Lichiu, called also “henklesh”, is a popular dessert in Transylvania made from simple ingredients that has a bygone taste. It was popular holiday treat especially among Transylvania’s German community and it’s still popular in the villages, towns and cities where the German community used to live (they were called sași or șvabi locally and most have emigrated to Germany during the 80′ and 90′).
This dessert or pie is made up of a bread base, something like a thick pizza base in a way, which is then topped with a sweet, creamy mixture and baked – ideally in a wood-fired oven. Simply delicious!
For the dough:
- 350 gr white flour
- 25 gr cube of fresh yeast
- 2 egg yolks
lemon zest of 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 50 ml oil
- 100 ml warm milk
For the topping:
- 1 l milk
- 1 cup semolina flour
- sugar to taste
- ½ tsp salt
- 6 egg whites
- 4 egg yolks
- 100 gr butter
- 350 gr heavy cream
- vanilla optional
Prepare the dough:
- Prepare a yeast starter by mixing together the yeast, one tablespoon of the sugar, one tablespoon of the flour and about 100 ml of the warm milk (ensure it's not too hot, as high temperatures can harm the yeast).
- Thoroughly mix these ingredients and place the mixture in a warm location. After about 10-15 minutes, you should notice it beginning to froth and emit a "yeasty" aroma, indicating that it's activated and ready for use.
- Once it’s ready, put the rest of the flour in a large bowl (or on a work surface if you prefer) and create a well in the center. Pour the prepared yeast starter into the well, along with the two egg yolks and salt.
- Begin to combine these ingredients (eggs, starter, salt), then add the remaining warm milk, the rest of the sugar, and the zest. Gradually incorporate the flour, adding the oil bit by bit once the dough starts forming. Continue kneading the dough until it becomes more elastic and no longer sticks to your hands.
- When you feel the dough is ready just kneed it until well combined and the dough is no longer ‘sticky’), rub a little oil on the ball of dough, put it in a large bowl, cover, and leave in a warm place to rise to about double its original size.
- Meanwhile, prepare a thick semolina mixture by boiling semolina flour in milk. Adjust the sweetness with sugar to taste and allow the mixture to cool. Whip the egg whites until they form peaks, then gently fold them into the lukewarm semolina mixture.
- Separately blend the four egg yolks with the butter, add the vanilla flavoring, and then gradually mix in the heavy cream.
- Finally, once the dough has risen, roll it out to about 3-4 mm. You can use a shallow baking tray here or maybe even a pie dish, whatever you have to hand. Traditionally the trays are greased but unlined, but feel free to use baking paper if you prefer.
- Lay the rolled-out dough in the tray and adjust it to go right to the edges. Pour the semolina mixture onto the dough base, then spread the cream mixture on top of that, making sure to spread it out evenly.
- Bake the lichiu for about 40-45 minutes (keep an eye on it) until it is golden brown on top. If using a conventional oven, pre-heat it to about 180℃/ 350℉.
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