Shortbread cookie (Ghoraybeh)

February 14, 2010  •  Category: ,

Apparently Valentine’s day is celebrated in Lebanon on the 13th; the reason being that  the 14th  is a national mourning day, to commemorate the brutal assassination (by massive bomb explosion) of the former Prime Minister and two dozen other people.

I admire the flexibility demonstrated by my countrymen. Not one to miss a good party or celebration of any kind, they decided to simply change the date.

I have to point out that I have never experienced a society more prone to celebrations or mournings, expressed noisily. During the summer, hardly a night goes by that you don’t hear explosions and gunfire of some kind. First, you get alarmed and you ask around: “What is going on?” The answer is usually ” Oh, it is nothing, it is a wedding!” or ” it is an election, and so and so won” or ” it is the feast of ….(fill in the blank with  the name of the saint or prophet).

The problem with this is people do die from stray bullets.  Last summer, the explosions were so bad (RPGs and such) that  my friend Hoda  and I retreated inside (we were sitting on her  balcony). That day, a couple people died and eleven were injured.  Why? A politician got elected. It was his16th term.

Of course, I am not including in the mix daily overflights of enemy warplanes and occasional bomb droppings.

As well as the call to prayer and the sound of church bells which punctuate the silence. Or  cars honking (during a wedding, fifty cars will honk at the same time); or  cart vendors advertising their wares and rattling their tin cups for extra effect.

Which brings me to my neighbor in Dallas, Mary, who was apologizing to me; why? her dog Zoe barked that day. This happened  upon my return to the States from Lebanon; this is when you experience culture shock.

I forgot! Happy Valentine!

I am participating with this post to Priya’s hearts for Valentine’s day event.

Ghoraybeh is a traditional cookie, basically a shortbread. Made with ghee and flour or fine semolina and some sugar. Period.


  • 6 ounces shortening (Crisco is fine)(170 g)
  • 12 ounces cake flour or a mixture of all-purpose and rice flour (340 g)
  • 5 ounces powdered sugar (160 g)
  • flavoring: 1 tablespoon of  rose or orange blossom water
  • if needed, an egg white to bind the dough (or half of an egg white)


  1. Cream the shortening and sugar in a mixing bowl for at least 10 minutes until the mixture is considerably lighter in color.
  2. Add the sifted flour gradually and mix just until incorporated. If the dough is too dry, add the flavoring and (or) the egg white. The dough should be smooth and moist. Wrap in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for one hour or longer.
  3. Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper if you are going to use it with cutouts. If making the traditional ring shape, use a small scoop; scoop out even-sized portions, one at a time, roll between your fingers to get a sausage shape and connect the two ends. Place a pistachio or pine nuts on top of the connected point.
  4. Place the formed cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Heat the oven to 325F and bake for 15 minutes, without letting the cookies brown. Traditionally these cookies are white as snow. They will taste delicious even if golden or light brown, so not to worry.

The technique for making the heart-shaped ones could not be simpler. Just roll the dough out and cut into the shape that you wish. Use a smaller cutter for the hole inside. Place the cookie on a parchement-lined baking sheet. Once the cookie is in position, fill the hole with broken bits of hard candy (such as Jolly Rogers) and bake for 10 minutes or so. The candy filling will be melted and bubbly. Don’t remove the cookies until they have cooled completely and the candy has hardened.


24 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Sushma Mallya says:

    awesome cookies, quiet an easy one to try as well…thanks for the recipe..

  2. Priya says:

    Cute and pretty shortbread cookies…awesome!!

  3. Rosa says:

    Delicate looking cookies! So delicious!



  4. Caveman Cooking says:

    Happy V-Day, TOB! Hope you enjoyed a quiet day. 😉
    I love shortbread and these look great … especially the hearts!

  5. Ivy says:

    The cookies sound delicious and so beautifully presented.

