Moroccan shortbread ghrieba with nuts: Ghrieba msseouessa

Unlike many Moroccan ghriebas (sort of macaroons) which come on the chewy and soft side of the baked good, today's traditional ghrieba from the North of Morocco is more on the shortbread-like category with an indulging melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Butter and oil gives it this melting effect while the msseouess adds to that (mseouess usually is the state of something eaten by worms and therefore reaching a weak crumbly state). Do not let this rather unappealing description stop you from tasting one of the best shortbread recipes you may come across.


Moroccan ghrieba msseoussa or ghriebat el khalit (khalit in Arabic refers to mixture) is a rich mix of leftover nuts. Its other name is halwat laqita which translates as bastard sweet due to the use of leftover nuts hanging around with no "rule".

Ghrieba msseoussa, a nutty shortbread with Moroccan flavours perfect for Eid and other festive days

Apart from raisins and sesame seeds, the rest of the nuts listed in the ingredients are interchangeable and replaceable as the idea behind this recipe is to use leftover nuts from Achoura/Ashura or, as we are approaching christmas, the loads of nuts left after this occasion. However, nothing stops you from making it even before and gift it to your beloved ones. We all love a treat made with love.




Ingredients
Makes +/- 30 /about 6 cm diameter each
Prep: 20 min - Baking: 18 min
  • 75 g almonds, fried or baked and cooled
  • 75 g of raisins or sultanas, pre-washed with hot water
  • 75 g of unhulled sesame seeds, 
  • 75 g walnuts kernels, ideally oven-roasted for a few minutes and cooled
  • 125 g of butter, soft at room temperature
  • 75 ml of vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp of icing/powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 tbsp of orange blossom water
  • 4 g of baking powder
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 300 g of flour (more or less, enough to get shortbread or shortcrust texture)
For a festive touch (not traditional though)
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon or mixed spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, aniseed, ginger, cardamon..)
Optional
  • Almonds and walnuts can be replaced with oven-roasted and skinned (or not) peanuts, crushed. 
Finishing
  • 300 g of icing sugar



Preparation

Make-ahead 

Toast the sesame seeds and set aside.

Mix raisins with orange blossom water and set aside for 30 min, covered. Blend or chop them to a rough texture. Set aside.

Crush the fried or oven-baked almonds to a rough texture, not too fine but not big either. Do the same for the rest of the nuts (walnut or peanuts).

The ghrieba mix

Mix butter with sugar to a creamy texture.

Add the rest of the ingredients leaving the flour last.

Add the flour as needed to have a smooth shortcrust texture which should not be dry.

Do not overwork the dough, you just need to bring it together and combine it homogeneously.

Shaping and baking ghrieba msseoussa

Preheat the oven at 170 C. Line baking sheets with baking paper.

Shape ghriebas: roll small dough balls and flatten them no less than 1.5 cm thick. Ghrieba should be between 5 to 7 cm in diameter. Line ghriebas slightly far from each other.

Use a cookie press and slightly press on top. If you do not have it, use the forks or those pastry tweezers to pinch the top of each ghrieba.

Place the baking tray in the middle of the oven. Bake for 15 to 18 min until slightly golden.

Let cool.

Meanwhile, fill a deep plate with half of the icing sugar, delicately place a few ghriebas and sift some icing sugar on top.  Do the same for the rest of the batch.

I find these ghriebas very delicate as they break while handling them after baking. Sometimes, you may need to wait until they cool completely although the icing sugar may not stick very well in this instance. Sometimes, I just wait for 10 minutes after they are out of the oven and give them a good layer of icing sugar, sifted above them while they are still in the baking tray. When they're cool I move them to the icing sugar plate so they also get covered from the bottom.

Just find a way to have them all covered, whichever way you go.

Storing ghrieba msseoussa

Although they are usually kept for a few weeks in an airtight container at room temperature, I found that keeping them in the fridge is not a bad idea and they even freeze and last longer. This also help with their texture as they hold a bit before melting in the mouth.


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