Monday, December 20, 2010

Sweet Destination: Algeria

Pecan Cookies

Have you ever wondered why I named this blog, my flickr nickname and even my small, "never taken seriously" home business, SweetAlmond? It all started a few years ago, when I decided to start a small business from home: selling cookies and baked goods. My husband helped me build a website, then it was time to choose a name for that website/business. Since I was concentrating on selling Algerian specialties, Almonds were the first thing that hit my mind. Almonds are the base for most of our sweets. Sweets, Almonds......SWEETALMOND! There it is!

Almond Cookies

Eid Cookies

Algerian sweets are very elegant and tasty. They are sweet and nutty. A blend of wonderful flavorings: nuts, vanilla, lemon zest, orange blossom water or rose water. Some are dipped in honey syrup, others beautifully iced and decorated with almond paste flowers. There are so many varieties. New amazing designs, stunning colors and delicate decorations keep popping out. Every time I visit Algeria, I feel so "yesterday" when it comes to these delicacies.

Dziriettes / Almond Tartlets

Pecan Cookies (Mkhabez)

Today's recipe is called "Mkhabez", which translates to "breaded". I know it sounds funny and has nothing to do with sweets. I have no idea where this cookie got its name from, and why such a weird name! Actually, most of our cookies have bizarre names, and even some savory dishes do: "drunk and falling in the stairs", "the judge and his team", and many more interesting ones, let's just leave this discussion for another post!
Back to the recipe. This cookie is very simple: just mix nuts, sugar and the flavor of your choice. Shape, bake for 10 minutes, and voila! All that is left is making the egg white icing and ice the cookies.
You can use any kind of nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans or even pistachios. You can also add lemon zest (especially with the almonds) or any flavoring of your choice.

Mkhabez (Pecan Cookies)

300 g pecans (or any other type of nuts)
80 g granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1- Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes. Let the nuts cool for 5 minutes.
2- Reduce the oven temperature to 300F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3-In a food processor, combine the pecans and sugar and pulse until finely ground.
4- Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and add the vanilla and salt.
5- Start adding the beaten egg little by little until you form a dough. It shouldn't be sticky. If you feel that that dough is a bit dry, add more beaten egg, 1 tsp a time. Do this step slowly because this dough will quickly turn wet and sticky and this would make shaping the cookies hard, and even affect the final result.
6- Roll out the dough on a very lightly floured surface to about 1 inch thickness. Cut out shapes using a cookie cutter (any shape would be fine). Arrange the cookies on the baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Leave the cookies to cool before icing.


1 egg white
1 to 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vegetable oil

Lightly whisk the egg white. Start adding the sugar little by little until you reach a white shiny icing. The icing should not be too runny nor too stiff. Add the vanilla, lemons juice and oil. You can add food coloring at this point if you would like.
Dip each cookie, one by one, in the icing and arrange them on a cookie rack (with a pan underneath it) to let the excess icing drip. Decorate with pecan halves.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy to be here!

Tiramisu Cupcakes

How are you dear readers and followers? I am very happy to come back! what happened you may wonder? let's just say some health related issues kept me away. Nothing to worry about, just going through some changes :)
I definitely missed blogging, baking and photography. I Missed all of you, fellow friends. To everyone who follows my blog and always waits for new recipes and pictures, I say sorry for being absent for so long. I am sure all of us go through stages where we find ourselves unable to surmount life's demands, and I am sure you would forgive my brief disappearance.


Although I have been inactive lately, I was following amazing works from different flickrer/ bloggers. I got the ispiration for these cupcakes from the amazing Aran of Cannelle Et Vanille. I had mascarpone, wanted to have Tiramisu but since it takes some time to make I thought about making something quicker, cupcakes! I made few changes to the recipe in order make it more "tiramisu-ish", I added some coffee to the batter. I also made a mascarpone cream icing flavored with vanilla and coffee instead of the whipped ganache. The icing turned amazingly light and tasty....
I hope you try this recipe and I also hope everyone is enjoying this time of the year and the coming holidays!

Tiramisu Cupcakes

Tiramisu Cupcakes (adapted from Cannelle Et Vanille)

Cupcakes (makes 11 to 12 cupcakes)

1 stick of butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 tsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda

1- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with baking cups and set aside.
2- Combine the chocolate and the coffee. Melt over a double boiler. Set aside to cool.
3- In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and the sugars. Whisk until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Mix in the melted chocolate.
4-Add the vanilla and half the buttermilk. Add the flour and baking soda then the remaining buttermilk.
5- Divide the batter between the liners and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Mascarpone Cream

300 g mascarpone cheese, room temperature
150 ml heavy cream, chilled
80 g sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 tsp coffee extract

Whip the heavy cream and sugar until soft pick. Add the mascarpone and whisk until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and coffee extract.

Pipe icing on the cooled cupcakes and decorate with shaved chocolate. enjoy!