Today I am sharing a recipe for barazek, the traditional Syrian butter biscuits. These tasty, addictive biscuits are made from a thin dough crust coated with a thick layer of sesame on one side and dotted with pistachios on the other.
I want to share this recipe to tell you more about Cook for Syria, a fundraising initiative curated by Clerkenwell Boy and Suitcase Magazine. At the end of last year they launched a month-long campaign in London, focused around Syrian cuisine. Through a series of events, Cook for Syria encouraged everyone from the UK’s top chefs to people at home to cook Syrian inspired recipes and raise money in aid of UNICEF’s Syria Relief fund via Next Generation London (UNICEF’s youth branch). The campaign will continue this year in New York and other cities.
Cook for Syria received such a big support and positive response, that the curators decided to collect all the recipes donated by top chefs and food writers into a cookbook: #CookForSyria: The Recipe Book. The book was published in December 2016.
No-one received compensation to contribute to the cookbook: all the recipes and photographs were donated. The book was edited, designed and printed by the Cook for Syria curators, so that external costs were kept to a minimum. This means that nearly every penny you spend on buying the cookbook goes to Unicef.
I received my own copy of #CookForSyria in December and I love it. I love Middle Eastern cuisine and all recipes (which are divided into meal types such as breakfast, meze or desserts) sound and look delicious. The photos and cookbook layout are stunning. I am friends with some of the people who made this cookbook a reality, and I am very proud of their amazing work.
Barazek are made from butter (or clarified butter, ghee), flour, sugar, milk. The dough is then coated with honey syrup, sesame seeds and pistachios. The thin butter crust of the biscuits turns chewy when coated with the honey, yet these biscuits are not sticky. I think they are delicious. I made them just before Christmas so all my family tasted them and loved them.
The barazek recipe in the #CookForSyria cookbook was donated by Dalia Dogmoch Soubra (@DaliasKitchen), a Syrian-German food editor and author.
Barazek are famous Syrian specialty cookies from the Midan area. The eggless, crispy cookie is delicately thin and usually comes in tightly packed boxes from renowned Syrian bakeries. My mother used to wait for the Barazek cart outside of school and break the larger sized cookie into several pieces, which she would share with her siblings and friends. [Dalia Dogmoch Soubra in #CookForSyria]
For the biscuits
For the syrup
Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a frying pan or in the oven, until they turn light golden brown.
In a saucepot, add the water, sugar and honey and bring it to a simmer. Stir a few times, remove from the heat and let it cool.
Using an electric mixer, cream the sugar and butter together. Mix the warm water with the yeast and let it sit for a minute. Add the flour to the butter and sugar mix, then the water and yeast mix, and combine until you obtain smooth dough, which will be quite sticky.
In a bowl, mix the sesame seeds with half the cooled syrup then place the seeds on a plate. Prepare another plate with the crushed pistachios.
Using a tablespoon, form small balls of dough. Using your hands, gently flatten the dough ball into a disc 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick (the thinner they are, the more crisp and crunchy they will be after baking). Coat one side of the biscuit into the pistachios. Flip the disc and coat the other side into the sesame seeds. Repeat until you have used all the dough. This recipe makes approximately 30 biscuits.
Place the biscuits on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spaced about 2 inches apart.
Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Bake the cookies until the edges are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately transfer the cookies onto a wire rack (otherwise the honey coating will stick to the paper).
Serve with hot tea or coffee.