German Amerikaner cookies

German Amerikaners or black and white cookies

[su_spacer]

When I lived in Germany, I got so addicted to Amerikaners or black and white cakey cookies  that I had to buy them from the bakery every other day.

So every time I miss my time there, these are one of the recipes I bake.

I understood that Amerikaners were brought by Americans (hence the name) at the end of WWII. They’re known as black and white cookies in their original country.

Amerikaners are so easy to bake, which is a bonus. However, they’re best consumed within 48 hrs at max. They’re are their very best the same day you bake them.

Giant Amerikaners I used to buy in Germany

Ingredients 
Makes about 15 medium Amerikaners
Prep: 10 min. Baking: 15 min

For the cookie 

  • 100g butter at room temperature
  • 100g of caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla sugar or 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of lemon zest (optional)
  • 2 eggs, standard size
  • 4 tbspsmilk
  • 200 g of flour
  • 50 g cornflour
  • 2 tsps of baking powder

For the white icing

  • 40g icing sugar
  • About 1 teaspoon of lemon juice (icing should have a thick consistency)

For the black icing

  • 40g icing sugar, sifted
  • About 3 leveled tablespoons of 100% cocoa powder, sifted
  • About 1 teaspoon of lemon juice (icing should have a thick consistency)
 
Preparation

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla sugar until creamy. I do add lemon zest but it’s optional.

Add the eggs one at a time then the milk while whisking.

In another bowl mix the flour, cornstarch and baking powder, add the powder mixture to the liquid batter, whisk until you have a nice smooth and homogeneous paste. The texture is somewhere like Victoria sponge or bundt cake batter.

Preheat oven to 180 ° C and line up a large baking sheet with baking paper.

Either scoop some of the mix with an icing scoop and place on the baking sheet or use two spoons to do the job. Leave some space between each one as they slightly spread.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until just nicely golden from the edges and just about from the center.

You should expect the dough to slightly spread in the beginning then inflate from the center as it reaches the end of baking time.

Set aside on the bumpy side to cool.

Icing

Prepare each icing separately by gradually adding the lemon juice to the dry ingredients while stirring to a thick consistency. Cover them both until you need them.

Smear the white icing on half of the flat side and try to keep the edges neat. Do the same for the black icing.

You can also have an all white iced cookie or an all black version. Also, you may make patterns as shown here on Dr. Oetker’s site.

Enjoy!

[su_spacer]


3 types of Noisettes or Boule au chocolat found in Moroccan dairy shops or old-style bakeries

Noisette or boule au chocolat, the Mahlaba’s leftover cake

[su_spacer]

Noisette or boule au chocolat is one of the names given to this cake ball which basically have no fixed recipe. It’s commonly found in old bakeries and Mahlabas  (dairy shops widely available in Moroccan cities and one of the most important part of the Moroccan street food world).

 

Recycling cakes

The recipe is all about using cake and cream leftovers which can be moistened with a vanilla sugar syrup then shaped just as big as a golf ball. It is then finished with a sprinkle of crushed peanuts or chocolate vermicelli.

Noisette chocolate cake balls can be anywhere from creamy soft to dense as far as texture is concerned. Even the same mahlaba or bakery may not reproduce the same outcome consistently. You can even use stale cake crumbs and bind them with a cheap chocolate buttercream or whipped cream. Add some crushed blanched and toasted almonds or peanuts for fanciness.

I used to buy a version from mahlaba with a thin layer of whipped cream between the cake mix and chocolate layer and I’d say this used to be my favourite.

For the sake of this post, I have bought 3 chocolate cake balls from different mahlabas which are literally lined up you would think it’s the same shop. Yet, the 3 cakes had nothing to do with each others. 

So if you are familiar with this chocolate cake ball many of us in Moroccan cities have tried at some point in their lives and you want to reproduce something similar, I suggest the following guidelines:

How to recycle old cakes

– Get a cheap vanilla flavouring option and make a simple sugar syrup. The syrup is mostly to keep the cake mix ball moist.
– Melt a cheap chocolate for coating, 
– If your usual version of cake ball has chocolate buttercream, it must be the cheapest drinking cocoa powder mix you should be picking for this recipe,
– For crunchiness; sprinkle toasted peanuts, not even blanched fried almonds (Moroccans will definitely understand me in this one),
– Use a spongy cake for optimal results but if you are used to a denser texture, you will be more likely better off with bundt cake or a buttery cake for the mix. 

The binding of crumbs and  finishing of this cake ball depends on the version you’ve been used to: whipped cream, melted dark chocolate, crunchy nuts, chocolate vermicelli..

[su_spacer]


A tray of Moroccan walnut macaroons or ghrieba

Gluten-free Moroccan walnut ghrouiba or ghrieba (Macarons)

[su_spacer]

Ghrouiba is a sort of round-shaped cookie which is usually compared to macaroons. They come in different varieties and range from soft to shortbread-like in term of texture.

In Morocco, we have wide array of Ghrouibas, which by the way can be gluten-free. Please check other recipes which I have posted before under “Sweet Moroccan biscuits and co”.

You can use almonds with skin on for half of the almond quantity. The almonds are there as a base but not for their taste. So even if they don’t taste very almond-y, do not be tempted to add almond extract

A tray of Moroccan walnut macaroons or ghrieba

Moroccan gluten-free walnut ghrieba. Credit @Nada Kiffa

One of my top favourites is this crackling walnut ghrouiba or ghrouiba bel guergua’. There is an indulging and rewarding chewiness trapped underneath that light crust that will make everyone happy. It’s again a treat that goes well with coffee or tea besides the goodness from its ingredients.

