12 March 2008

Feqqas: Morocco's answer to biscotti

Or is it the other way around? Well, either way, I'm in love with this crispy, not-too-sweet, nutty, orange flavoured Moroccan cookie. I became a big fan of Moroccan desserts two years ago when I was living in Cork, Ireland, and improbably for the four-day St. Patrick's Day Weekend a band of North African and French vendors descended upon us. The occasion was the St. Patrick's Day Festival, and it was by far the best food Cork ever had to offer. There were cookies from Brittany, crepes from Paris, jams and honey from Provence and the Languedoc, and (my favourite) Moroccan pastries. I ate so many of these honey-drenched sweets, and I really need to learn their names so I can re-create them.

However, this cookie was a great introduction to a different sort of Moroccan treat, courtesy of fellow blogger Paprikas. She got the idea from a publication (available online though I don't have the link on hand) called "Saveurs et Cuisine du Maroc." I've reprinted the recipe here for English-speaking blogger convenience, but if you speak French feel free to follow along on her post. I have to admit, I was a little hesitant about creating a cookie that seemed a lot like a pastry, but I love biscotti and the ingredients were easy enough. I keep all of them on hand, with the exception of the orange marmalade and orange juice. My only alterations to the original recipe were that I used olive oil instead of plain cooking oil (which I used up on the red velvet cake in the previous post) and sea salt instead of plain salt, just because.

Anyway, you want to start by making a dough. Mix together 100 g brown sugar, 50 mL olive oil, 50 mL orange juice, and two eggs. Then sift in 360 g sifted flour (really you should shift before measuring but I don't have a proper sifter and this just isn't feasible for me) plus a pinch of sea salt and 2 t baking powder. Mix until incorporated. This makes a lovely smooth, sticky dough, and I recommend using your (well floured) hands - otherwise it'll just stick to the spoon and get too heavy to really mix well. Divide the dough into four balls. Flour your work surface, and keep the flour tin nearby. You'll want to keep adding flour to your rolling pin, the surface, the dough, and your hands, which means you don't want to be carrying handfuls of flour over your camera like I did. Oops.

The directions say to roll each ball to 3 mm thickness - this was pretty generous. From the pictures, it looks like Paprikas managed a lot larger a sheet of dough per ball than I did, but it didn't really matter. The important thing is just to get it even, and essentially a rectangle in shape. Remember, dough is forgiving, so you can keep pushing and pulling around until you're satisfied. For each sheet of dough, drop a couple of small spoonfuls of orange marmalade on and spread into a thin layer, leaving room on the edges. Crush 100 g walnuts (I used the put it in a Zip-lock bag and pound method) and sprinkle over the marmalade.

You want to roll into a baton, and be careful not to have any marmalade oozing out one end. I accomplished this by rolling almost to the edge and then lifting it up, pressing down lightly with my fingers to seal. Carefully transfer each baton seam-side down to a baking sheet lined with wax paper and brush with a beaten egg. I assume you're supposed to do the whole thing, but I only brushed the tops and sides. It didn't seem to matter. Bake 15 minutes at 325, then take out of the oven and drape a damp kitchen towel over the whole thing. Let rest for an hour.

Note, by the way, that the batons will spread a little in the oven. You should be able to get them all on one cookie sheet but try to space them fairly evenly. That said, they don't spread much while they "rest." After an hour is up, remove the towel and get out a nice, sharp knife. Cut on a nice, long diagonal, about a centimetre apart. You'll discard the ends, and don't worry if it starts to come apart a little in the middle. Just re-cut your diagonal and throw out the excess - you'll still have plenty! Bake another fifteen to twenty minutes at 350, or until they're all nice and crispy and golden brown. They're delicious warm, but still good once they cool. I'll definitely be making them again!


Paprikas said...

Bravo, vraiment magnifique :)

Lisa said...

Those do sound good! Something I would like to try for sure. Thanks for sharing this.

Bellini Valli said...

These look amazing. On another note I don't see why you couldn't use sea salt for the Roayal Foodie Joust...it is from the sea. We should make allowances for our veggie friends:D

LisaRene said...

I have made biscotti only once and enjoyed them. I like that your recipe is different then most I have seen in that you have a filling in your biscotti.

Neen said...

Interesting... So how does it compare to biscotti?

Judith said...

Paprika - Merci encore! :-)

Lisa - No problem! I hope you get a chance to give it a go.

Bellini - Hehe, I ended up not having time to come up with a recipe anyway, but I keep reminding myself to check on the Joust topics. Maybe once my seminar paper is turned in and I'm a little less stressed, I can participate for May :-)

Lisa - I was surprised that it was actually do-able. I always thought biscotti was something you really just have to get in a coffee shop.

Neen - Very similar! It's that same subtly sweet idea, and a similar texture. The orange marmalade is the only real difference.