day, the diples were dipped in warm honey and sprinkled with chopped nuts and sesame seeds. The ladies had gotten an early start that day; when we woke we realized that the honey had attracted bees into the house. They were buzzing everywhere, and yet no one seemed too concerned, focused on the task at hand.
On the third day the diples were divided and placed onto platters which were then wrapped beautifully. These were delivered to the reception hall and each table was adorned with its own platter, to be enjoyed by guests throughout the night. Even though this was 10 years ago the memory of the organization, joy and love that went into making these diples is vivid. The women were at times singing, reminiscing, story-telling or silently appreciating their role in helping to make our cousin’s special day that much sweeter.
Simply put, diples are made by frying dough and then covering them with honey and chopped nuts or sesame seeds. But the reality is, diples the way our parents make them, are not simple. They have the distinction of being the first recipe which we are posting to be identified as Level of Difficulty: Hard. The dough itself is easy to prepare, the rolling of the dough is straightforward (especially if you use a pasta machine as our parents do, and as we recommend), but the frying and shaping is another story. You need to work quickly in order to create the shape; take too long and the diples will over cook and become impossible to fold. This is certainly a case where practice makes perfect (or at least, acceptable). At the same time however, don’t be too hard on yourself. Be prepared to end up with a few ugly diples (which will still taste fantastic) while you perfect your skills.
For us, making diples is truly a family affair, and is should be for you too. We suppose that it is possible to make diples on your own, but really, if you have someone to help you, that’s ideal. As you can see in the photos of the dough being rolled, many hands really do make lighter work. Also, if you have several people working on making the diples, you can identify the person who has the natural knack for rolling them as they cook. If you are doing this solo however, simply adjust your technique. Perhaps roll out only a very small piece of dough at a time, so that it remains manageable.
If you are wondering if you actually need a pasta machine for this recipe, the answer is technically, no. You can roll the dough out using a rolling pin, but a pasta machine is SO MUCH EASIER! It ensures that your dough is rolled out extremely thin and that it is of uniform thickness throughout. This is key to lovely diples.
The recipe will make between 70 – 75 diples however the amount of honey we list will not coat all of them. This was done purposefully as we don’t think that you will be honey-coating all of your diples at once. If you will prepare them all however, simply make several batches of the syrup, one at a time, by following the recipe as listed. The quantities of honey, water and nuts listed will provide enough syrup for approximately 20 – 25 diples.
Our parents like to keep un-honeyed diples in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container, ready and waiting for guests or sweet cravings. They can remain fresh this way for several weeks, even months.
Many people use sugar in their syrup, however our parents are adamant that diples be coated with nothing but the best quality honey. Purchase the best quality honey you can find and keep in mind that the honey you purchase will impact the flavour of your diples.
You may have seen diples in other forms. Various parts of Greece prepare their diples in different ways, but what we have shared here is the traditional version found in most of the Peloponnese. If you would like to try out different shapes because you prefer them, go ahead! But if you are going to be attempting different shapes because you feel that these are too difficult, don’t! This lovely rolled shape really is worth the effort, and we hope that you have fun trying to perfect your technique. Also, it could be important to eat your failures (all of them) in order to save face. Oh, the struggles.
Looking for more traditional Greek desserts? How about these:
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- pasta machine optional, but highly recommended
- deep frying pan
- 6 cups sifted, all-purpose flour
- 10 large eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) ouzo
- vegetable oil for frying
For the syrup:
- 1 cup (250 mL) honey
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) water
- 1/2 cup (80 grams) crushed almonds
- 1/2 cup (70 grams) crushed walnuts
- In a large bowl combine 5 cups of the sifted flour with the eggs and the ouzo. Knead the mixture well by hand and then slowly add the last 1 cup of sifted flour. Your dough will be soft but not sticky; it should be easy to handle. Let your dough rest, covered loosely with a clean cloth, for 15 minutes.
- Using a pasta machine set at the flat setting (as you would use if you were making a flat sheet of pasta), start passing your dough, a portion at a time, through the pasta machine. You will need to pass it through the machine in several steps, each time, bringing the rollers closer and closer together until you get the thinnest dough possible. You should end up with dough that is so thin that you can see through it.
- Lay your sheet of dough flat on a clean cloth dusted with a tiny bit of flour (to prevent sticking) and use a sharp knife to cut out rectangular pieces of dough. Each piece should be about 6 inches x 8 inches. It does not have to be exact, and these measurements will dependent upon the actual width of your pasta machine. The important thing is to have pieces of dough which are rectangular so that the longer ends can be folded over one another to create the diples shape pictured.
- When you have several rectangular pieces of dough ready it is time to heat up your oil. Take a large frying pan and fill it halfway with vegetable oil. Heat the oil over medium heat and then, one piece of dough at a time, start frying.
- Carefully place one flat piece of dough into the hot oil. It will start to cook immediately, and you must quickly create your diple shape while the dough is frying. The easiest way to do this is to use 2 forks; hold one of your forks on the surface of the dough, and use the other fork to start creating a roll. Work quickly as the total frying time for each dipla is between 25 – 30 seconds. Your diples should be a very light golden colour, with no brown at all. In this case, a picture is worth a thousand words, and so is a video. In order to see diples frying and shaping in action, click here.
- As your diples are fried, place them almost upright in a large paper towel lined colander. Repeat until you have rolled out all of your dough and fried all of your diples.
- Once your diples are fried, it is time to coat them in honey. Please note that the amount of ingredients listed above will not honey-coat all of your diples. You might not necessarily want to honey coat all 75 diples at one time. The quantity of honey listed will coat between 20 – 25 diples.
- In a sauce pot large enough to fit one diple at a time add the honey and the water. Cook over medium heat until it foams up a bit. Reduce heat and with a spoon carefully remove the foam and discard.
- Taking one diple at a time hold it over the warm pot of honey and using a spoon coat the diple with the honey, ensure that the outside and the inside of the diples have honey poured over them. Set aside and while still warm sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of crushed almond and walnut, or to taste. Repeat until you have used up all of the honey. You can see the syrup action, in the video here.
- Diples can be kept at room temperature for a few days, covered loosely with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Do not cover them while they are still warm or they will become soggy.
- You can also keep diples in the refrigerator for a several weeks.