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On the tiny island nation of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, one of the most popular cookies is called daktyla kyrion, or ladies' fingers. True to the description, these crunchy sweets are about the size of mid-sized fingers and consumed en masse during the holiday of Sikoses, which is a Greek celebration held after Carnival but before Lent. The cookie's construction consists of a phyllo-style dough, wrapped around a crunchy center of crushed almonds, sugar and cinnamon that is fried and then doused in a sugary, flower-infused syrup.
Though these cookies are popular year-round in Cyprus, they are offered on a widespread basis during the weeks leading up to the Catholic holiday of Lent. For many, meat and treats are forbidden during these several weeks, which makes these treats extra appreciated during the preparation period. Mardi Gras is the most famous pre-Lenten festival in westernized societies.
The phyllo dough that surrounds the daktyla cookies can easily be purchased from most full-size grocery stores. It is not difficult to make at home, though. Consisting of flour with water, oil and a little salt, the dough rests for a few hours. It is then rolled out thinly with a rolling pin or pasta machine and cut into squares about as long as a lady's finger. For the proper consistency, it is important to follow a recipe. One recipe at Global Cookies Web site, for example, uses 1 cup (about 237 ml) of water and 0.33 cup (about 78 ml) of oil for 7.5 cups (about 1.7 kg) of flour, along with just a dash of salt.
Meanwhile, almonds and often pistachios too are crushed and mixed with cinnamon and some sugar in a bowl. A small pile of the daktyla mixture is placed in a center row of each dough square. The each square is rolled up tightly around the nuts. These cylinders are sealed at the edges by pressing a fork into the seams, and then they are deep fried in oil.
As the daktyla are drying on paper towels, a simple syrup is being made on the stove top. In a pot, water, sugar, honey, some blossom water and even citrus zest are brought to a boil. A ratio of about three parts water, two parts sugar, and one part honey is customary for a thick syrup, with just a little blossom water and zest added for flavor. After the liquid becomes syrupy, the crispy cookies can be dipped in the pot and then set aside to dry and cool.
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