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This is Makrout
Makrout are cake-like semolina cookies which are popular throughout North Africa. In Morocco, they're most often served for special occasions and during Ramadan. Although date-filled makrout may be the most widely known, the cookies may also be made with sesame, almond and other kinds of fillings.
The following photos show how date filled makrout are shaped and cooked by frying; immediately afterward, the cookies are plunged into hot honey scented with orange flower water. The resulting cookie is... lightly crispy on the outside, cake-tender on the inside, and memorably sweet and flavorful. The same method is used for other types of paste-filled makrout.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
02 of 10
Moisten the Semolina with Butter or Oil
Here two cups of semolina have been mixed with 1/4 cup white flour and a pinch of salt. The mixture is moistened with the 2/3 cup melted butter (or oil) and then tossed and massaged by hand to ensure that each grain of semolina is coated.
This sandy-textured mixture is ideally covered with plastic and left to rest for an hour or longer before making the actual dough. If time is short, you can move immediately on to the next step.Continue to 3 of 10 below.
03 of 10
Make the Dough
Gradually work 2/3 cup (or a little more if necessary) of orange flower water into the semolina mixture. Again, this is done by hand, and the the liquids should be incorporated with a light touch (no kneading), just until a moist ball of dough is formed.
Cover the dough with plastic and leave it to rest for an hour or longer while you proceed to make the date paste filling.Continue to 4 of 10 below.
04 of 10
Make the Date Paste
Steam 10 oz. (300g) of dates over simmering water for 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the dates to a food processor (or mash in a bowl with a fork if you prefer) and blend in one tablespoon each of melted butter and orange flower water, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (or more to taste).
The paste will be sticky and hot, so leave it for 30 minutes or so to cool and firm up. Then, divide the date paste into four portions, oil your hands (or wet them with water), and roll sticks of paste about the... thickness of your finger. Set the sticks of paste aside until your semolina dough has finished resting.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Enclose the Date Paste in Dough
Divide your dough into four portions. Take one, and gently shape it into a log the same length as one of your date paste sticks.
Make a deep indentation the length of the dough and insert the date paste. Gently close the dough around the date paste, pinching it to seal. Roll the log of dough back and forth several times to smooth it.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
06 of 10
Decorate and Slice the Cookies
Special molds are sold for flattening and decorating the log of dough, but you can use the dull side of a knife to make an appealing design.
First, flatten the log slightly, then score the top of the dough with lines or a grid-like pattern or other geometric design. With a sharp knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into 1" slices.
Leave the sliced cookies on a tray or baking sheet to rest (uncovered) for 30 minutes or so before cooking.Continue to 7 of 10 below.
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Set Up Your Cooking Area
For cooking the makrout, you'll need a deep skillet or wide pot for frying; a smaller pot for honey; and a strainer set over a bowl.
Heat one-inch of oil over medium heat until hot. At the same time, heat two cups of honey until hot but not boiling. Add a tablespoon of orange flower water and remove from the heat.
When the oil is sufficiently hot (a piece of test dough dropped into the prepared oil should simmer rapidly), you're ready to begin frying.Continue to 8 of 10 below.
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Fry the Makrout
Cook the makrout in batches. Gently transfer some of the cookies to the hot oil and fry until a light to medium golden brown. This won't take very long, just a few minutes, so watch the cookies carefully.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Soak the Cooked Makrout in Honey
With a slotted spoon or frying ladle, transfer the cooked makrout directly from the oil to the hot honey. Gently press down on the cookies to submerge them, or turn them over several times. Leave the cookies to soak for a few minutes while you begin cooking the next batch of makrout, then transfer them to the strainer, and then to a tray to cool.Continue to 10 of 10 below.
10 of 10
Cool the Cookies Completely
If you like, the tops of the cookies can be garnished while they're still warm. Here, I added sesame seeds to some almond-filled makrout to distinguish them from date-filled ones which were prepared at the same time.
Leave the cookies to cool completely (allow several hours) before storing. They will continue to soften in coming days; if you wish to retain a slightly crispy exterior, store the cookies in the freezer and remove only as many as you wish to serve.