Tikvenik is a sweet, vegan specialty from Bulgaria: extremely thin puff pastry, layered with pumpkin and walnuts and baked as long as it needs to get a beautiful crispy, golden crust. It’s the only recipe from my little booklet with naturally sweet Christmas recipes I publish here, not only because I will prepare Tikvenik this year on Christmas Eve. It’s also because I like the tradition that is associated with this sweet dish in many Bulgarian families.
Included are some last-minute edible gifts and relaxed breakfast ideas!
Down-to-earth dessert for a big get together
What I am allowed to publish is a family recipe from Kristina Boneva. I introduced her and her unique jewelry design with spices in my last post. She also made earrings and necklaces using pumpkin seeds and freshwater pearls. “Hungarian pumpkin seeds are really cute, like little mise,” says Kristina.
I was surprised when I learned that many Bulgarian families are traditionally eating only vegan dishes on Christmas Eve. “That’s true,” she confirmed. “Many people in our country are fasting 40 days before Christmas and the vegan menu on Christmas Eve is the conclusion of this time.”
One of the traditional desserts served is called Tikvenik, filmy dough, layered with sweet pumpkin and walnuts. “My grandma used to make this thin puff pastry at home, skilfully rotating it in the air.” Kristina regrets that she doesn’t master this art of dough-making. Neither do I, so we both buy Yufka or Filo dough at Turkish or Oriental food stores. The beautiful thing about ready-made pastry is that it allows you to prepare this dessert for family meetings in no time.
The pumpkin – in Bulgaria it is called “Tikva” – is only grated, briefly stewed, sweetened and flavored with plenty of cinnamon. You are welcome to believe Kristina when she says, “It tastes heavenly delicious! When I think of it, I immediately get childhood memories of the fragrance in my grandmother’s kitchen. While pumpkin was in season, she often made this dish, not just for Christmas. I was always delighted and kissed her hands.”
Tikvenik is like a strudel. But If you make the filling quite thin and decide for many layers, it resembles Baklava and can be served in small pieces with a strong, black, spiced coffee or some sweet wine. I have already rolled and layered the dough – both versions look a bit rustic but pretty.
Hidden lucky charms for Christmas or the New Year
“When we bake Tikvenik in Bulgaria for Christmas or New Years Eve”, Kristina told me, “we use to hide little lucky-charms. These are beautiful wishes for the upcoming year – sometimes spiritual, sometimes material. A journey, happiness, children, creativity or very special sayings. In the past, my grandma has hidden small branches of cornelian cherries with different buds in the layers. Then she wrote down her lucky messages, and for everyone who chewed on one of these branches, she revealed the special meaning.”
Until today this is a fond tradition. I love the idea and think it’s a great and entertaining way of communication – whether for a small family or one large round of friends.
I didn’t find cornelian cherries but will hide a piece of walnut shell, cinnamon stick and star anise and a cardamon pod – and I’m curious about who will find which message and if there will be some kind of magic involved:-)
Here it is, the recipe for Tikvenik – Bon appetit!