Thursday, 4 December 2014

Moroccan sugar-coated shorbread - El Mfenned

Moroccan Mfenned (for coated) falls into the category of kurabiedes, polvorones, Russian tea biscuits, Mexican wedding cookies.  It's basically a melt-in-the-moth-shortbread-meet-ghriyba cookie/biscuit with Moroccan notes.



Every time I make these Mfenned cookies I instantly go back down the memory lane to my childhood days where I literally remember a big round table full of them, a living room with the scent of orange blossom water, me trying to get hold of as many as I could get when nobody was looking. I do recall them laughing at flimsy efforts to talk so I guess I must have been so little when these memories occurred.

The Mfenned recipe I'm posting today is from my old family cookbook.

Every time I offered Mfenned shortbreads I had people raving about them. I even sold them at a charity event back in the days when I lived in Germany. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough Mfenned wrapping paper so I didn't make a lot of it. I ended up making a small batch as I was not expecting that much demand. We could have collected more money.

I was under the impression that the Mfenned recipe was already available on my blog. then I figured it was not there. So here I am trying to fix it!


Ingredients
Makes 50 + depending on size
Prep: 20 min - Baking: 12-15 min
  • 500 g of flour
  • 250 g of butter
  • 125 g of fine sugar
  • 100 g of almonds with skin, roughly chopped (fried blanched almonds will also be ok)
  • 20 g of unhulled sesame seeds (optional)
  • 7 g of baking powder 
  • 15-20 cl of good orange blossom water  
  • A good pinch of salt
Coating and wrapping
  • 500g of icing sugar, sifted
  • Biscuit-wrapping papers ( a sort of light waxy texture)




Preparation 

Preheat the oven at 180 degrees C and cover a few baking sheets with baking paper.

With the tip of your fingers or using a food processor with a paddle attachment, mix butter with sugar and salt. Add the flour and the orange blossom water and the crushed almonds. Bring the dough together without overworking it, work it just like any shortbread recipe.


Roll small balls the size of a walnut and then turn them into 1 cm-thick sausages. Gently flatten each one between the palm of your hands.

I also tend to leave the dough in the fridge for 1 hour, then roll it 5 - 8 mm thick and cut it square (see picture above), however this is not a traditional shape which does not make the wrapping easy, so I usually keep it unwrapped.

Place the shaped cookies in the baking sheet keeping a 3 to 4 cm between each one.

Bake for about 12 min (depending on oven) until they turn golden from the edges. Transfer to a grill for a couple of minutes only.

Coating and wrapping Mfenned

Fill a bowl or a plate with sifted icing sugar. While the cookies/biscuits are still warm, place them in the middle of the sugar side by side. Cover with another 1 cm-thick layer of icing sugar.

Place more biscuits and cover again with icing sugar. Gently get your 10 fingers into the bottom of the bowl and DELICATELY scoop all biscuits and icing sugar you can get in then flip your hands and drop everything back to the bowl OR give a few shakes to the bowl while bringing it toward you and rocking it to toss them (just like Chefs do to stir what's in a pan without using a spatula). Got the idea?



Set aside on a rack to cool completely. When cool, roll again in powdered sugar.

Roll into special biscuit-wrapping papers or just leave them unwrapped.

Keep in an airtight container for a up to 10 days.



Note: this shortbread Mfenned recipe is not to be confused with Ka'ab ghzal Mfenned where we skip the dough and coat the baked almond horns in icing sugar, making it a completely gluten-free Moroccan sweet.


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