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.