Manenas Cookies

Manenas Cookies


Whole seeds are used liberally throughout the Middle East as ornamentation on baked goods, says Juliet Borowiec, who became immersed in the culture
after living and traveling there extensively with her journalist
husband, Andrew. Now living in Cyprus, she learned to make manenas from
her Cairo-born mother-in-law. Balls of buttery pastry are filled with
dried fruits and nuts and crowned with sesame seeds.

Yield: 24 cookies • Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus baking time

Shelf life: at least 3 days

For the filling:

5 ounces mixed dried apricots and dates

3 ounces mixed shelled almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios

1½ tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon orange flower water

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

generous pinch nutmeg

zest of 1 small tangerine, finely grated, divided

For the pastry:

8 ounces all-purpose flour

5½ ounces (11 tablespoons)unsalted butter, softened

¼ cup superfine sugar

1 large egg

1 tablespoon orange flower water

½ teaspoon salt

tangerine zest reserved from filling

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon milk

½ cup lightly toasted sesame seeds

1. Heat oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Prepare the filling: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a
steel chopping blade, combine the apricots, dates, nuts, butter, orange
flower water, salt, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg and half of the tangerine
zest. Pulse until the mixture resembles fine meal. Remove, roll the
filling into 24 one-inch balls, and set aside.

3. Prepare the
pastry: In a bowl, blend the flour and butter together until the mixture resembles fine meal. Add the sugar, egg, orange flower water, salt and
the tangerine zest remaining from the filling, and mix until well
blended. Divide the dough in half. Roll each portion into a log about 12 inches long, and cut into 12 equal slices. Roll each slice into a ball
and make a generous indentation with your thumb in the center of each. 

4. Place a ball of filling in each dough slice center. Work dough around
the filling, covering it completely. Chill dough balls until firm, 5 to
10 minutes. With the tines of a fork, press a design around the outside
edge and on the top of the pastry. Brush the upper half of each cookie
with the beaten egg yolk mixture, dip the top into the sesame seeds, and place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
Bake until lightly colored, 30 to 35 minutes, remove to a rack to cool,
and store in an airtight container.

NUTRITIONAL DATA (per cookie): Calories: 150; Cholesterol: 30 mg; Sodium: 55 mg; Fat: 10 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g

To get more Cookie Love (and recipes):
Basler Brunsli

Joanna Pruess is a regular contributor to Specialty Food Magazine.