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.
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…