Sheqerpare (Albanian cookies) are shortbread-type cookies soaked in a syrup made from sugar and water. They are typically served alongside rak’i to visiting guests in the household!
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The past few weeks of desserts have had this syrup-soaked thing goin on, and I am DIGGING it. The syrup is only two ingredients, so it seems simple enough, but it is the most difficult part of this recipe to master. If you don’t boil it for long enough, your concoction will be too liquidy. But if you cook it for TOO long, as the syrup cools, it will harden into a candy… and then that candy will encase your cookies and keep them chained up in an impenetrable lockbox of steel that leaves your tummy rumbling and sad because it isn’t filled with cookies. To avoid this sad, sad fate, I would probably air on the side of undercooking it. Because, let me tell you, option two is not fun.
Failures 1, 2, 3, and 4
Like I said, I had to try four times in order to perfect these sheqerpare (Albanian cookies). To be honest, we probably could have avoided most of the issues from the start. HOWEVER, when I tried to make the dough for the first time, I was a woman of little faith. The dough was really dry and crumbly, so instead of kneading it together to get the consistency I wanted, I added milk to the recipe. This succeeded in making my dough very watery, and my cookies ended up a weird, chewy texture. Fail one: Check.
When I tried making the dough again, I was sure it was going to turn out much more cookie-dough-like. But, alas, my first attempt had actually been completely normal. This crumbly texture is how to dough is supposed to look. As you knead it with your hands, it all eventually comes together and forms a doughy texture.
As I mentioned before, the real problems arose when I got to the syrup step. First, I boiled my syrup or too long. It was so hard that I couldn’t even pour it out of the pot and onto the cookies. Fail two: Check.
The second time I made the syrup, it was at least liquidy enough to pour. But then, as it cooled it hardened around the cookies, which is when we ran into the whole “candied cookie” disaster. Fail three: Check.
The third time, I made a conscious effort to not follow the directions. Instead, I boiled the syrup for only a few minutes. FINALLY! The right texture! But I got too excited and accidentally drowned my cookies in the syrup so that they got all soggy and crumbled and fell apart. Fail four: Check. (I’m getting sick of typing that).
The Sweet Taste of Success
At this point, I was fed up. I wanted to throw in the towel. I wanted to admit that the Albanian cookies (sheqerpare) had defeated me. But I was on the brink of success; it was so close I could almost taste it. So I persevered.
On my last try, the cookie dough and the syrup came out the right texture, and I poured juuust the right amount of syrup on the cookies so that they had a coating but weren’t soaked. And FINALLY I could see what all the hype was about with this dessert. I’m not sure if the sheqerpare (Albanian cookies) were so good because my brain built them up after all of that effort, or if they really were just that great. But I can say, friends, that they were worth the trouble. Give em a try! And learn from my mistakes. Hopefully, you’ll only have to make them once.
Sheqepare (Albanian Cookies in Syrup)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 egg yolks, beaten
- 2 cups flour, sited
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2-3 whole cloves
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Use a hand mixer to combine 1 cup sugar, butter, yolks, flour, and baking soda. The mixture will be very crumbly and dry at first. Use your hands to mix the dough together until it forms one ball.
- Remove the dough and knead for 3 minutes.
- On a floured surface, roll out the dough to ¼ inch thick. Cut into 2 inch rounds.
- Place on greased baking sheets ad bake about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- Bring remaining sugar (1 cup) and water to a boil in a saucepan. Let boil for about 4-5 minutes. Make sure that the syrup is thicker than water but not so thick that you are unable to pour it. Keep in mind that the syrup thickens as it cools.
- Remove syrup from heat and stir in vanilla and cloves.
- Pour the hot syrup over the cookies. Make sure that the syrup is enough to coat the bottom fraction of the cookies, but not so much that it covers the tops and causes them to be soggy.
- Serve at room temperature and enjoy!