Shortbread are the most popular of holiday cookies because they are easy to make, buttery, crumbly and ultra tender. Ghraybeh are my most favorite of all shortbread cookies.

Just two words to describe these Middle Eastern Shortbread Cookies – DELICATE and DELICIOUS! These most uncomplicated and unadorned cookies are certainly the most amazing of all the cookies I have ever tasted. In their traditional form, Ghraybeh are usually decorated only with a blanched nut and sprinkled generously with powdered sugar. They are not baked to brown crispiness but are quite white in colour. There are many different spellings and recipe variations but the final product is always an aromatic, melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness.

We always include these cookies in our festive baking, sometimes plain (as they traditionally are) and at other times we give them a little taste twist of our own without violating their beautiful texture or flavour profile. They can be glazed, made into cookies and jam sandwiches, mixed with herbs and nuts, even tea leaves.

Since the shortbread crust is perfect for pies, we use the cookie dough to make little pie bites, filled with different ingredients – dates, figs, chocolate, apple and caramel fillings are some of our favourite ways of being creative with the basic Ghraybeh Cookies.

For Autumn and winter, apple pie-like-filling mixed with oozing caramel in the centre of the buttery soft crust makes shortbread cookies that are perfect accompaniment for a good cup of kahva or coffee, warm the soul and make the home smell of rosewater and cinnamon.

Ingredients

For Ghraybeh:

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 cups plain flour

1 tablespoon rose water

2-3 tablespoons milk

1/4 cup icing sugar for sprinkling

For Apple Caramel Filling:

1 apple, peeled and cored

2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey

1 tablespoon plain flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

12 caramel candies

This Is What You Do:

Cut apple into bite size pieces. Combine apple, maple syrup and cinnamon in a small sauce pan.

Simmer on low heat till a apple pieces are soft and the juice is dry. Add flour and mix to make a thick, chunky paste.

Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven at 150 degrees C.

Beat together granulated sugar and butter in a big mixing bowl till light and fluffy.

Add flour, one cup at a time and mix.

Add rosewater and milk.

Combine to make a firm cookie dough.

Refrigerate the dough for 5 minutes for easier handling.

Divide the dough into 12 equal portions.

Roll each portion into a tiny ball. Flatten the ball on your palm into a small disc.

Place a teaspoonful of apple filling in the centre. Top it with a caramel candy.

Pinch the dough close over the filling. Give the cookie a round or rectangular shape.

Press and score the sealed edges with a fork.

Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 35 minutes. Do not brown.

Transfer the cookies to the serving plate. Sprinkle with icing sugar.

Makes a dozen Shortbread cookies

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