The 'stranger', the 'surprising', the 'extraordinary'. This is what the Arabic name of this sweet, Ghriba, means. The yummy contrast of a crunchy layer and a soft inner biscuit makes it an icon of Moroccan pastries. With its aspect and core ingredient – almonds –, it is very close to the classic French macaron – unless it is the French macaron that is very close to the ghriba…
For a long time I have been willing to do it by myself. I must confess I was quite intimidated.... A aunt of mine - a great cook by the way - told me it was probably, among the Moroccan biscuits, the most difficult to make. But after some tests to solve the issue of my oven’s cooking process - I have a very old style gas oven which heats only from below – I must say it is not such a big deal! In fact the preparation is quite easy. The secret is to keep the cooking process under control: the ghribas should be removed from the oven while they don’t really look cooked enough. Indeed, once removed from the oven, they still continue to cook for a while, and harden. After a few minutes, the biscuits are firmer and crispier outside, and still very chewy inside. This is this very tiny time window that you don’t want to miss. With my oven, 8 minutes of cooking over 170°C/340°F is enough. The best is to check after 8 minutes and let cook for 2 more minutes if necessary.
Let’s talk about the recipe itself. If you are familiar with ghriba, this version may seem a little strange to you. In fact, ghriba is usually made of almonds - it is then called ghriba b’louz. This is a kind of « luxury » pastry, only served in weddings, receptions, etc. There is another version of the biscuit, made of sesame and wheat flour. I really like the taste of sesame in pastries, but I wanted to come up with a gluten free recipe, so I’ve replaced the flour with hazelnut powder (almond powder would do fine as well). The cocoa touch gives it an extra festive look! These little vegan sweets will be perfect on my holiday table, and yours!
Ghriba - Cocoa Sesame Biscuits
Makes 10-12 cookies
60 g / 2 oz sesame seeds (for a fragrant taste, roast the seeds in a pan before grinding)
60 g / 2 oz hazelnut flour (or almond flour)
70 g / 2.5 oz icing sugar
15 g / 0.5 oz cacao powder
1 tsp baking powder
To form the dough: 1 tbsp ground flax seeds, mixed in 3 tbsp water (or 1 egg)
Grind the sesame seeds in a coffee grinder. First mix all the ingredients (except the flax seeds and water) in a bowl. Then add the mix ground flax seeds / water, knead the mixture with hands to obtain a dough. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven 170°C/340°F. Make balls with hands and roll them in icing sugar. Place the balls on a baking sheet and slightly press the center of the balls with the thumb.
If your oven heats from below only, place the baking tray on the top rack. Check the ghriba after 8 minutes. If needed, add 2 more minutes. Right out of the oven, the ghriba should look quite soft. Let harden and cold on the tray.
Hi there! I'm Majda.
Foodie, yogini, life lover!
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