We are currently in Morocco, one of my favourite countries to visit, with so many memories of travelling up and down the coast back when I had no kids to think about! One of the first things I did when we got here was to get my hands on some Ghriba, or Moroccan Almond Cookies, perfectly crumbly with just a touch of chewy and yes, perfect for dunking! But be warned, only dunk for a second or two or they’ll land at the bottom of your cup!
One of my favourite teatime treats, these Moroccan Almond Cookies remind me of so many other nut based cookies like the festive kuih kacang (peanut cookies) in Singapore and Malaysia and especially, sbrisolona, an Italian cookie made with ground almonds and cornmeal. My friend Lisa Watson, over at www.ItalianKiwi.com, has a great recipe for it. And of course, various polvorones come to mind, Spanish or Mexican, the latter ones commonly known as Mexican Wedding Cookies.
Now, mind you, as with any popular recipe, Ghriba has many variations, of course as they are almond cookies, the almond tends to stay constant but the biggest difference is the addition of flour, whether plain wheat or cornflour (cornstarch). I much prefer the pure almond ones as I absolutely love the crumbly nature of the cookie made without any starch, and of course, that makes it gluten free too. Our local patisserie here has a few variations too, with pistachios and/or walnuts as well as vanilla and rose scented ones. I did like the rose scented ones!
This recipe is one I obtained ages ago here in Morocco from a little boulangerie and has been waiting forever to be published. I’m glad that not only am I finally doing it but I’m able to do it while sitting in our apartment here in Salé, a tiny town on the north west coast of Morocco, founded sometime in the 11th century. The house above is one of many along the seafront, very close to where we are. Salé is a little off the beaten track, most folks tend to hit the bigger towns of Marrakech, Fes and Tangier and if they get anywhere near here, it’s usually just in Rabat but en route to somewhere else. We ought to be heading down to Rabat sometime next week, did you know that it’s the capital of Morocco? That’s right, most people assume that Marrakech is.
So, here’s the recipe I’ve been using for well over a decade now to make Ghriba, I’ve not changed it much from the original apart from leaving out the lemon zest as I don’t like bits in my cookies and doing away with the icing/powdered sugar coating as I find it too sickly, even if it does create prettier cookies. I shall leave both up to you, I’ve included them as optional in this recipe, so you can experiment. As far as the icing sugar is concerned, coat half of them, you can then decide which you prefer. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
These Moroccan almond cookies are deliciously crumbly and perfect served with traditional mint tea.
- 250g/8.5oz ground raw almonds
- 125g/1 cup caster (superfine, not powdered) sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 70/2.5 oz salted butter
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 + 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- zest of 1 lemon (optional)
- 1 tsp orange blossom water
- a small bowl of icing sugar/powdered sugar - optional
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F.
- Mix the ground almonds, the caster sugar, the salt and baking powder thoroughly in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
- In another bowl, mix the butter and egg yolks together with a wooden spoon for about a minute, you won't get a smooth mixture, don't worry about it.
- Add 1 tsp of the lemon juice, lemon zest if using and orange blossom water and mix again.
- Add the dry ingredients (almonds, etc) to the egg yolk and butter mixture and stir with the wooden spoon to mix as best as you can.
- Finish off with your hands, using only the tip of your fingers as we don't want to knead the dough. Bring it all together, it will be a soft dough.
- In a small bowl, mix the other tsp of lemon juice with some water for forming the cookies.
- Wetting your fingers with the lemon water, form little dough balls, roll them in the icing sugar (if you like, optional) and place on a baking sheet, leaving some space between each cookie. Don't flatten the cookie, it will naturally spread.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, depending on how hot your oven gets. Every oven is different. You are aiming for a pale golden colour.
- Leave to cool completely before removing from the baking sheet.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. You can even freeze them, well covered for up to the usual 3 months.