Here I come with an ultimate traditional Moroccan delicacy from Fez: The cornes de gazelle or just as we say in Moroccan; Kaab eghzal (or kaab el ghazal).
There are few versions of these sweets in Morocco, some come with the dough wrapping the almond paste and some don’t (almond flakes, sesame seeds or icing sugar are used instead).
The Moroccan almond paste called “Aaq’da” has nothing to do with shop-bought marzipan: we make it from scratch by parboiling the almonds, blanching them, letting them dry then grinding them with sugar and flavourings to a paste consistency.
Ideally, a mincer is used to get the best texture but a good food processor will do.
The usual flavourings are lemon zest, arabic gum powder, cinnamon…
As for the dough, there are versions with egg yolk in it but on a traditional ground, I’m omitting it here.
While ka’ab leghzal has a standard shape, people get crafty with their finishing touch and many forms have emerged in the last 30 years..
|This is a ka’ab leghzal from Tetouan where people get crafty in shaping their sweets
|This round-shaped version using the same dough and filling is finished rather like a
traditional Rabat sweet called Rabat’s ka’ak (Ka’ak Rbati)
|At the back of the bracelet-like cookies, there is another shape called “El khenjar” standing for dagger
My little auntie Zineb made these when I was in Fes last week
Makes 40 + pieces
Prep: 20 min (without almond treatment)/ Cooking: 25 min
Almond paste filling
– 500g of blanched (boiled), peeled almond and dried
– 2 tbsp of butter
– 250g of fine sugar (not icing sugar)
– 3 tbsps orange blossom water
– ½ tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
– A pinch of mastic gum powder (meska)
– ¼ tsp of smen, the Moroccan cured and aged butter (optional)
– 1 tsp finely grated orange zest (optional, not to combine with cinnamon)
– 300g of all purpose flour
– 3 tbsp of melted clarified butter
– A pinch of salt
– 60 ml of orange blossom water (or just enough to form a hard workable dough)
– 40 ml, lukewarm water (+ 20 ml in case flour is highly absorbent)
– 1 pinch of salt
– 1 tsp of honey or 1 tbsp of icing sugar
– Vegetable oil for greasing the baking sheets and the work surface.
Mix all ingredients except lukewarm water which you may add based on the need. Combine and continue to work the dough until you get an elastic and smooth texture. Cover it with cling film as it drying on contact with air. Let sit at room temperature for 1h or 2.
The almond paste
Grind almonds with sugar, cinnamon and arabic gum to a paste. add in the other ingredient and combine well.
Using your hands, roll 1 tbsp of almond paste into a perfect ball then start shaping it as in the picture (it needs to be sharp from the corners and “fat” at the middle). Repeat until you finish all the batch of almond paste.
Assembling cornes de gazelles
Divide dough in half and cover the rest with the cling film.
Roll the dough in a lightly greased work surface until it becomes transparent. Place the almond paste shaped just like in the picture or slightly thinner (if you want smaller version).
Place the almond paste in the middle of the dough.
Fold the dough over the almond paste to form a kind of crescent moon (please see picture). Grease your fingers with the oil and press slightly the bottom of the cookie and with more pressure going to the top. The corne de gazelle should be a bit fatty from the base to stand and slightly thinner going towards the top.
Cut the remaining dough with “na’oura” or equivalent for a fancy shape, or just a knife.
Transfer them to greased baking sheets; keep about 2 cm minimum between the pieces. Let them “relax” overnight as the dough needs to become waxy. It’s a important tip so the ka’ab leghzal cookies keep their shape.
Prick each ka’ab leghzal 3 or 4 times from top and on the back side with a needle so the evaporation does not burst the dought. (you might as well use a wooden skewer but never a fork).
You can shape other cookies with the left over if you feel like.. We made some nibbles…
And some Mhancha -shaped cookies…
Baking cornes de gazelles
Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C until slightly golden for approximately 15 minutes (depending on ovens).
Let cool and keep sealed in air tight container (box) for up to 2 weeks. My little auntie Zineb says it tastes even better when the cornes de gazelle age, with a lemon zest in the box.
Enjoy at any moment of the day!
Ka’ab leghzal is freezer-friendly, just thaw for 10 minutes before serving.
Note: for a gluten-free version of ka’ab leghzal, omit the dough, back the croissant-shaped almond mix for 10 minutes at low temperature and then generously coat them with icing sugar.