If you like fruit bar cookies and fruit filled pastries, particularly those made with dates, then you're in for a treat with this North African pastry recipe. Makrout are semolina cookies which came to Morocco via Tunisia and Algeria. A homemade date paste is enclosed within the dough and once cooked, the cookies get further treatment by dipping them in honey flavored with orange flower water. If you like, a little ground almonds or ground sesame seeds can be added to the date filling.
Although you'll sometimes see recipes which call for baking the cookies, I prefer the traditional method of frying first, as it yields a truly memorable blend of flavors and textures. Done properly, the cookies are not greasy at all, and, in fact, have a slightly crispy exterior while the interior remains cake-like. They are rich, however, so you may want to reserve them as a special occasion treat. In Morocco, you're most likely find them served during Ramadan, for Eid or other important occasions.
Don't be intimidated by the steps below. The cookies are easier to make than you might think, but do plan ahead as some resting time is involved. The photo tutorial How to Make Makrout will be useful if you've never seen how the cookies are shaped or cooked.
Also try Makrout with Almonds and Honey.
- 2 cups/350 g semolina (fine or medium)
- 1/4 cup/35 g flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup/160 g butter (melted, or vegetable oil)
- 2/3 cup orange flower water
- 10 ounces/300 g dates
- 1 tablespoon butter (melted)
- 1 tablespoon orange flower water
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or more to taste)
- Optional: dash nutmeg
- 1 inch vegetable oil (for frying)
- 2 cups/340 g honey
Make the Dough and Filling
1. Oil the semolina. Blend the semolina, flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the melted butter (or oil) and use your hands to toss and massage the mixture for several minutes to ensure that each grain of semolina is individually coated with the butter. If time allows, cover and set the oiled semolina aside for an hour or longer before proceeding.
2. Make the dough. Again using your hands, gradually work the orange flower water into the semolina mixture.
Don't knead, but do rake the semolina and mix/squeeze with your fingers to incorporate the liquid until a moist ball of dough forms and holds shape. (If necessary, you can add a little more water, a few teaspoons at a time, to achieve this.) Cover and set the dough aside to rest for at least an hour while you make the date paste in the next step.
3. Make the date paste. Remove the pits from the dates, and place the dates in a steamer basket or metal colander which has been set over a pot of simmering water. Steam the dates, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until soft enough to easily mash. Transfer the dates to a food processor, add the butter, orange flower water, cinnamon and nutmeg, and process until a smooth paste forms.Set the paste aside to cool and firm.
Shape and Fill the Cookies
1. When the date paste has cooled and firmed a bit, wet or oil your hands. Divide the paste into four portions, and shape each portion into a thin log about the diameter of your finger.
2. Divide the dough into four portions. Take one, and gently shape it into a log the same length as a log of date paste. Make a deep indentation that runs the length of the dough and insert the date filling. Gently pinch the dough around the filling to enclose it (pinch off and discard any excess dough on the ends), then roll the dough back and forth a few times on your work surface to seal and smooth the pastry.
3. Special presses/molds are available for flattening decorating the top of makrout dough, but you can achieve an equally nice look by gently pressing the length of the roll with your fingers or palm to slightly flatten it, and then pressing or scoring the top of the dough with the dull side of a knife to make a pattern or decorative lines.
4. Slice the log with diagonal cuts into 1" wide pieces. Transfer the cookies to a baking sheet or tray, and repeat the process with the remaining date paste and dough.
5. Leave the cookies to rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes or longer before cooking.
Cook the Makrout
1. You will need:
- a deep skillet or wide pot for frying
- a smaller pot for honey
- a large strainer set over a bowl.
2. Add 1" of vegetable oil in your frying pot and place over medium heat.
3. At the same time, heat 2 cups of honey in your smaller pot until very hot but not boiling. Add a tablespoon of orange flower water and remove from the heat or hold warm over low heat.
4. When the oil is hot (a test piece of scrap dough should simmer rapidly when placed in the oil), fry the cookies in batches until golden. Immediately remove the fried cookies with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the hot honey; allow the cookies to soak for a few minutes while the next batch cooks.
5. Transfer the honey-drenched cookies to a strainer, and after a few minutes to a rack or tray to finish cooling.