I haven’t written anything in a while, because I was really busy, but I have baked quite a lot. And yes, some of the desserts I’ve prepared were also from my list of Desserts from Around the Globe. The next one on my list, after Albania, was Algeria, which, I have to say, I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. The reason is very simple – I really wanted to prepare and eat makrout, which is originally an Algerian pastry, but is also eaten in Tunisia, Marocco and even Lybia.
So this time I reversed my original order of things and first found myself a recipe for makrout (and prepared it) and then did some research on Algerian desserts in general. I discovered that Algerian desserts are made of exotic dried fruits, mainly dates and figs, as well as preserved apricots. And, naturally, makrout is filled with date paste. Other very common desserts are also:
There are many, many more Algerian pastries and if you really want to see how beautiful they can look, check out this blog, since my makroutes are not that pretty.
Makrout (also maqrood, makroudh)
Makrout can be oven baked, fried in oil or baked in a pan. I decided for what I saw as the easiest version and baked them in the oven.
First of all, I have to admit that I’ve never had such problems with preparing a dessert before in my life, and I am usually quite good at baking. But this just seemed like mission impossible. First of all, I made the date paste myself (I just blended 250g of dates and added some water) and it turned out very moist. Definitely not something I could shape in any way. On the other hand, the dough just seemed too dry. I thought that there really was not chance to form this into something resembling a cookie. It was very late, so I gave up and put everything in the fridge (the paste way actually already delicious). And in the morning a miracle happened. My paste was nice and firm and I had no problems shaping it into a log. And to my surprise, the dough actually started looking quite nice, once I added the water (which, at first, I was really skeptical about).
So I roughly followed this recipe, although I made some changes. This is actually exactly what I did:
- 200g semolina
- 65g flour
- 80g butter, melted
- about 1dl warm water
- 2 tablespoons orange blossom water (optional)
- 250g dates (blended into date paste)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 50g dry roasted sesame seeds
Combine the semolina and flour, add the melted butter. The semolina should be coated with melted butter. Keep aside to rest for at least one hour. Or in my case, put it in the fridge over night.
Now the filling. If you don’t have the date paste, just blend the dates and maybe add some water. I am speaking from experience when I say that if you are using homemade date paste, put it in the fridge for a while, especially if it looks too runny to you.
When the paste is of the right texture, dry roast the sesame seeds in a pan. Mix the date paste with cinnamon, butter and the sesame seeds.
Preheat the oven at 200°C.
Take the equivalent of a golf ball of date mixture and roll it into a thin log shape, about 1 /1.5 cm diameter. Repeat will the rest of the date mixture and keep aside.
To finish off the dough, add about 1 dl of warm water (or until you see you have the right texture – not too sticky and not too dry) and, if you have it (I didn’t), 2 tablespoons of orange blossom water.
Keep kneading until the dough is soft and manageable. Take a handful of the dough and roll it. Place one of the date paste log in the middle and roll the dough over it. Press slightly on the top to flatten it. Cut diamond shapes bit and decorate the top. If you have the special makrout mold, use it, or you can do as I did and just experiment a little. I decorated some with an ordinary cookie mold and others by simply making a few cuts on the top. Bake in the oven, for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
In the meantime, warm up the honey in a pan and add the orange blossom water (again, if you have it).
When the makroutes are ready, pour the honey over them. You can also sprinkle them with sesame seeds if you want, but I didn’t (I don’t really know why, I guess I was just tired and had enough of makrout for a while).
Believe it or not, but despite the fact that I didn’t have the orange blossom water, or the right mold and I didn’t add the sesame seeds on the top (or that fact that I had huge problems with my homemade paste), this pastry turned out extremely delicious and quite lovely to look at. Unfortunately, I only have the final photo, since I was too stressed out to take pictures during the preparation.
So the lesson learned today is – don’t give up, use your imagination and do the best you can with what you know and what you got. The chances are everything will turn out great after all.