Posts Tagged ‘Lebanese cookies’

The lovely Barbara runs the dried fruits and nuts counter at Harkola.

I love shopping when she’s there – apart from being great fun, she’s also an extremely kind soul who will often teach me new recipes as she’s weighing up our purchases.  She called this one out over the counter to me, and I noted it down on my iPhone.

Like most experienced cooks, Barbara’s instructions can sometimes be a little vague…

“What temperature is the oven?”

“Usual oven temperature..”

“How much milk do I need to add?”

“Just whatever you need..”

As always, her recipes result in a mountain of food, so feel free to scale the quantities down.  I made it as I was instructed – and took a sample back to Harkola for Barbara to try.  She advised me that the cookies are traditionally baked a bit harder than mine were (to ensure a longer keeping time), but I was pretty happy with how they turned out.

The cookies are known as Kaak, and they’re flavoured with mahlep – a spice made from the ground kernels of the St Lucie cherry tree.  It’s wonderfully aromatic and often used in baklava…

  • 1kg (6¾ cups) self-raising flour
  • 440g (2 cups) white sugar
  • 3 large (59g) free range eggs
  • 250g (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 160g (2/3 cup) milk, or as needed
  • 1 – 1½ teaspoons ground mahlep (or try vanilla or ground aniseed)
  • sesame seeds for topping

Barbara’s instructions were simply to “mix everything together”. Here’s a workable method I came up with after a little trial and error…

1. Preheat the oven to 175C (350F) with fan.  Line as many oven trays as you can with parchment paper (you’ll need lots!).

2. Pulse the flour, sugar and butter in the food processor until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. I had to do this in two batches, as the quantities are enormous, even for the Magimix!

3. In a large mixing bowl, stir the mahlep through the flour-butter mixture.

4. In a small jug, whisk together the eggs and milk. Pour this into the flour mixture, and work the ingredients together with your hands to form a stiff dough.

5. Roll the dough into smooth, walnut sized balls.  Flatten them out, dip them in sesame seed and lay them on the parchment lined trays, allowing a little room for spreading.  The sesame seeds are optional, and the cookies are also quite nice without them.  I bought decorative moulds at Harkola, and pressed some of the dough balls against them to form a patterned top – although a lot of the detail is lost as the dough bakes…

6. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through the baking time, until the cookies are well browned.  Store in an airtight container. Any excess can be frozen quite successfully.

These chunky cookies have a texture reminiscent of both shortbread and rock cakes, and they’ve been surprisingly popular. Which is just as well, as Barbara’s quantities make a huge batch. I’m off to deliver some to the neighbours now!

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