2-karabij-dividing pastry copy 1-karabij-dividing pastry 2 copy

For those of you who have read my last post on natef, here is the promised recipe for the pistachio cookies — in Aleppo, the filling is walnuts and the cookies are served warm with a sprinkling of cinnamon on the natef — which I will be demonstrating this Sunday at the World Chef Showcase in Star City, Sydney. I have to say that the semolina we pinched from the kitchens at Sean’s (one of the hotel’s restaurant) was the best I have worked with. I must check the label on the canvas bag to see who milled it. In any case, here is how you make the cookies as demonstrated by my mother in Ballouneh in Lebanon. And please don’t mind her black fingernails. They are not dirty but stained from peeling too many fresh walnuts!

First, you make the pastry using mostly semolina with a little flour to make the pastry easier to handle, a little sugar, a tiny bit of yeast and a fair amount of butter; and instead of water, you hydrate the pastry with rose and orange blossom water. The pastry needs to rest for an hour and a half during which time, you grind the nuts and mix them with a little sugar and again fragrant waters. And when the pastry is ready, you divide it and start shaping the cookies with your hands unlike ma’mul or qrass bil-tamr which are moulded with different pattern tabe’s.

3-karabij-pastry flattened on palm

You flatten the pastry on the palm of your hand, making sure it is quite thin, then you put a little of the nut filling down the middle. At this stage, you can leave the filling crumbly as we did, or you can grind it finer and shape it into fingers as the pastry chefs did in the Star City pastry kitchen. Shaping the filling into little sausages makes it easier to encase it, but it will probably take a little longer. You need to use as much filling as you can handle as the cookies need to be more pistachios than pastry.

4-karabij-putting tsp filling on pastry copy

Then you pinch the pastry over the filling and gently start rolling the pastry back and forth to shape it into a sausage (if you want to make your life easy), or into the more classical shape: rounded on top and flat on the bottom. The cookies in the main picture in the natef post are in between the two shapes. I have to admit here that neither karabij nor natef are usually made at home. Rather, they are the preserve of specialist sweet-makers.

5-karabij-closing pastry over filling 1 copy 6-karabij-completely closed copy

7- karabij-rolling into shape copy 8-karabij-final shape copy

Once you have shaped your cookie, place it on a non-stick baking sheet or a sheet that is lined with parchment paper and bake in the oven until golden. Here is a precise recipe and if you can source good semolina that is neither too fine nor too coarse, you will find the cookies very simple to make.

Pistachio Cookies

Karabij Halab

Makes about 25

For the pastry

350 g semolina

40 g plain flour

40 g golden caster sugar

¼ teaspoon easy bake yeast

150 g unsalted butter, softened

3 tablespoons orange blossom water

3 tablespoons rose water

for the filling

175 g pistachios, ground medium fine

50 g golden caster sugar

½ tablespoon rose water

½ tablespoon orange blossom water

1. Mix the semolina, flour, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the softened butter and, with the tips of your fingers, work it in until fully incorporated.  Add the orange blossom and rose water and knead until the pastry is smooth and elastic. Cover with wet although not dripping cloth and let rest for one and a half hours in a cool place.

2. Mix the ground pistachios, andsugar in a mixing bowl. Add the rose and orange blossom water and mix well. Set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.

4. Pinch off a small piece of pastry and knead it into a ball the size of a walnut. Place it in the cup of your hand and flatten it with your index and middle fingers – it needs to be thin but not so thin as to tear when you fold it over the filling. Place 1 teaspoon filling in a line down the middle of the pastry leaving the ends clear and start pinching the edges of the pastry together from one end to the other to close it over the filling. Carefully shape the filled pastry into a domed finger, leaving the pinched side on the bottom. Place the moulded pastry onto a non-stick baking sheet. Fill and shape the remaining pastry in the same way.. You should end up with about 25 pastries, each measuring about 8 cm long and about 2 cm high.

5. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Remove onto a rack. Let cool. Serve with natef. These cookies will last for a couple of weeks.

There is 11 comments on this post

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    lots of good luck to you for the sydney food event this weekend ! these cookies are going to be a big hit for sure. while you are making them on sunday, i’ll be thinking of you here in zurich while i bake tahini shortbread ! 🙂

    thank you for sharing the recipe here, wonderful to see the dough in your mother’s hands… funny about the walnuts !

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    thanks kerrin. i need the good luck wishes. am exhausted. can’t wait to see the tahini shortbread. loved your last post. must learn how to scale down pics and put them side by side the way you do. hilda told me but am still none the wiser. have to find time to learn properly :). as for my mother’s hands, they are gorgeous and i made her cut her nails for the next recipe. walnuts or no walnuts. she wasn’t happy 🙂

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    i bet everything was a huge success! and i also bet you are exhausted – so much traveling… and excitement ! 🙂

    tahini shortbread just came out of the oven ! i made 2 different batches, one with medjool dates, topped with sesame seeds. the other with dark chocolate. they are both utterly irresistible !! wow ! this is thanks to you – motivated me to get tahini 🙂

    hilda is definitely the photo pro. may be more about what your website format allows though. so glad you liked my last post, thanks so much anissa.

    can’t wait to see your mom’s next recipe. can’t believe she even cut her nails for it, haha !!

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Greetings from down under. We misseed seeing you Sunday at Star City. Thank you for this recipe. I will soon try it.
    Where can we buy your cookbook and where are you appearing again ?
    Kind Regards
    PS I would love recipe for Khoushar

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    on amazon.com or amazon.co.uk. not sure what you mean by khoushar. do you mean koshari (egyptian lentil, rice & pasta dish). there is a fast version of it in my mediterranean street food book. my next demo is in sharjah at their international book fair. perhaps see you there 🙂

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I am sure the demo went perfectly! These cookies are stunning and the flavors are fabulous. Thanks for the lovely photos which will help me make them! And I agree that I need to find a new template that allows me to place my photos on my blog like Kerrin does…

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    it went well, thanks jamie, and the industrial beater was brilliant. i think i will become a natef master very soon. but i need to buy the expensive machine first 🙂

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    hope you remember me.
    seeing your photos for karabeej halab not only made my mouth water but allowed a strong sense of nostalgia to come into my world from when i was a little girl and i would watch my mom make these oh-so delicious treats.
    i’m so happy to see you again and continue to wish you the absolute best in all your endeavors.
    i think i’m being called into the kitchen by a higher power to make a batch myself!
    thanks for the motivation!

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    of course i remember you. hope your time in the kitchen was productive. and thanks for your good wishes 🙂

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I am on a search for a recipe that my grandmother used to make every Christmas when I was young. I can see these and swear taste them but as she never wrote a recipe down, I have nothing to guide me. I had the recipe that she told me when I helped her make them but it was lost in a house fire. So I’ve been searching for some years now and came upon your website, here’s hoping you still read these comments.
    Her cookies looked very similar to yours but she told me it was German. Her’s used all flour, no yeast (that I remember) and confectioner’s sugar. They were shaped exactly like yours but were filled with black walnuts that were ground fine, evaporated canned milk and sugar that was cooked on the stove to form a paste. As soon as I saw your hand forming them I knew I was about as close to her recipe as I’ve been. My problem being that I don’t know how to substitute the all flour and add the confectioner’s powdered sugar. As she only made these for the Christmas holiday, she would sprinkle red or green sugar on top before baking. Any help would be very appreciated.

  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    you should try looking for german cookies recipes, then combine what you find with this one to make something that is v close to your grandmother’s cookies. or you can try with this recipe. the substitutions should not be a problem. just add the liquid gradually so that you don’t have too soft a pastry 🙂

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