The French have their macarons, the Italians their macaroni, the Lebanese their makaroons. Closer to the Italian version, Lebanese makaroons are made with flour (semolina or plain flour) and water into a dough and can be savory or sweet.
You will get a sweet version today; these are also called “Zeinab’s fingers” assabeh Zeinab. Flavored with anise, fennel and mahlab, fried and coated with syrup; these sweets are served on religious holidays or anytime someone drops by for a visit (with a cup of Turkish coffee). They are light and sweet.
Their texture, resembling beeswax, is obtained by pressing the dough against a sieve.
Makaroons will keep for at least a week in a tightly closed jar in the fridge.
INGREDIENTS: Quantity will yield 75 to 100 pieces, depending on the size.
- 3/4 cup of semolina flour (125 g. or 4.5 ounces)
- 3/4 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour (125 g. or 4.5 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1/2 Tablespoon of anise seeds and 2 Tablespoons of fennel seeds
- 2 teaspoons of ground anise
- 3/4 teaspoon of mahlab
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1/3 cup of a mixture of olive oil and melted ghee (can be all ghee or oil-just a light olive oil)
- 1 cup of prepared syrup flavored with orange blossom water and rose water (thick syrup)
- 4 cups of oil for frying the makaroons
- Place the fennel and anise seeds in a small saucepan with the water. Let the boil boil for a few seconds, then turn off the heat and cover the pan in order to infuse the spices for 15 minutes or longer. Strain the water.
- Place the semolina flour and all-purpose flour in a mixer bowl; add the baking powder and mahlab. Mix well for a few seconds and add the oil and melted ghee. Add the strained and flavored water and mix until the dough obtained is firm but soft and shiny, adding more water if necessary, one tablespoon at a time (or more flour if the dough is too wet). The dough should be firm but moist.
- Cover the dough and let it rest for a few minutes; pinch pieces of dough the size of an egg, roll between the palms of your hand until a rope is formed. Cut into one inch pieces and press each small sausage into the basket of the fryer or any colander or sieve with a perforated pattern. Remove the dough by pinching it a little, forming a small “tunnel” in the back of the cookie. Lay the makaroons side by side on a piece of wax paper and fry them in batches for 3 minutes or until they become golden in color.
- Dry them in the basket for a few seconds, then dip them in the syrup for 3 minutes or until they are well-coated with syrup. Remove with a perforated spoon and let them air-dry for a few minutes. Serve or store in a tight container in the fridge until ready to offer to guests.
MAKING THE SYRUP:
For makaroons, the syrup needs to be a bit thick so that it will cling to the cookie, forming a shiny fragrant coating. Place 1 1/2 cups of sugar in a saucepan and pour 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil, stirring from time to time and boil for 15 minutes. Add a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice to the syrup and boil one minute longer; add one teaspoon of orange blossom water and one teaspoon of rose water to the syrup, boil a few seconds and turn off the heat. Let the syrup cool.
TIP: If the syrup is too thick, add some water (1/4 cup or more) and boil a little bit to dissolve and lighten the syrup.