What is Chak Chak (Çäkçäk)?
Chak Chak (Чак-чак) - Fried Honey Cake with Almonds is a sticky and sweet dessert that's absolutely delicious. During the time of the Soviet Union, the national dishes of the many cultures (including Tatar food) formed the foods of the Soviet people. This is different from Russian food. People often confuse Soviet food as Russian food. Soviet food forms the food from the cultures of Greater Russia and across Central Asia. Similar to European Food vs German food.
There are many wonderful dishes that were introduced across the Soviet States, and that have become staples across the republics. I bet most people have never heard of Tatarstan, or their dessert cake which is considered to be their national dish. Tatarstan is a republic located within Russia, about 800 km east of Moscow.
We grew up eating Чак-чак or Çäkçäk, but we called it something simpler - Gorka - which literally means little mountain. Chak-Chak is commonly piled high in the shape of a pyramid or a little mountain, or sometimes in small round balls, or in squares when it is mass produced and store-bought.
Is there alcohol in Chak-Chak?
Yes! It's up to you to decide what to use. You can use either cognac or vodka for this recipe. If you don't have cognac, brandy is the same thing. If you want to get fancy, use Armenian Cognac! Using alcohol in the recipe helps the fried dough pieces to be crispy.
How to Make Chak Chak
Prepare the sweet chak chak dough. Roll it out about ¼" thick and slice it into strips. Some recipes cut the dough pieces into small round pieces, the size of a pine nut. That's time consuming and we always make them in small strips. Shake to separate the dough strips, and fry them in small batches in oil. Allow to cool on a paper towel.
Prepare the honey mix by boiling honey and sugar in a small pot. Toast the almonds in a frying pan. Place the Chak Chak and almonds in a bowl. Drizzle over with hot honey mixture and mix with 2 wooden spoons. As it sets very quickly, place it on a plate, press firmly and form a small mound. Use water on your hands for it to be less sticky. Allow to cool before serving.
I like this sweet dessert to be soft and sticky, so I use more honey. If you want it to set hard in the fridge, then use 50:50 mix of sugar and honey, or increase the sugar to 75% of the sugary sweetness. More sugar = harder Chak Chak.
When to Serve Chak Chak
Obviously, it's a dessert! Traditionally it's is eaten at special events ie. when a traveller arrives, or at a wedding or celebrations, however who wants to wait for those events to eat a delicious dessert? The rich honey cake isn't hard to make, and has no fancy ingredients that you don't have in your pantry. Basically it's fried dough, covered with honey, sometimes with dried fruit and nuts. Hazelnuts or walnuts are commonly used but I love Chak Chak with toasted almonds. If served warm, it tastes amazing and it gooey, especially if using less sugar and more honey.
Usually you wait for it to set hard before serving. However, you should try it warm, especially with the toasted almonds! It's quite a sweet recipe, I always enjoy it with Russian Zavarka Tea to wash it down with!
Now you have this recipe for Chak Chak (Чак-чак) and you need to try this wonderful dessert. Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
- 2 cups flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1½ tablespoons cognac or vodka
- 200 grams toasted almonds optional
- 3 cups of oil
- 1 cup of honey
- ⅓ cup sugar
- Using a whisk or a beater, beat the eggs together.
- Add the cognac or vodka and stir until mixed.
- Put the flour into a bowl and add the egg mixture and stir together breaking up any lumps and make a soft dough. Knead the dough on a floured surface and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
- Roll out the dough into a thin layer, about ½cm or ¼" thick.
- Cut the dough into thin long strips, about 1-2" wide. You will now have lots of long strips of dough. Layer 3-4 strips on top of each other to make cutting easier, just sprinkle enough flour so they don't stick. Cut these long strips into small pieces about ½ cm or ¼" wide. Shake them to separate immediately. Remember that their size will double or triple when you fry them in oil.
- Heat the oil on high until hot. Test by putting one piece of dough in the pot, and it should crackle and start to expand.
- Fry the dough pieces in small batches in the hot oil until golden yellow and set aside on a paper towel to drain the oil. (Don't overcook them so they are brown - keep lightly golden)
- Put the honey and sugar into a saucepan and cook on low for about 5 minutes and heated and sugar is dissolved into the honey. You can also use a double boiler to melt the sugar and honey together.
- In a frying pan, toast almonds on medium heat until they are golden brown and toasty.
- Prepare the plate that your Chak Chak will be presented on. Put the fried pieces of dough and toasted almonds into a large bowl and pour the hot honey mixture over and mix together using 2 wooden poons until it's all combined. You must work very fast, as the honey will set very quickly.
- Final step, place the Chak Chak on the plate and form a hill or a pyramid with your hands. Again, this must be done very quickly as it sets fast. It's helpful to wet you hands with cold water to help you form the pyramid.
- Refrigerate before serving to allow the Chak Chak to cool and set, or serve immediately warm in smaller portions.