Tag Archives: sweets

Sharope: white spoon sweet (Q & A)

Hello, Janet, Have you ever heard the word “sharope”? When I was a child, my grandmother who was Turkish would make a sweet, white paste which she kneaded on the tile floor. We would then snip off pieces and eat them. They tasted of vanilla, and the texture was like a paste, softer than caramel, and not formed. Can you help? – Yael

Yep!  Sharope (shah-ROH-peh)  is a spoon sweet.  It’s  a kind of meringue – a marshmallow creme, really – in which hot sugar syrup, rather than dry granulated sugar, is beaten into egg whites for a long, long time with a wooden dowel. Dry sugar separates quickly from beaten egg whites, but the cooked syrup is more stable and doesn’t separate (this, by the way, is also the process for making Italian meringue), so this is a sweet you can make and store in a jar.  Sharope might be flavored with lemon or almonds or, as in your grandmother’s case, vanilla, which would be delicious.  I’ve never heard of anyone kneading sharope on the floor!  It’s not usually so dense to even allow for that kind of handling, although the longer you beat the meringue, the more  taffy-like it becomes.  I’m guessing your grandmother either beat the meringue for a VERY long time or that she added mastic, which is what gives Turkish ice cream its taffy-like texture (For further explanation, take a look at my post about Dondurma).

If you’re familiar with Marshmallow Fluff, it’s pretty close to sharope – but it ain’t the same.

Thanks for your question, Yael.  A good one!

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Introducing Sephardic Sweets

Cooked sweets – purees, compotes, marmalades, pastes, hard candies and whole preserves – are an important component of the Sephardic culinary tradition and social custom.  Whole fresh and dried fruits, citrus peel, flower petals, seeds, nuts and even vegetables are transformed into confections of various textures, forms and colors, to be served, with tea or coffee, when folks come a callin’.  My own grandparents and great grandparents favored sweets made from quince, almonds, apricots, citrus peel, rose petals, apples, dates, figs and sesame.   Depending upon where in the Mediterranean you  might be you’d also enjoy sweets made from lemons, pears, sour cherries, grapes, plums, tomatoes, pumpkin, eggplant – you name it.  The Moroccan recipe in these pages for Berenjenitas en Dulce – candied baby eggplants – is a fine example.   The list is endless.

What makes these confections Sephardic per se is  not only how they are prepared but how and when they are incorporated into Sephardic life. Continue reading

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Candied Baby Eggplant / Berenjenitas en Dulce

Dear Janet,
In Morrocco, 50s and 60s, I used to eat a Sefardi dessert I never found in any kosher or Sefardi cookery book… small aubergines or berenjenas en dulce. Maybe with honey or syrup.  La Senora Amalia was keeping this recipe for her family… So delicious!  Thank you — Mary, UK

Cooked sweets – purees, compotes, marmalades, pastes, hard candies and whole preserves – are a very important component of Sephardic culinary traditions and social customs.  Whole fresh and dried fruits, citrus peel, flower petals, seeds, nuts and even vegetables are transformed into sweets of various forms, textures, colors and flavors, to be served, with tea or coffee and perhaps a little pomp, when company comes.   My own grandparents and great grandparents, from Rhodes & Adalia, favored sweets made from quince, almonds, apricots, prunes, figs, tangerine peels, rose petals, apples, dates and sesame.  There are also recipes for lemons, grapefruit, pears, sour cherries, grapes, tomatoes, pumpkin and, in Moroccan tradition, eggplant (in case you’re wondering, eggplant is actually a fruit).  The list goes on.

Here is one of two candied eggplant recipes from “Dulce lo vivas,” a beautiful collection of Moroccan Sephardic desserts by Ana Bensadon that I will write about this month.  The book is only available in Spanish; the translation below is mine.   The departures here from Ottoman-style fruit preserves are the very lengthy cooking time and the combination of spices.   Traditional Ottoman fruit preserves call for milder flavorings – at most only one of the spices used here, plus rose or orange flower water or, as my dad would say, a little lemon juice.

recipe

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masapan (glossary)

In the foreground, a plate of pistachio and lemon masapan. Photo © Janet Amateau.

In the foreground, a plate of pistachio and lemon masapan. Photo © Janet Amateau.

MASAPÁN (“mä-sä-PÄN) – To most people outside of Spain this is marzipan, but the similarity ends there.  Traditional Sephardic masapán is made from fresh, ground almonds (or a mixture of almonds plus other Mediterranean nuts), sugar and water, and may be scented with a few drops of rose water.  It is delicate in flavor, texture and color – neither gummy nor icky-sweet, and tinted only with the hues of its natural ingredients: creamy ivory from blanched almonds, delicate brown from hazelnuts, soft green from pistachios, pale yellow from lemons. 

Masapán is a compound word formed from “masa” (dough) and “pan” (bread).  The recipe contains no grain flour, however, for which it is presumed to have originated as a Passover confection.   Whether or not invented for that specific holiday, it is Jewish in origin and identified as such in documents from the Spanish Inquisition.

Masapán is still a prized confection in modern Spain, where it is a specialty of Toledo (a city of major importance in Sephardic history) and of various orders of nuns.

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