Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Baalback Special Cookies - Baalback Kaak Krass

Dear friends

I will be away from the blogsphere for couple of weeks.... I will be in my kitchen testing new recipes and preparing for two big events I am participating in as a food vendor. Next week we are celebrating the Maple Syrup Festival in Powassan , a near by town twenty minutes from North Bay.. It’s a full day event….this festival attracts more than 6000 visitors every year…. We are praying for a nice warm sunny weather, it’s an outdoor event, with lots of activities, rides to the maple syrup bush, bands and music, competitions, food and maple tasting and lots more...We love to see you if you are in the neighborhood.

On May 2nd, I am participating in the Spring Craft Show; this is my third year with the show….

I will do my best to come and visit you from time to time… until then I will leave you with this recipe from the Baalback Region….

Mahlab, Mistakeh Gum and Orange Blossom Water are my favourite spices, to use in desserts and cookies, and sweet baking. I use them almost in everything, replacing Vanilla and or any spice... I even use Mahlab in my bread dough its gives the dough a very aromatic perfume smell and flavour.

Many times a recipe calls for the three spices, and I will be in Seventh Heaven…

What are three Lebanese/Mediterranean Spices?

Mahlab or Mahleb

There are many alternative spellings for this spice; mahlab, mahalab, mahleb, mahlebi or mahaleb. All of these names refer to an unusual fragrant spice made from the stones of a small, black cherry tree that grows wild in the Mediterranean region across to Turkey. It was first used for perfumes in the Middle East and Turkey, where it later became popular as a spice for flavouring breads. The world's major producer of Mahlab is now Iran, followed by Turkey and Syria.

Spice Description
Mahleb is the dried kernel of a small cherry stone. It is oval, about 5mm (3/16") long, buff-coloured with a finely wrinkled skin and a cream-coloured interior. The powdered spice is yellowish, similar to the colour to mace. Mahleb is not readily available outside the Middle East, though you may find it in Greek or Middle Eastern markets.
Bouquet: quite sweet with notes of cherry and almond. Some describe it as resembling marzipan.
Flavour: a combination of fragrant rosewater-like sweetness and a nutty and faintly bitter, but not unpleasant aftertaste...

Mastika/Mistakeh Gum

Starts as a semi-transparent sap from lentisk trees (actually evergreen bushes) found only in certain areas of the Greek island of Chios. As resinous granules, it was the original chewing gum, and the name "mastiha" is the root word of "masticate," meaning "to chew."

At the market, look for "mastiha," "mastiki," or "mastic tears" and it might also be available in powdered form

Mastiha is used as a spice in sweets and cooking, as a flavoring for liqueurs, and in soap-making, cosmetics, and toothpaste, among others. Recent evidence of its positive effect on ulcers has resulted in a boom in purchases by large pharmaceutical companies.

Pronunciation: MAHS-TEEKH-HAH

Also Known As: gum mastic

Alternate Spellings: masticha, mastica, mastihi

Examples: To make powdered mastic, use a mortal and pestle to grind the resin. Because the resin can be sticky, grind together with a little sugar or salt (from recipe ingredients). "One drop" of mastic powder means one granule, ground.

Orange flower water (aka orange blossom water) is a clear, perfumed distillation of fresh bitter-orange blossoms.

This essential water has traditionally been used in many French and Mediterranean dessert dishes, but has more recently found its way into Western cuisine.

It has been a traditional ingredient used often in Middle Eastern cooking. In the Arab world, it is frequently added to hard or otherwise bad-tasting drinking water to mask the unpleasant flavor. Orange blossoms are believed to be used in this manner because they are seen as the traditional bridal flower and, therefore, symbolize purity (white, small and delicate).

The Krass means disk in Arabic. They are big cookies around 5 inches in diameter, prepared specially for Easter, and stamped with a traditional Cross Stamp, some even have the special Cross Stamp which represent their Church the Roman Catholic Malakeein, which is the Church of the majority of the Christians in the Baalback Region.

These cookies are crunchy bite, they don’t have lots of levening agent, and the semolina flour gives them the crumbly texture. Some call them Kaak Bi Haleeb- Milk Cookies, but they are known for Krass Kaak Baalback – Cookie Disk from Baalback. I need to mention that the cookies are around 1/2 inch thick.

Recipe for 4 dozens:

1 1/2 kg Firkha (semolina flour #2)
1 1/2 kg AP flour
1000 – 1250 gm sugar (depends on your taste)
1-3 cups milk
1 tbsp nutmeg powder
1 tbsp mahlab powder

1 tsp of ground mistakeh gum
600g butter (if u want them a bit soft put 500g butter + 100g oil)
1 tbsp yeast
3 tbsp orange blossom or 1 tbsp vanilla


Melt the butter, take it off the heat and add the sugar and stir so it will start to melt… let it cool before you add it to the flour mix. Add the yeast and spices and mix , when the butter has cooled enough to pour over the flour and the yeast add it and start mixing… add little by little the milk, depends on the flour, some will need more liquid than others. I use only 1 ½ milk, knead well until you get a nice smooth dough... don’t worry if the dough is a bit wet, within a short time the semolina will soak all the liquid… cover and leave it couple of hours to rest before you start cutting and shaping.

These cookies are good for dunking, treat in a lunch box, after school treat, and they look nice wrapped each individually for children parties. You don’t have to use a special stamp to decorate, any cookie stamp will do.

I like to eat them with a piece of cheese for breakfast with a cup of tea or coffee.

for that I use less sugar than the recipe (1250).

Mistakeh Gum and Mahlab Seeds - check a Middle Easter or Greek Food Store