Mirela Andoni, is a TV Chef and TV presenter who lives in Tirana with her husband and their two daughters. In her Instagram page Papare the Beauty of Small Things (@papare_thebeautyofsmallthings) she shares recipes and secrets of the extraordinary culinary heritage of Albania focusing on tradition and contemporary influences. We asked Mirela to share with us her recipe of Ballokume, an Albanian cookie originating in Elbasan, a town in central Albania, which is popular throughout the country and Albanian communities in the Balkans. Traditionally, ballokume is eaten on Dita e Verës, an Albanian pagan holiday that signs the beginning of Spring celebrated on 14 March. A legend says that the name ballokume comes from a 16-century Ottoman ruler of Elbasan who, after having tasted a small cake made from corn flour cooked in a wood fire, exclaimed: “Është ba si llokume!”, It’s as good as a lokum (lokum is a popular Turkish delight made with starch, sugar and dried fruits, mostly hazelnuts, walnuts and pistachios). Sometimes, ballokume is called kulaç me finj, as it may optionally contain finj, a mixture of ashes from a wood stove boiled in water.
500 g of melted butter
1 kg of sugar
1 kg of flour Dieta for ballokume
7-8 vezë at room temperature
2 tea spoons filled with finj (this is a special ingredient not used by everyone but gives a special taste to the cookies. To make it you need to boil the 2 spoons of water with ashes from the fireplace, then filter it and take only the water that remains).
Melt the butter, let it cool and take only the fat part, if the butter is old and aromatic is better. Add the sugar to the butter and beat until it melts completely, then add the eggs one by one, ashes water and finally corn flour. Mix it it with movements from the top to bottom without compressing it. Spread the baking paper and the dough with your hand or a spoon without compacting it. Just adjust the sides giving them a regular shape. Bake the ballokume in hot oven at 180 degrees for 15-20 minutes until the middle of the cookies is ready. Be careful to leave space as they grow during the baking.
Enjoy it and Happy Spring!