"Lebanese food is unique in that it combines the sophistication and subtleties of European haute cuisine with the exotic ingredients of the orient." -skyscrapercity.com
I couldn't agree more.
Today I give you the recipe to my most favorite, beloved cookie I'll ever eat. When I was just a little girl, my Tata (Arabic for grandma) used to whip up a batch of date sweets for my sister Jordan, and a batch of these for me. Somehow she just had this way in the kitchen... a presence that said, "this is second nature to me" and "this is how I show my love." And as I sit here and tell you about her, I find myself moved remembering how fond I was of her and how much I longed to be just like her when she was effortlessly creating kibbeh or date sweets. There's nobody like Tata and nothing reminds me of her more than gaudy jewels and this perfect cookie that proudly boasts our Lebanese heritage. And no, there's nothing ridiculous or strange about the ingredients... but the history holds so much meaning to me and that's why I want to share the recipe with you. Get ready... they'll blow your mind, and the ingredients list will shock you even more... you'll need:
- 1 cup clarified unsalted butter (2 sticks)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- slivered almonds
Easy enough? Let's go. Preheat your oven to 325. Let's clarify your butter. Get out a saucepan and throw in the butter. Over a medium-low heat, let the butter melt and melt and melt. When you start to see coagulated white clumps all over the top, you're on your way. When the surface is mostly covered in foamy white, grab a spoon and skim it all off and put it aside or toss it out (i like to keep the skimmed stuff... i'll show you why at the bottom of post).
Keep it over the heat for a few more minutes and you'll see a second clear thin layer form over the surface again... remove most of that without removing too much of the clarified butter underneath. And there you have your clarified butter (you could take it a step further and strain it through a cheese cloth, but for the sake of ease I don't do that). Take it off the heat and let it cool a little. Now let's combine your dry ingredients. Toss the flour and powdered sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until well mixed.
Now let's pour in the clarified butter and stir together well until you don't see any powdery flour bits left.
Wasn't that easy? :) Now for the fun part... this is the part that Tata always let me help her with. I felt so cool and accomplished and important doing this with her. Grab a small palm's worth amount of the dough and press roll it together into a ball. Then slightly press it down and place it on a baking sheet. Gently press your thumbprint into the top of each one to create a little well. Fill each well with a slivered almond... or three ;)
Now pop these in the oven for 8-10 minutes, depending on your oven, but not a minute more! These cookies are tricky in the sense that they look exactly the same when they come out as they did going in. So just trust me... 8-10 minutes and pull 'em out. They'll need to sit for about 15 minutes before being touched. They are buttery, so the butter needs to set and cool. The consistency when you bite down will be a little firm at first, and then they'll crumble apart and melt in your mouth. That's how you know you did them right.
Seriously, not many other culinary sensations are as rich as the experience of eating one of these cookies. It's like eating the most heavenly bit of shortbread you've ever come across.
Friends, make these tonight and feel welcomed into my family... Daddy, I gotta make these for you... Aunt Claudette taught me exactly how and they're pretty darn close... ain't nothin' like the original, though. ;) Miss you so much, Tata.
Still reading? Cool. Let me show you what we did with some of that foamy goodness from the top of the clarified butter:
- Blanch green beans in boiling, salted water.
- Decorate your dinner plate with a dollop of tangerine balsamic glaze.. try not to make your design look like a cockroach like mine.
- Place a stack of your blanched beans on the balsamic glaze and drizzle/ splatter the top lightly with that salty butter delight and pepper it like whoa.
- Enjoy with your homemade sweet potato meatloaf (which by the way, is STILL one of my favorite recipes we've ever created... give it a whirl if you haven't).