Today's post is from my friend Stacy of Food Lust People Love. I was so excited that she and I had the chance to meet in person this May when I was in Dubai. Stacy graciously escorted me around to show me some of the sights and delivered me to the airport. I was excited when she chose to share this banana recipe as it's one of the things I discovered from a street vendor in old Dubai. Basically, they're delicious! You can connect with Stacy on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Mhncha means “snake” in Arabic but there is no snake meat in these cookies. They are named for the shape. Typically this cookie is made in a very large size, enough to feed several dozen people. It's very popular for weddings and other special occasions. A few months ago when I took a cookie class at the Amal Center, we made a smaller version of this popular sweet. They're more manageable than their big “sister” and perfect for serving or gifting during Ramadan.
These are a bit time consuming to make so be sure you have a comfortable work space. You can make your own warka or buy pre-made phyllo dough. I suggest buying phyllo as this is the most difficult and time consuming step.
Malika, who showed us how to make Moroccan pastries is an expert warka maker, and believe me this truly is an art. A towa (slightly curved metal pan) is placed over an open flame and is heated until very hot. The warka dough is very wet. Carefully but quickly it is smoothed onto the towa to create a thin, flat sheet of dough. It cooks very quickly. As soon as the edges start to pull up, it's removed from the heat and brushed with oil. It's important that the warka is not cooked completely through as it needs to remain pliable to use.
Want an easier way? Check out my gluten-free version that's cooked in a skillet and applied using a clean paintbrush.
Once the sheets are ready it's time to start making the cookies.
- 1 kg almond flour
- 150g butter
- 250g powdered sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of grated nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
- 1 package phyllo dough
- 1 egg (eggwash)
Mix all of the ingredients together (except for the phyllo) and form into a paste. It shouldn't crumble. If it does, add more butter so that it holds together.
Fold a sheet of warka or phyllo in half and cut into strips about 2 inches wide. You will need to move very quickly once you start to make the cookies so don't cut all of the dough at one time. Cut the sheets as you go so that it doesn't dry out.
For the cookies, one strip of dough should be enough. Roll a tube of the filling paste so that it is slightly smaller than the warka. You need to have space on the ends of the cookie so that you can seal it properly. Begin by placing the tube of filling at the bottom of the rectangle of warka and tightly (but carefully) wrapping the filling into the warka. Don't pull it so tight that the warka breaks. If it does, discard the warka and start over.
You can see from this picture that the cookies are wrapped securely but there's still a little wiggle room. Once this is done it's time to make the shape. Start with the end that has the least amount of warka hanging over the edge and fold in. Keep winding to form a coil.
This step also must be done tightly but carefully. The exterior shouldn't crack. If it does, start over. When you reach the end, take the tail of warka and brush onto the cookie with an egg wash to seal. Set onto a baking pan and finish the rest of the cookies.
Preheat oven to 400F. Brush all of the cookies with an eggwash and bake until just golden brown on top, approximately 8-10 minutes. Mhncha can be dusted with powdered sugar and crushed almonds or glazed with a thin layer of honey.
They are delicious warm out of the oven but also good at room temperature. Bss'ha!
Want to make other classic Moroccan cookies?
One day before we moved to Morocco I was sitting in the doctor's office waiting for my appointment and decided to make a list in my phone of things that I wanted to do at some point while we were in Morocco. It was a way to pass time and I really didn't think I would do many things I listed. In fact until a few weeks ago I forgot about the list completely. I was cleaning up my notes app and came across this;
My Living in Morocco Bucket List
- Stay at La Mamounia Hotel (ha this one probably will never happen!)
- Take my parents to the Sahara
- Show my kids Fez
- Go to Portugal
- Eat tapas in Barcelona (did in Madrid!)
- See Rome at Christmas (Rome a month before Christmas!)
- Go to the rose festival at Kela'a M'gouna
- Speak conversational Darija (check!)
- Paint, draw and be creative again (check!)
- Learn to make Moroccan cookies
- Write a cookbook
- Submit a book proposal
I was really surprised to discover that I've done almost all of the things I had dreamed up to do after forgetting my list! So here you are today where I'm sharing the fruit of my ambitions, to learn how to make the intricately shaped Moroccan cookies. Along with my friends Heidi of Aromas & Sabores and Kate of Mosaic Road we enrolled in a cookie class offered by the Amal Women's Training Center and Restaurant. The class happened over four Saturday's. We specifically wanted to make the more intricate cookies instead of simple ghriba or fekkas. They offer cooking classes regularly that are a great value for when you travel to Marrakech. If you're passing through Marrakech on a Saturday you can get in on cookie making as well. Visit their website and send an email for more information on dates and pricing.
