To support the University’s One World Week, the Psychology Student Experience team hosted ‘Desserts of the World’ in the Pevensey 1 building. This event was aimed at celebrating our diverse staff and student population and using food to learn about different countries, cultures and traditions. Faculty and students were invited to make or provide a dessert from their home country with a prize for the student who supplied the “Most Inspirational Dessert”. Information about the desserts and why they were chosen was provided by the participants. Countries represented included Australia, Brazil, Cyprus, Germany and Spain, alongside many from the UK.
The event was a success with students enjoying the homemade element of the event and being able to learn about new cultures. And all desserts were eaten.
The winner of the Most Inspirational Dessert 2019 was Bianca Popescu, a first year Psychology student, who made mucenici (Moldovian style) also known sfințișori, which means ‘little saints’ in Romanian.
We asked Bianca about the history of this dessert and why she had chosen it, and this is what she told us:
I was reading my emails when I spotted the one from Student Experience team announcing the event. At first I was only thinking what an interesting event the team had put together but then I decided that I could also help out by providing something unique, traditionally Romanian.
In Romania, many religious traditions have their “corresponding food” that is closely associated with it, and it was quite hard for me to figure out what to choose. After some research and consulting my grandmother, I came upon mucenici, and when I saw that they don’t appear to be seen in any other cultures, I jumped at the idea of cooking them.
As a child, I always looked forward to this festivity. The sweet honey, combined with toasted walnut and chewy, binge-worthy dough wasn’t like anything else. My mom would wake me up with the freshly baked pastry and invite me to have coffee with her in the kitchen, which was always filled with the smell of rum essence and melty honey. I decided to make the Moldavian version as it is the closest one to my heart. The dough recipe is very similar to the one used to make another traditional Romanian dessert (cozonac, a type of sweet bread).
As so, on a sunny Sunday morning (after waking up at 11 am, panicked that shops close early on Sunday) I was just casually shopping at Asda, looking for 3 bags of walnuts, lots of flour, 10 eggs and a mountain of sugar (doesn’t sound healthy, but the dessert is worth the blood sugar spice). Then I arrived home, started to clean the surfaces (because, trust me, you need that space) and asked my boyfriend to come down and help. The first accident happened when the yeast started fermenting and was suddenly everywhere. We sorted that out and left the dough to rise for a couple of hours. Then we started kneading the dough in turns (as it is a demanding process only our grannies are trained to do from start to finish). Then we formed shapes of 8 and baked them. Finally, we drowned the 8 shaped pieces in syrup and covered them in nuts. The whole process took me a day to complete, but it was worth it! I still have no clue how my mom was able to cook this before I even woke up. She probably woke up very early in the day (NB. she’s my superhero).