Gluten-free Moroccan walnut ghrouiba or ghrieba (Macarons)

Ghrouiba is a sort of round-shaped cookie which is usually compared to macaroons. They come in different varieties and range from soft to shortbread-like in term of texture.


In Morocco, we have wide array of Ghrouibas, which by the way can be gluten-free. Please check other recipes which I have posted before under "Sweet Moroccan biscuits and co". 

A standard size for walnut ghrouiba is about 7 cm diameter

One of my top favourites is this crackling walnut ghrouiba or ghrouiba bel guergua'. There is an indulging and rewarding chewiness trapped underneath that light crust that will make everyone happy. It's again a treat that goes well with coffee or tea besides the goodness from its ingredients. 

An interesting mini walnut ghrouiba (right), the size of 3 mm next to other
types of ghrouiba. See the inside with some bits of walnuts in which added a bit of texture.
This is at least a 40 years old family recipe. You will notice the special use of apricot jam and lemon zest in this version unlike the common version found everywhere. In our family, we tend to add these two in most of the nutty ghrouibas to maintain a chewiness and freshness for longer.
These ghrouibas are best consumed 48 hrs after being prepared because the flavours will have time to mature and complete each other.

This is a very easy recipe where you only need a bowl or two, a food processor and a baking tray.

It's freezer-friendly (you know I like that!). However, you really need to pick good walnut halves, not the rancid or bitter stuff. And like any nut, heat your oven at 170 degrees and give them a new life by roasting them for about 8 minutes without burning them.

To store, place a layer of plastic between each layer of ghrouibas

Ingredients
Makes  +30 ghrouibas
Prep: 12 min (active time) - Baking: 12- 15 min

  •  500 g ground almond (blanched and skined then slightly dried with a towel), see notes
  • 500 g ground walnuts (slightly coarse and not too fine)
  • 400 g caster sugar, see notes
  • 40 g of melted butter
  • 3 heaped tbsp of fine apricot jam
  • 7g baking powder
  • 2 small eggs + 1 egg yolk or 2 standard eggs
  • About 5 drops of mastic gum, ground with a tsp of sugar (by using to bottom of a glass to crush it or a pestle & mortar)
  • 7 g vanilla sugar or equivalent
  • 1 tbsp of lemon zest (optional)
  • A good pinch of salt


To decorate
  • About 400 g of icing sugar layered in a tray/ plate to form a layer about 5 mm thick


Preparation

Make sure you slightly roast the walnuts as mentioned above. Set it aside to cool. Rub it with your hands to get rid of excess skin.

In a food processor, whizz up the walnut to have a coarse texture (not too fine). Place in a bowl.

Whizz up the almonds along with the sugar, the mastic gum, lemon zest. Try to bring the mix to a paste.

Combine all ingredients with your hands or using the same food processor.

Heat the oven at 170 degrees C.

Shaping the Ghrouibas

Form dough balls between 3 and 5 cm depending how you like it (small or medium size). The dough is somewhat sticky. We usually keep a bowl of orange blossom water on the side to dip in our fingers. You could also use the back of a knife to scrape off the sticky dough.

If orange blossom water is expensive in your area, use oil or water to lubricate/humidify your hands.

Take each ball with your fingers holding it from the edges bit towards the bottom, dip the top and edges in the icing sugar. Carry on with the rest of the dough.


Before getting these ghrouibas out of the icing sugar plate, make sure you slightly press them for 2 reasons:

1/ to slightly flatten them. 
2/ to get more icing sugar sticking at their surface. 

Baking and storing

Bake the ghrouibas until you see a bit of crust forming. I also pick one ghrouiba to check the texture: It should have a bit of a crust while the inside is bouncy and chewy but not runny.

Usually, it takes anywhere between 12 to 15 min depending on the size of the balls and the size of your oven. For old traditional ovens, we slightly open the door during the baking process to let the steam out. For convection oven, you could do it once or twice after 8 minutes of baking. 

Running a baking test in my auntie's old oven.

Once cool, store the Ghrouibas in a cookie box or freeze them. Thaw them before serving.

I like these ghrouibas 2 days after preparing them. Ideally, they'll be fine within 2 weeks if the weather is not too hot. Place any extra ghrouibas in the freezer and thaw them about 15 min before eating them.


Notes


1- You can use almonds with skin on for half of the almond quantity. The almonds are there as a base but not for their taste. So even if they don't taste very almond-y, do not be tempted to add almond extract. 

2- Traditionally, for all nutty ghrouibas, we usually bake a couple to test a few things. One of them is the consistency of the dough in case it needs a bit more liquid (via eggs) or more dry ingredients (which we then add by tablespoon). These two will tell us how the ghrouiba will spread in the oven and how it will crack. If it's to our satisfaction, we bake the whole batch as planned.

More Ghrouiba recipes can be found here.



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