On our recent trip, I bought this fantastic book, The Culinary Heritage of Lebanon by Chef Ramzi. I had never heard of him but it appears he is a bit of a star. The book covers all the regions of Lebanon (with fabulous photos) and then details the traditional food of each region. The book was originally written in Arabic but has been translated into English, French, Spanish (or, rather, “Spanich”), Portuguese and German. It is a big and heavy book (528 pages) which contributed, significantly, to the weight of my luggage. I highly recommend it for anyone obsessed with Lebanese food.
When we were in Lebanon, I bought some barazek (which were divine) so I was very excited to find a recipe in my new book. As I love trying new things, I decided to give the recipe a go, even though the instructions were a bit cryptic.
Joumana, from A Taste of Beirut, reviewed the book (I wish I had read this review before I decided to make the barazek). She loved the book but had one proviso: “Very often throughout the book, the recipes are very succinct and the quantities are for commercial use. … So, unless you are an experienced cook with a background in Levantine or Lebanese cooking, you will find them challenging.” Mmmmm …
This recipe made 6 trays of biscuits and I have a 90cm oven!!! I have frozen two thirds of them. If you are interested in making the recipe then, unless you are making them for your office or have teenage boys, you may want to consider reducing the quantities by half or even two thirds. I followed the recipe and had to mix the dough in my 15 litre jam pot!!! I have a lot of bowls but none were anywhere near large enough for this much dough.
Joumana was right on the other point as well: the instructions were extremely succinct – four sentences, in fact, so I did find it very challenging. I really needed a Lebanese aunt to tell me what to do: Does anyone have a spare aunt? If you are Lebanese or experienced in Lebanese cooking and know what I should have done, please, let me know.
The biscuits are not like the ones I had in Lebanon which were very crisp; these are more cake-like. Despite this, the biscuits taste great (lucky because there are a lot of them). I am sure, given time, we will make our way through the six trays.
- 2 lbs (900g) flour
- 1 cup of semolina (I had no idea what to use here. I decided on a durum semolina flour which is not particularly fine but much finer than the coarse semolina you get in the supermarket.)
- 3 cups butter. (I thought this was pretty weird. There was no suggestion the butter was to be melted. I looked up the equivalent of a cup of butter in grams and came up with about 720grams for the 3 cups.)
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- ¾ cup powdered milk
- 1 tbs* yeast (there was no explanation of what type of yeast to use. I opted for instant yeast.)
- 1 tbs* mahlab
- 2 tbs* carob molasses (or sugar syrup). I didn’t have any carob molasses so I opted for sugar syrup which I made up (1.5 the volume of sugar to water)
- 2 tbs* melted butter
- 2 lbs (900g) sesame seeds (This is way, way too much. I had more than half left over after coating my biscuits very generously.)
- 1 cup finely chopped pistachios (I ended up using nearly two cups of pistachios.)
* I assumed these were 15 mil tablespoons.
Method … If only I knew 🙂
- Mix in a bowl (more likely a bucket. I used a 15 litre pot.) the flour, semolina, butter, sugar, powdered milk, yeast and the mahlab. I had no idea what to do here. There is no suggestion that the butter should be melted or that the butter and sugar should be creamed so I rubbed the butter into the other ingredients. It took a while but I was watching TV so it didn’t matter.
- Pour in the water and mix everything together. I think my biscuits were too wet, therefore, hold some back then add more until you are happy with the consistency.
- In a separate bowl, mix the melted butter and the sugar syrup (or carob molasses) into the sesame seeds.
- Divide the dough into small balls and flatten slightly.
- Dip one side into the chopped pistachios then turn over and press the other side into the prepared sesame seeds. Maus and I did this watching TV. As you would imagine with these quantities, it took ages.
- Place the biscuits on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake in a medium hot oven (I opted for 180°C) for 10 minutes or so (until the bottoms are golden brown).
- Allow to cool slightly then remove from tray to rack and cool.