I have a new-found appreciation for traditions lately; probably because I grew up in a family who pooh-poohed all manner of traditions (or at least my mother did). I asked around Malak and Hossein and other friends and acquaintances what is traditional for the commemoration of Ashura; first of all, huge vats of a wheat and meat (or chicken), called hreesseh, are cooked and distributed to neighbors and relatives; for pastries, these cookies called Abbas cookies as well as the plain sandwich cookies with a couple of pieces of Turkish delight, called raha. These were a childhood favorite for many.
INGREDIENTS: Makes about 25 cookies
10 Tbsp. butter-flavored shortening
1 ½ cup powdered sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp mahlab (available at Med markets)+1 tsp dukkat al kayak (replace with a combo of ground anise and ground fennel powder)+1 tsp turmeric+1/2 tsp ground ginger (optional)
4 pebbles of mastic mashed with one teaspoon of sugar till powdery
Place the shortening and sugar in the bowl of a stand-in mixer. Beat over medium speed until the mixture turns fluffy; add the yolks and beat till they are incorporated. In another bowl, place all the dry ingredients and mix with a wire whisk for a few seconds until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients gradually to the butter mixture. When a dough forms, transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate for one hour or longer.
Grease and flour the molds. Shape the dough (let it soften a bit) into balls with a one-inch dough scooper. Flatten the ball onto the molds until it adheres to it and with a firm gesture flip it onto the cookie sheet (lined with parchment); bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 12 minutes or until firm. Cool and serve.
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