Cakes, pastries and sweets - Bulgaria
Halva from the Muslim villages in the vicinity Gotze Delchev is a dessert prepared form sunflower oil, white flour and sugar. It is made particularly in the villages of Blatska and Albanitsa. It is an elastic, golden-yellow quenelle-shaped sweet. Production starts by heating the oil in a special copper pot used only for halva making. The temperature of the oil is regulated by sprinkling it with water. Flour is added gradually in a quantity of double that of the oil, and the mixture simmers for 60-90 minutes util it becomes soft and golden. Sugar is boiled with an equal quantity of water to make a simple syrup. The syrup is added, stirring continuously. Quenelles (oblong portions of dough) are formed using two spoons. This halva can be stored for about ten days without any special conditions or preservatives. Halva is made by ethnic Muslims for religious and family occasions such as birth rites, weddings, funerals and circumcisions (suennet). These rituals include most of the village population. Halva is served to all the guests, including relatives and neighbors, who could number more than a hundred people. Accordingly, halva is made in large quantities that typically require ten or more people to participate in the preparations. One tin may contain up to 50 kg of halva. The stirring is a laborious process, and most of the time it is done by young men supervised by elderly woman –a skillful halva master. Halva is not a strictly ritual food, and its preparation, on a much smaller scale, is also done for home consumption as well. The ingredients used today are a result of the commercially produced ingredients that have replaced historically used cow’s milk butter, unrefined flour and treacle (petmez). Blatska halva should not be confused with the many commercial products also called halva that are sold both in and outside of Bulgaria. Blatska halva is only made for family or community use, and is not sold as a commercial product. However, due to the long and labor-intensive production, especially when large quantities are being made, today, it is made less and less frequently. Its ritual preparation for family occasions has preserved the product to some extent, but the future of this traditional Bulgarian sweet is uncertain.