Event: BM #44
Choice of country: Egypt
Capital City: Cairo
Official Language: Egyptian Arabic
We are on the fifth day of "global cooking" themed month here and I am going with Egypt for the alphabet "E". Egypt lies between 2 continents, Africa and Asia and has one of the longest histories of any modern country. It is considered a cradle of civilization and ancient Egypt experienced some of the earliest developments of writing, agriculture, urbanization, organized religion and central government in history. It's civilization is renowned for it's colossal pyramids, temples and monumental tombs.
Majority of the people live near the Nile river banks since that is the only arable land available. Nile valley and delta produce large quantities of legumes and vegetables in high quality and Egyptian cuisine heavily relies on it. In fact, it's cuisine is based on foods that grow out of the ground and is conducive to vegetarian diets. Meat has been very expensive for most Egyptians throughout it's history and so a variety of vegetarian dishes have been developed. The excavations have revealed that workers on the "Great Pyramids of Giza" were paid in bread made with emmer wheat flour, beer, and onions. Fava beans have been and still is the primary source of protein. Bread forms the backbone of Egyptian cuisine and is used as a utensil to scoop up the side dishes. (Info from wiki.)
I am going with some addictive cookies from that country. Ghorayebah / ghreybeh pronounced "go-ray-bah" are shortbread / butter cookies from the Arab world. After looking through online recipes, my initial understanding was that they originated either in Egypt or Lebanon. It turns out that they are very popular through out the middle East region and every person thinks that ghorayebah comes from his/her own country. In fact, I saw them In African food blogs too. :) And so like Egyptians, I am going to claim them Egyptian and posting them for my "E" alphabet.
I read somewhere that these cookies are named after the Arabic word for swoon. No wonder considering that the texture and taste of these cookies are worth swooning over. Traditionally they are shaped like rings, adorned with pistachio / almonds. The baked cookie looks like a bracelet with a "nut" gem and are sometimes known as "Queen's bracelets". The queen referred here comes from the biblical book of Esther. Esther is a Jewish-Persian queen who prevents a massacre of the Jewish people. Ghorayebah are served during purim and are thought to represent her bracelets.
The recipe is deceptively simple though cookies taste divine. It seems that the traditional version ghorayebah are made with only three ingredients - flour, sugar and butter. No leavening agents or flavorings are added but of course are garnished with nuts. Perfectly done ghorayebah are ivory colored, fragile and melt in mouth kind. They have a sweet, buttery taste and shortbread cookie texture. Their taste and texture reminded me of those yummy butter biscuits sold in Indian bakeries. I am sure every Indian have eaten their share of those delicious biscuits.
Ingredients for a dozen cookies:
1/4 cup melted ghee (clarified butter)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Pistachios / almonds to garnish
* Beat ghee and sugar together until creamy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
* Add flour and combine to make a soft, pliable dough.
1. I got a perfect dough with the above measurements and didn't need any extra flour to form the dough. In case, if the dough is very loose, add flour in tbsp. increments and try to form the dough.
2. I saw some recipes mentioning to chill the dough but it is not required. Besides the dough becomes too stiff and you have to leave it again at room temperature to shape the cookies and so basically the chilling step is useless.
* Preheat the oven to 350 deg F / 180 deg C.
* Grease a baking sheet or line with foil / parchment paper.
* Divide the dough into 12 portions. Shape each portion into a log of about 5 inches long and 1/4 inch thick. Form a ring, by joining both the ends by pressing in a pistachio (or a blanched almond). You can directly shape the cookies on the baking sheet since they may break while transferring from work surface to the baking sheet.
* The ring shaped ghorayebah are traditional but if you don't want to bother, go the easy way. Roll the dough into 12 balls, gently flatten them and stick a pistachio / almond at the center. I have seen versions using whole cloves too.
* Arrange the dough rings on the prepared baking sheet, leaving some space between them. They don't spread while baking but puff up slightly.
* Bake until they start to turn slightly light golden, about 18 - 20 minutes. They should remain ivory colored and do not brown them. Even slight browning spoils their characteristic taste. (Mine were done in about 16 minutes)
* Remove them from oven and let cool. Store them in an airtight container.