Now onto the cookies!
Our first class we learned to make ka'ab gazelle and a Moroccan pouch cookie. I'm going to be making up the names for some of these cookies as they don't have individual names. Ka'ab gazelle however are iconic. They're the most well known Moroccan cookie and a wedding isn't a wedding without platters of these. They look deceivingly simple but once you bite into one you see how complex they are to make. The pastry is very thin with a stuffing of almonds that tastes like a floral marzipan.
To begin you'll need to make the pastry. There aren't measuring cups here, but regular kitchen staples like bowls and cups. It's a bit of guess work!
- Pastry brush
- rib edged pastry cutter
- Pasta rolling machine (you can use a rolling pin but it's difficult to get pastry thin enough)
- baking sheet
Ingredients for Ka'ab Gazelle Pastry
- 2 bowls flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tea cup vegetable oil
- 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoons butter softened
- 1/2 tea cup orange blossom water
Directions for Ka'ab Gazelle Pastry
Begin by mixing the flour, powdered sugar in a bowl with the softened butter and eggs. Use your hands to mix everything. Slowly pour in the oil while continuing to mix everything together. Once incorporated the dough will barely hold together when squeezed. Very slowly add the orange blossom water while kneading. The final dough should be pliable and elastic, somewhat similar to a pasta dough.
Filling for Ka'ab Gazelle
(the ingredients here were a little more precise!)
- 1 kg almond flour
- 150g butter
- 250g powdered sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of grated nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
Mix all of the ingredients together to form a paste that sticks together when squeezed.
Before you shape the pastry you'll also need to crack an egg to serve as an eggwash.
Start by running the dough through the pasta machine to create a long sheet of pastry approximately 4″ wide. Keep running it through the machine until the dough is almost transparent – as thin as you can get it before it breaks. Pinch a ball of the filling weighing about 10grams and roll to a thick log (see picture). Place on the dough strip with equal space between them. Brush eggwash to seal the dough directly above the filling.
Fold the dough in half and make a small crescent or crown shape. Continue for all of the filling balls. Do not pull the dough too tight as you will need a little wiggle room as you continue to shape the cookies.
Very carefully and slowly beginning at the bottom of the filling work the filling up into the dough on top. It should be close to 1″ in height when you are complete. As you raise the height of the cookie you also should gently pull the cookie in towards you to create the crescent shape. Take your time as the dough can break and then you'll have to cut off that portion and start again.
Once the cookie is high enough, use the rib edged pastry cutter to cut off the excess dough. Leave a small amount of dough at the base of the cookie but not much. Place the cookies on an oiled baking pan and put into a 350F/175C oven for 10-12 minutes. The cookies will be a very pale brown when cooked through. They should not be crunchy.
Don't worry if your first few attempts at shaping the cookies are not successful, it takes some time and practice to get it right. Be sure to come back next Monday where I'll show you another way of shaping cookies using the same pastry and filling.
I am so excited about this recipe! This weeks' theme for #SundaySupper is Holiday Music and Movie Inspired Dishes. I thought, and thought, and thought some more about what I could make. I knew which movie I was going to use, because it's a family favorite. But what to make… There was of course the obvious answers – food directly out of the movie -but I wasn't feeling inspired. Then when re-watching the movie it came to me….Christmas “grams”. You remember this scene;
So this brings us to Christmas Grahams!!! Homemade graham cracker/cookies. I thought Buddy would totally approve of these for a few reasons.
First, I used maple syrup in them. Which is one of the 4 elf food groups.
Second, they're in Christmas shapes.
Third, they have sugar in them.
A Buddy approved snack.
I had never made graham crackers, and we can't buy them in Morocco so this was going to be a treat no matter what. I had hoped these would come out a little thinner but I don't have a rolling pin here and could only get them so thin without one.
Truthfully, they still have a graham cracker texture but are a little bit softer – so a graham cookie? What I like the best is that they aren't overly sweet. My boys liked them better once they were frosted but that's up to you. No matter what – you'll enjoy these. Don't forget a big glass of milk.
- 2 1 /2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup brown cane sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup cold butter
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1-2 tsp water
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking soda.
- Add cold, cubed butter and mix into the dry ingredients using your fingers, a pastry cutter, or pulse in a food processor.
- In another bowl whisk together syrup, water, and vanilla.
