What is Daktyla?

Daktyla are traditionally topped with a honey syrup.

In the small island nation of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, one of the most popular cookies is called daktyla kyrion, or female fingers. True to the description, these crunchy pastries are about the size of middle fingers and are eaten en masse during the holiday of Sikoses, which is a Greek celebration held after Carnival but before Lent. The cookie construction consists of a puff pastry dough, rolled in a crunchy center of crushed almonds, sugar and cinnamon, which is deep fried and then dipped in a flower-infused sugary syrup.

Crushed almonds are an essential ingredient in daktyla.

While these cookies are popular year-round in Cyprus, they are widely offered during the weeks leading up to the Catholic holiday of Lent. For many, meats and treats are prohibited during these several weeks, which makes these treats even more appreciated during the preparation period. Mardi Gras is the most famous pre-Lent festival in westernized societies.

Citrus zest is often used to make daktyla.

The puff pastry that wraps daktyla cookies can be easily purchased at most supermarkets. However, it is not difficult to do at home. Consisting of flour with water, oil and a little salt, the dough rests for a few hours. It is then thinly rolled with a rolling pin or pasta machine and cut into squares the size of a lady’s finger. For proper consistency, it is important to follow a recipe. A recipe from the Global Cookies website, 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 pinch of salt.

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Meanwhile, almonds and often pistachios are also crushed and mixed with cinnamon and a little sugar in a bowl. A small pile of the daktyla mixture is placed on a center line of each dough square. Each square is tightly wrapped around the nuts. These cylinders are sealed at the edges by pressing a fork into the seams and then fried in oil.

While the daktyla is drying on paper towels, a simple syrup is being made on the stove. In a pan, water, sugar, honey, a little flower 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 common for a thick syrup, with just a little flower water and zest added for flavor. After the liquid becomes syrupy, the crispy cookies can be dipped into the pan and then left to dry and cool.

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