Pascale’s Kitchen: Creative cookies

Below, you will find three of my favorite cookie recipes, which I inherited from my dear late mother Esther and late mother-in-law Gita.

 Almond cookies (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Almond cookies
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

Now that the weather has turned cool, this is the perfect time to prepare foods requiring a hot oven. And what could be more wonderful than baking cookies as we welcome the winter months? 

Many of us get used to preparing a few dishes that we’re good at and can make without too much effort. But that can get a little boring, so I recommend breaking out of your comfort zone and trying something new this week. The perfect place to start is with cookies that are perfect for nibbling along with a steaming cup of herbal tea. 

I personally love baking cookies, and there are so many easy and simple recipes to choose from. Below, you will find three of my favorite cookie recipes, which I inherited from my dear late mother Esther and late mother-in-law Gita. 

All you have to do for all three recipes is mix all the ingredients together, then roll the dough into balls. You don’t need to use a mixer or any baking tools. The balls take on the shape of cookies during the baking process all on their own. 

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The first recipe is for chocolate chip cookies that are extremely easy to make. I’ve added just two extra ingredients that make the recipe a little special: walnuts and pecans. The combination of the chocolate with the nuts makes these cookies irresistible. 

The second recipe is for cookies called Rayba, Ghrayba or Kurbiye, depending on the region. These crunchy cookies, which just melt in your mouth due to the high amount of oil in the cookies, are popular in Egyptian, Lebanese, Haleb, North African, Turkish and Spanish cuisine, with each community calling them by a different name. Some of the recipes call for semolina in addition to white flour. 

The third recipe, which hails from Tripolitan cuisine, is for abambar almond cookies. This recipe is rich with almonds and protein from the egg whites, and is commonly passed down from one generation to the next, with each family fiercely protecting their secret recipe. You can use finely or coarsely ground almonds, with or without the skins. Each family has their own unique way of preparing the meringue. There are endless versions of abambar cookies. 

You can prepare one (or all) of these cookies for Shabbat. And if you really want to make an impression, store them in an airtight glass container as soon as they’ve cooled. Then you can invite your friends and family over to enjoy a fun cookie party.

Almond cookies (Abambar)

Makes 20 cookies.

300 gr. + 2 heaping Tbsp. ground almonds200 gr. powdered sugar, sifted2 egg whites from large eggs3 tsp. powdered sugarPinch of salt or a drop of lemon juice3-4 drops of almond essence1 tsp. vanilla (optional)1 tsp. cornflour or corn starch, sifted

Topping:

20 almonds (or whatever the number of cookies you make)

Mix the ground almonds and powdered sugar in a bowl until there are no lumps. 

Add the egg whites to the bowl of a mixer and whip on high speed. While mixing, gradually add the powdered sugar, salt or lemon juice, until stiff peaks form. Lower the speed and gradually add the almond mixture. Mix well. Let the mixture rest until it solidifies. 

Grease a baking tray and line it with baking paper. With wet hands, form balls with a diameter of 4 or 5 cm. and place them on the tray with space between each one. If you don’t have time to let the dough solidify, you can place spoonfuls of mixture with a diameter of 2-3 cm. on the baking tray. During the baking process, the cookies will expand and be a bit flatter. 

Place an almond in the middle of each ball. Bake in an oven that has been heated to 170-180° for 13-15 minutes, or until the cookies begin to crack and the bottoms begin to brown (lift up a cookie to check).

Be careful not to overbake the cookies, since they will become too hard. Let the cookies cool down before removing them from the baking paper. Store in an airtight container. 

Level of difficulty: Medium.Time: 1 hour.Status: Parve. 

 Crunchy cookies (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Crunchy cookies (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

Crunchy cookies (Rayba, Ghrayba, Kurbiye)

Makes 30 small cookies.

2 cups flour, sifted1 cup semolina or ground almonds¾ cup sugar½ tsp. baking powder (optional)1 packet sugar vanilla100 gr. margarine or butter3-4 Tbsp. oil1 egg3 Tbsp. lemon zest

Toppings: 

¾ cup peanuts or almonds, roasted and halved

Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and knead dough until smooth. Alternatively, you can mix dough with an electric mixer. 

Take a little bit of the dough and form balls with a diameter of 2 cm. or 3 cm. Place them on a greased baking pan. Push a peanut or almond into the center of each ball. 

Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 180° for 20-25 minutes. Let the cookies cool down then store them in an airtight container. 

Level of difficulty: Easy.Time: 30 minutes.Status: Dairy or parve. 

 Walnut and pecan cookies with chocolate chips (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Walnut and pecan cookies with chocolate chips (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

Walnut and pecan cookies with chocolate chips

Makes 20 cookies. 

200 gr. cold butter, cut into little cubes150 gr. brown sugar100 gr. sugar2 large eggs1 tsp. vanilla1 tsp. chocolate liqueur (optional)350 gr. flour, sifted1 tsp. baking soda¼ tsp. salt150 gr. walnuts, ground100 gr. pecans, ground350 gr. bittersweet chocolate chips or small pieces of chocolate

Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a flat beater and mix on low speed. Gradually add the two types of sugar and continue mixing on slow speed. Add the eggs, vanilla and chocolate liqueur. 

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the walnuts and pecans, and mix. Add the chocolate chips or broken chocolate pieces and mix. 

While mixing on low speed, gradually add the flour and butter mixture. Mix well. 

Form 20 round balls and arrange them on a tray covered with baking paper and place in the freezer for 1 hour. 

Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 190° for 16-18 minutes or until the cookies turn golden brown. Remove and let cookies cool down. 

Level of difficulty: Easy.Time: 90 minutes.Status: Dairy. 

Translated by Hannah Hochner.