- Slowly add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients until a dough forms.
- Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out 1/4 of the dough as thin as possible. For more of a cookie 1/4" thickness is good. For a cracker roll even thinner.
- Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes and place onto a cookie sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper.
- Repeat until you've used all of the dough.
- Preheat your oven to 350F. While the oven is heating pop the cookie sheets into your freezer. This will help them from spreading.
- Place into the oven as soon as preheated and cook 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack,
To Make Icing
- In a bowl whisk together powdered sugar with vanilla and water until a thick icing is formed.
- Transfer to a piping bag or plastic bag with a decorators dip on the end.
- Once the cookies are completely cool pipe onto cookies as you would like.
We're on week two of summer vacation and so far things are going great. My kids have activities almost daily, we live within a short walking distance from a big swimming pool, and if they get really bored there are always boxes to pack! During the school year I send a lunch a few times a week, but in the summer I've got to make lunch every day, usually it's a meal on the go. I put together a few of their favorites to share with other mom's looking for ideas.
- air-popped popcorn. You can add all kinds of toppings like cinnamon and sugar or my tandoori spice mix.
- fruit – if I know my kids will be outside with their lunches I pop fruit like bananas, grapes, or blueberries in the freezer, they're ready to eat my lunch and not mush.
- cheese and crackers
- peanut butter (or nut butter) and crackers
- small yogurts or yogurt drinks
- tortilla chips and hummus
- vegetable slices with homemade ranch
That cute wooden spoon and wooden bowl came in a box I received participating in the Food Blogger Prop Swap, hosted by Alyssa of www.EverydayMaven.com and Faith of www.AnEdibleMosaic.com, I sent a box of props to Tara of Tara's Multicultural Table and I received a box from Patti of Comfy Cuisine (and a fellow #SundaySupper blogger!) in return. The swap was a lot of fun and it helped me to pare down my prop collection. Deciding what, if anything, I'll take with to Morocco has been a challenge!
My kids love pudding in their lunches but it gets expensive buying those little plastic cups. This is a sometimes treat for them, and I've found in the summer it's a great dessert to have when they've got friends over. It's low-cost and goes a long way. There are many organic pudding mixes that exist, and you can make cheesecake filling but I admit I don't always have to whip that together. So this is my shortcut method
You could make this with other kinds of pudding as well.
What are some of your favorite snacks for summer lunchboxes?
Before I went to Morocco I had never eaten a pistachio. The closest I had come to a pistachio was in the Jello pudding my dad ate. But, once I ate one, well I was hooked – and a little upset that I had missed out on this delicious nut for the first 20 years of my life. I'm making up for it now.
Like the lemon, vanilla, and almond ghriba I shared earlier this week, these ghriba are gluten-free and delicious. Pistachios have a unique flavor that some people really don't like. As I began to look for a good flavor to pair them with I struggled. What I remembered about the pudding my dad loved was that the pistachio pieces were a strange consistency.
They weren't crunchy and they weren't soft – they were something in the middle. I hated that texture. I succeeded with these cookies. The outsides have just a little crunch, while the insides are soft but not mush. I know not everyone has rosewater, so if you don't you can use vanilla.
- 2 cups pistachios
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp rose water
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 4 Tbsp butter
- powdered sugar for dusting
- whole pistachios to top cookies
- parchment paper or silpat
- Preheat your oven to 350F.
- In a food processor, blend the pistachios until they are broken down to almost a powder.
- In a large bowl combine pistachio flour, granulated sugar, and baking powder.
- Add to the dry ingredients the rosewater and egg yolks.
- Break up the butter with your hands or a pastry cutter and begin working into the dough.
- Using your hands or pastry cutter mix all of the ingredients until everything has been combined, the dough will feel slightly sticky.
- From small balls with your hands, about 1" in diameter.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat sheet.
- Coat the balls with powdered sugar and place onto a cookie sheet or plate.
- Refrigerate the cookies for 30 minutes, or place in freezer for 10 minutes.
- Arrange cookies on baking sheet and gently press a pistachio into the top of each. Do not flatten the cookies, they will naturally shape.
- Bake for 10 - 12 minutes. The cookies should still be a pale color.
- Leave on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes to allow the cookies to finish setting, then transfer to a cooling rack.
- When the cookies are completely cool, transfer to an air tight container.
- Cookies can be stored on the counter for 1-2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To serve, remove from the freezer and allow to warm up before serving.
It is very important to refrigerate or freeze the dough before baking. If you do not the cookies will melt and not retain their form.