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Barazek

Zenobia Homan from Germany

Serves
16
Preparation
30 minutes
Cooks in
25 minutes
Country of origin
Syria

Mum worked as a tour guide when I was little, and whenever she came back from Syria she would bring a giant box of ‘Syrian biscuits’; tiny, crispy, sesame-covered pistachio biscuits, sticky from honey. Although I am from the Netherlands, nothing tastes more like my childhood than those biscuits. Mum would let us unpack her suitcase hunting for presents and souvenirs, and this box of biscuits was always the big treasure.

Later on I had a chance to meet these biscuits in real life, so to speak. I traveled to Syria myself, where I was not only given a box of these biscuits on several occasions, but I also saw them appear with hot, sweet cups of tea, and in bakeries all along the streets of Damascus. I never thought that they would not play a role in my life, but at the moment the streets of Damascus are not safe, and biscuits are the least of everyone’s worries.

However, it should be a well-known cliché that war cannot destroy memories. Last year (exactly a year ago as I am writing this in fact) I worked in Jordan for four weeks; and I wondered – would Jordan have a similar biscuit? Of course this resulted in a great deal of my spare time being spent hunting down bakers and bakeries. Just ask my colleagues! My mission proved difficult, because I spent most of that time in a small, rural village. It had two bakeries, but neither sold my beloved biscuit; and I did check several times a week.

Eventually, near the end of my work in Jordan, I found the biscuit. Right in the centre of Madaba. I was having a cup of fresh mint tea, and guess what appeared on the saucer! I asked where the café bought its biscuits, and tracked down the bakery a few blocks away (accompanied by my now enthusiastic colleagues!) However, these Jordanian biscuits, they were the wrong size. A box came back home with me, but it did bug me. More and more. So, after many years, I finally realised… why do I not try to re-create them myself?

Ingredients

  • 75 gr unsalted butter (or 75 ml rapeseed oil)
  • 75 gr granulated sugar (or 75 ml honey)
  • 1 gr baking powder (tip of teaspoon)
  • 2.5 gr active dry yeast
  • 150 – 200 gr flour (depending on wetness of mixture)
  • 0 – 20 ml milk (depending on wetness of mixture)
  • Another 30 ml honey (separately)
  • 30 ml water
  • 100 gr white sesame seeds (toasted till light-brown!)
  • 50 gr finely chopped pistachio nuts
  • ¼ tsp mahlab (may be replaced with cardamom)

Method

  • Cream together the butter and sugar (or just put oil and honey in a bowl)
  • Add the baking powder and yeast, and combine until it looks like a dough
  • If it is very dry add some of the milk; but don’t enthusiastically add all 20 ml at once because it could be a bit much
  • Covered the bowl and let it rest for a while (time does not matter)
  • In the meantime, cover several baking trays in baking paper (this recipe is for 50 biscuits)
  • Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees
  • Also, separately, Add the water and honey together in a small pan and heat until it is all dissolved
  • Then let it cool for a little while
  • Take a plate, cover the surface in the syrup, and then cover the the syrup in sesame seeds
  • Take a second plate, and cover it with the remainder of the sesame seeds and the mahlab (or cardamom)
  • Take a third plate, and cover it with the finely chopped pistachios
  • Now, take a teaspoon and use that as a rough measurement for the amount of dough to scoop up
  • Squish it between your hands (as thin as possible, but not so thin that all the sesame and pistachios stick right through…)
  • Press the front of the biscuit into plate 1 (sesame syrup)
  • Press the same side of the biscuit into plate 2 (more sesame)
  • Press the backside of the biscuit into plate 3 (pistachios)
  • Place them all sesame-side up on the baking tray and bake for ca. 25 minutes or until the edges start to turn nice and golden-crisp
  • Try not to eat them straight away, because they need a little time to cool down and become hard

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