Molasses no-bake cookies

no-bake cookies

These cookies (which have the texture of a soft taffy and the taste of toffee) are made with a technique that has always intrigued me; they are very traditional and come from rural areas. Folks lived a very simple (primitive) life, without oven or any appliances. I have seen similar recipes across the Middle-East, in Arabian, Persian, Iraqi, Kurdish, Lebanese (and others) recipe books. This recipe was given to me by a dear friend (who grew up in Anatolia) whom I learned a lot from here in Beirut; she said these cookies were made with wheat freshly harvested, milled (at the local mill) and grape molasses from the region’s sweetest grapes. Therefore, whole-wheat flour was traditionally used.  

Flour gets toasted in a skillet over a flame (can be a burner out in the woods if you like). A bit of butter is added (samneh); when the flour tastes like a piece of toast, add the grape molasses (or honey) and stir until a thick and moist dough forms (it takes minutes). Roll out and shape into circle or squares. Serve.

One recipe from the Chouf Mountains (Lebanon) adds walnuts to the dough. Another (Persian) uses date paste. Feel free to improvise.  These cookies have the texture of taffy (soft, moist, but not chewy) and the taste (due to the grape molasses) of toffee. 

INGREDIENTS: 2 dozen small cookies

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or whole-wheat flour)

4 Tbsp unsalted butter or clarified butter (samneh, ghee)(optional)

1/2 cup grape molasses or honey 

1. Place the flour in a skillet over medium-low heat; toast the flour, stirring, while adding the butter. Keep at it until the flour changes color and tastes like a toasted cracker. (dip a wet finger and taste). Be cautious not to burn the flour. It will take a while for the flour to change color, about 30 minutes. A heavy stainless steel skillet will do the job better than a nonstick one.

2. Transfer the flour to a mixer, add the grape molasses or honey and mix until a dough forms; add more molasses if necessary starting with 1/2 tablespoon. Transfer the dough to a work surface and roll out with a rolling pin between two sheets of baking paper. Cut with a cookie cutter and serve. Keep in a box tightly closed.

Please read note at the bottom. Butter is not used in the Chouf mountains in Lebanon but I prefer to add it.

toast flour in skillet

cut dough with cookie cutter

IMG_0387

 

NOTE: I  need to stress that the grape molasses I am using is made in Lebanon and is called “whipped” (madrub); it can be homemade and this will be the topic of a post in the Fall after the last harvest. If you are unable to source this grape molasses, then honey is the best substitute. Do not use pomegranate molasses, as most of them are too sour (in Lebanese cooking this molasses is used to add sourness to a dish).

Date molasses, apple cider molasses, fig molasses, could work; but only use after tasting it and determining that you love the taste, because this is what your cookies will taste like. Carob molasses is not sweet enough and I would not use it.

I just realized…

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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18 Comments

  1. Posted July 4, 2013 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Hello!!! This is the first time I hear about toasting the flour and making cookies like that. Moreover, it’s a very good idea especially when it’s hot and you want to avoid the use of the oven! I’ll save the recipe and I let you know :)

  2. Stamatia Baker
    Posted July 4, 2013 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    I can get date and carob molasses here, but not grape molasses…would date molasses work, or would honey be better?

  3. Joumana
    Posted July 4, 2013 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    @Stamatia: Here is the point: The grape molasses I use here is one I can eat with a spoon, it is very sweet and completely natural, made in the mountain villages or homemade. It needs to be thick and sweet; my answer is with honey you will get the taste of that honey in your cookie, so I would pick honey.

    @Daniela: Great idea! I will try it with ground almonds as well. :)

    @Kouky: quelle merveille! j’adore avoir des renseignements sur l’Algérie a travers toi; est-ce que tu as publié la recette sur ton site?

    @Theresa: I would try it with maple syrup, adding it in a slow stream.

    @Mark: Sounds like your jeddoh was one of many in Lebanese history who was attached to his land and knew how to make use of all the bounty surrounding him; I have met a few like him here in the Chouf Mountains, but they are a dying breed (sadly).

  4. Daniela Cassola
    Posted July 4, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Hi Joumana,
    These look lovely! Could ground almonds be used instead of the flour?
    Thanks!

  5. Posted July 4, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Hummm!! délicieux!! en Algérie on prépare une telle gourmandise à l’occasion des naissances de bébés. mais c’est fait à base de graines de blé grillées et moulues, de beurre et de miel.
    Très belle journée!!

  6. Posted July 4, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Joumana, I can always find delight and discovery in your blog post. What a wonderfully resourceful and unique way to make a treat with limited ingredients and resources. I’ll fig it a try with honey, and walnuts. A stateside hello this Fourth of July, and here’s to your pursuit of happiness!

  7. Posted July 4, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Those cookies are really unique and must be really addictive! A wonderful recipe.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  8. Stamatia
    Posted July 4, 2013 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    I’ll try it with some nice local honey then. Thanks Joumana! :)

  9. Posted July 4, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Nice one! I might have to try this technique sometime. Very handy for when there is no access to an oven. :D

  10. Theresa
    Posted July 4, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if Maple Syrup would work. The taste would be amazing!

  11. Posted July 5, 2013 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    How brilliant! I love pretty much anything toffee.

  12. Posted July 5, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I have all the ingredients in my kitchen. I love grape molasses, but never thought of using it this way. I will try these very soon! Thanks!

  13. Mark Wisecarver
    Posted July 5, 2013 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Wow! That top photo is soooo awesome!
    reminds me of the special dished that Jido told me so many times were prepared for special ones in Beirut. We had sheep and olive orchards and each year Jido kept the best for the very best. Thanks so much for sparking great memories.

  14. Posted July 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    Eat a delicious looking cookie! I love the taffy-like texture.

  15. Posted July 7, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    non Joumana je n’ai pas publié la recette sur mon blog. bientôt inchallah!

  16. jason argon
    Posted July 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Joumana!Joumana! What sweet memories you are bringing back to me!This cookie along with vanilla custard was the dessert of the Sunday lunch at the destroyer ship during my military term.Of course it was its poor version made with a thick syrup and margerine.The cook was adding ground spices in the batter. I will make them with my left over violet syrup.Best wishes for a cool and joyfull summer!!!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sr1OICwFF1g

  17. Posted July 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Joumana I love grape molasses (petimezi it Greek) and use it all the time. I have some petimezi and will try your cookies soon. Wish I had a similar cookie cutter :)

  18. Joumana
    Posted July 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    @Jason argon: thanks for the link to that serene piece of beautiful music! how funny that this rustic dessert was actually practical on a war ship during your military service. wow!

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