A simple make-ahead dessert that can be dressed up or down
One of our favourite treats growing up was a creamy vanilla pudding that came from a box. This product, imported from Greece, was one of the only “processed” foods that our parents ever made for us, and we loved it! Whenever we would see the unique blue box with a corn on the cob design on it in the pantry, we got pretty excited. We remember how our parents would mix this pudding powder with milk, cook it while stirring slowly and serve it in shallow bowls. Occasionally they would add a topping of fresh fruit (sliced bananas were a particular favourite) or a spoon sweet they had previously made and preserved. We still see this box of pudding in the Greek grocery store we frequent, and although we have considered picking one up for old times sake, we’re a little worried that our adult taste buds won’t love it as much as we used to. Uncomfortable about disrupting such fond food and family memories, we’ve decided to create something similar, using ingredients we know we love.
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.
Have you ever heard of halva? If you’re Greek, you probably have, as this is a staple dessert during periods of lent when many abstain from eggs and dairy. This delightfully vegan dessert is a breeze to put together and when it is done in chocolate as it is here, you’ll find yourself desperate to come up with an excuses to make it over and over again. We think that I just want to…is reason enough.
Not only is halva delicious, it is also so versatile. We have previously posted a halva recipe which was flavoured with orange and raisins. Super delicious! The lovely thing about halva is that once you get the basic recipe down, you will find it pretty easy to experiment with other flavours and combinations of ingredients. So here, we did just that. We decided to mix in some cocoa powder, dairy free chocolate pieces and finely chopped walnuts to create a chocolate lovers halva.
Ever wonder why, in most Greek families, names seem to be on repeat? At any given family function you are likely to find 4 Marias, 3 Costas and about 7 Georges. That’s because Greek parents have traditionally always named their children after their own parents. So, two siblings who each have daughters, may very well name their girls after their common mother, for example. Many Greek names are also names of Saints, making the Nameday (the day during which we commemorate the life of a given Saint) a much bigger deal amongst many Greeks than birthdays could ever be. Each of us is named after one of our grandmothers, and one of our Greek names (Vasiliki) is also associated with Saint Basil the Great, who is commemorated on January 1st, the day of his death.
Who doesn’t dream about a white Christmas? We certainly do! Thankfully, living in Canada means that most years, our dream comes true. It is rare that December 25th rolls around without a blanket of beautiful, white, fluffy snow covering everything! If you have never made snow angels on Christmas morning, we really hope that you get to one day! Our parents grew up in Greece however, a country not known for frosty winters and snow storms. So, in their villages, the whitest and fluffiest thing they could hope for at Christmas time, were kourabiethes.
We grew up in a home where certain times, certain events, and certain foods needed to be accompanied by certain special things. So, when guests came over, we put out special bathroom towels. When our parents’ made vegetable speckled rice, it was served in a special soup tureen (don’t judge). During the holidays, the furniture and appliances were covered with festive doilies and cloths (versus the rest of the time, when they were covered with everyday doilies and cloths). And when spoon sweets were served, it was always on little glass plates.
A traditional syrup cake full of walnuts and spices
We almost faked it here. We were tempted to change this recipe, in order to reflect what we know to be the correct way to bake. One of us is a pretty avid baker, and has spent years perusing pastry books, taking classes, and working towards making the perfect croquembouche and pastry dough. That same one of us is also a scientist, and acknowledges that baking…is a science. And then, we bake with our parents. Although you very graciously accepted our parents’ milopita recipe, posted exactly as it was baked (meaning…illogically), we wondered, would you accept another hodgepodge dessert? We were worried. So we considered telling you that our parents sifted the flour, baking powder and ground spices together, that they mixed the wet ingredients together using a stand mixer before the wet and dry components were combined, you know… to reflect what actual baking books tell you to do. But, we chose not to. Mia Kouppa is all about keeping it real folks! Besides, their almost nonsensical way of baking works beautifully – their desserts, including this karydopita, are always delectable, and perfectly composed.
There are so many things that are wrong with this recipe, starting with the name. This is an apple cake, which our parents have forever referred to as a milopita (μηλόπιτα). Now technically, a milopita is an apple pie…which, this is not. It’s a cake, and many Greeks might call it just that, an apple cake or keik milou (Κέικ μήλου). If you are one of those people, please don’t send us emails and well meaning comments informing us that this is not a pie. We know it’s not, but the reality is, this recipe has bigger problems.