  6. Isabelle says:

    Lebanese cuisine is one of my Favorites ! So glad I found your blog. Great pictures and writing too. Thanks:)

  7. Joanne says:

    I love this post. The Lebanese populace sounds like quite the noisy bunch. I think we are definitely oversensitive to sound here in the US though. A little noise is never really a bad thing.

    You know what else is not a bad thing? These shortbread cookies. They look delicious!

  8. northshorewoman says:

    i am introducing Beirut to my students next week. We are covering poems about Beirut wirtten by women. I’m not sure if there’s a noisy poem, but I will do some more looking………

  9. Velva says:

    I really enjoy the stories from your homeland. Love it. I love those shortbread cookies too.

  10. Barbara says:

    Loving your shortbread cookies! For any day, not just Valentines Day!
    Over and over I realize how spoiled and fortunate we are in the U.S. I am so glad you tell us about your experiences!

  11. Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen says:

    These are beautiful cookies! I really enjoyed reading your story about Lebanese celebrations! Sounds like a people who really have a good time! Happy Valentine’s Day!

  12. rebecca says:

    great short bread sounds like India all the noise lol

  13. Kitchen Butterfly says:

    Ooh….those cookies, and the rose buds (which I have at home)….look heavenly!!!!!!!!!

  14. TastyTrix says:

    Hmmm, Beirut in summer sounds an awful lot like Baltimore. I think I’d hardly have any culture shock at all! Just beautiful presentation as always! By the way, I can’t find your contact info on here, can you email me at trixmixelplix AT gmail DOT com? I have a food related question for you. Thanks!!

  15. peter says:

    I suppose if you went with butter (ghee), sugar and corn starch may make one skip the Crisco? The middle of the cookie reminds of the evil eye protector!

    • Joumana says:

      you can use butter if it is clarified, I mean there’s a zillion recipe for this thing! I just don’t like the smell of ghee (the one that is sold at the middle-eastern stores) and Crisco works fine, especially in regards to the color which is supposed to be super-white.

  16. shayma says:

    Joumana, dear, I am with you- I dont like ghee and the smell of ghee. Even though Peter did have a great idea, I guess it is a matter of personal choice. We dont use it much in Pakistani cooking. I love the sweets you prepared, and I especially love the arrangement with the flowers, beautiful. Hope you had a lovely day.x shayma

  17. kaouther says:

    I read your introduction with a big ,wide smile!!!!!!
    thanks for sharing your recipe of ghoraybah, i’ll give it a try one of these days

  18. Marysol says:

    You know, I couldn’t live in Lebanon without looking like a deer in the woods on a windy day. I don’t know how I would make it through an entire day without having a coronary.

    But, I will say, the celebrations are as joyous and as noisy as they should be. Lebanon is as lively as the island of Cuba. And almost as scary to live in.

    On a lighter note, I love the look of these lovely and unique cookies, their ring shapes would be perfect ‘finger food.’

    I hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

  19. Bria @ West of Persi says:

    Oooh, I love these cookies. So delicate and I so adore nibbling on a few of them with tea. Interesting about the ghee– I hadn’t thought of its smell one way or another. Guess I’ll have to go give it a sniff soon. Ha! As for the noise–your vivid description of Beirut makes noisy NYC sound like the English Countryside.

  20. Julie says:

    Je te piquerais bien un de ces petits biscuits pour tremper dans mon café!! Ils sont superbes, tu es vraiment douée!!

  21. rabab says:

    bonjour, alors bravo, ça a l’air délicieux!!! mais j’avais quelques questions: je les ai préparé, ils étaient super bons, merci encore, mais, ils se sont étalés comme des crèpes, j’ai rélaisés comme les anneaux, mais ils se sont étalés, donc je voulais savoir si t’avais une idée. deuxièmement, je sais que les ghoraybes fondent un peu en bouche, mais les miens étaient durs, comme des biscuits ou des sablée, ?

  22. Joumana says:

    Il y avait trop de beurre. La pâte était trop travaillée.

  23. Paulette Y Abdow says:

    How can I make Ghoraybeh gluten free?

    Thank You

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