On March 9, Orthodox Christians hold the feast of the 40 martyrs of Sevastia, in Armenia, while Catholics have the feast of the 40 soldier martyrs of Cappadocia. In Romania, this feast involves the ritual cooking of a dessert called 'mucenici', which is a word derived from the Old Church Slavonic for martyrs. This dessert has a couple of forms, depending on the region. However they are prepared, they are shaped like the number 8. They are baked, and are either unleavened and the size of a thumbnail, or leavened and the size of the palm of the hand. Traditionally, women baked 40 of these 'mucenici', while men drank 40 glasses of red wine.
In the region of Moldavia, in eastern Romania, the 'mucenici' are made of a rich dough, baked, then soaked in honey and covered in ground walnut. In Wallachia, in the south, they are the small kind, boiled in sugar water.
In order to make the more complicated version, take one kilogram of flour, about two pounds, 200 grams of sugar, about a cup, one cup of milk, 100 grams of butter, six eggs, fresh yeast, essence of rum, lemon rind, walnuts, and honey. Heat mildly the milk, and mix in the yeast. After proofing the yeast, pour the milk into the flour. Mix the butter with the egg yolks. Mix it into the flour, and knead for about 20 minutes. Leave to rise in a warm place, covered. Separate the dough into finger thick rolled portions, then shape them into figure eights. Put them in a buttered tray, spacing them so they don't stick to each other. Bake them until they have a deep golden brown color. Right after taking them out of the oven, baste them heavily with honey, then cover the 'mucenici' in ground walnut. Serve hot or cold, with a glass of wine. Enjoy!