This is at least a 40 years old family recipe. You will notice the special use of apricot jam and lemon zest in this version unlike the common version found everywhere. In our family, we tend to add these two in most of the nutty ghrouibas to maintain a chewiness and freshness for longer.

These ghrouibas are best consumed 48 hrs after being prepared because the flavours will have time to mature and complete each other.

This is a very easy recipe where you only need a bowl or two, a food processor and a baking tray.

It’s freezer-friendly (you know I like that!). However, you really need to pick good walnut halves, not the rancid or bitter stuff. And like any nut, heat your oven at 170 degrees and give them a new life by roasting them for about 8 minutes without burning them.

A set of photos for Moroccan walnut ghrieba showing pre-baking and storing steps

Adding lemon skin while storing a chewy ghrieba keeps them frangrant and chewy. Credit :Nada Kiffa

Ingredients

Makes  +30 ghrouibas
Prep: 12 min (active time) – Baking: 12- 15 min

  •  500 g ground almond (blanched and skined then slightly dried with a towel), see notes
  • 500 g ground walnuts (slightly coarse and not too fine)
  • 400 g caster sugar, see notes
  • 40 g of melted butter
  • 3 heaped tbsp of fine apricot jam
  • 7g baking powder
  • 2 small eggs + 1 egg yolk or 2 standard eggs
  • About 5 drops of mastic gum, ground with a tsp of sugar (by using to bottom of a glass to crush it or a pestle & mortar)
  • 7 g vanilla sugar or equivalent
  • 1 tbsp of lemon zest (optional)
  • A good pinch of salt

To decorate

  • About 400 g of icing sugar layered in a tray/ plate to form a layer about 5 mm thick

 

Preparation

  • Make sure you slightly roast the walnuts as mentioned above. Set it aside to cool. Rub it with your hands to get rid of excess skin.
  • In a food processor, whizz up the walnut to have a coarse texture (not too fine). Place in a bowl.
  • Whizz up the almonds along with the sugar, the mastic gum, lemon zest. Try to bring the mix to a paste.
  • Combine all ingredients with your hands or using the same food processor.
  • Heat the oven at 170 degrees C.

Shaping the Ghrouibas

  • Form dough balls between 3 and 5 cm depending how you like it (small or medium size). The dough is somewhat sticky. We usually keep a bowl of orange blossom water on the side to dip in our fingers. You could also use the back of a knife to scrape off the sticky dough.
  • If orange blossom water is expensive in your area, use oil or water to lubricate/humidify your hands.
  • Take each ball with your fingers holding it from the edges bit towards the bottom, dip the top and edges in the icing sugar. Carry on with the rest of the dough.
  • Before getting these ghrouibas out of the icing sugar plate, make sure you slightly press them for 2 reasons:

1/ to slightly flatten them.
2/ to get more icing sugar sticking at their surface.

Baking and storing

Traditionally, for all nutty ghrouibas, we usually bake a couple to test a few things. One of them is the consistency of the dough in case it needs a bit more liquid (via eggs) or more dry ingredients (which we then add by tablespoon). These two will tell us how the ghrouiba will spread in the oven and how it will crack. If it’s to our satisfaction, we bake the whole batch as planned

  • Bake the ghrouibas until you see a bit of crust forming. I also pick one ghrouiba to check the texture: It should have a bit of a crust while the inside is bouncy and chewy but not runny.
  • Usually, it takes anywhere between 12 to 15 min depending on the size of the balls and the size of your oven. For old traditional ovens, we slightly open the door during the baking process to let the steam out. For convection oven, you could do it once or twice after 8 minutes of baking.
  • Once cool, store the Ghrouibas in a cookie box or freeze them. Thaw them before serving.
  • I like these ghrouibas 2 days after preparing them. Ideally, they’ll be fine within 2 weeks if the weather is not too hot. Place any extra ghrouibas in the freezer and thaw them about 15 min before eating them.
 
Running a baking test in my auntie’s old oven.
[su_spacer]

Moroccan savoury pinwheel fekkas

[su_spacer]

Savoury fekkas biscuits come in different shapes and are usually small in size. We love to have them around especially for a family gossiping session.
Left to right: oregano, black pepper and cheese, grain-mustard and cheese,
harissa and cheese
Moroccan wedding ceremonies usually have large round tables and people gather around them awaiting for the party to start, so they would have roasted almonds and savoury fekkas to nibble on until the waiters start serving the list of sweets and main food planned for the big night. Again, it’s another gossiping opportunity while people are gathering.

 

Another variety of savoury nibbles during a wedding ceremony,
waiting for the party to start

 

The big pinwheels with oregano/thyme/cheese fekkas (see picture below) are actually 6 cm in diameter but they could be 3 times smaller. I made them for a small group of teething toddler and they loved them (well, they nibbled on a couple each) and they were easy to grab by tiny fingers due to their size.
Being an eggless recipe, my baby boy was also able to enjoy them. The Harissa piwheels (below, right) are more for grown-ups as they are hot while the wholegrain mustard version (below, in the middle) are fairly balanced without the heat of a mustard but rather its vinegar-y taste.

All fekkas pinwheels biscuits are made using the same dough. Their dough is freezer-friendly as you can roll them ahead of time. cut them and bake them the same day you need them. It’s really an easy recipe.

Ingredients
Serves 16-20 
Prep: 20 min – Baking: 12-15 min
For the main dough
  • 500g of all purpose flour
  • 220g of butter at room temperature
  • 60 g of grated cheese (Edam, cheddar)
  • 1 cube of bouillon or 1 tbps of bouillon granules
  • 30 g of cream cheese (laughing cow, kirri, philadelphia)
  • 60 ml of milk or water, cold or at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of crushed black pepper or to taste
For the pinwheel effect
  • 100 g of grated cheese (Edam or cheddar)
  • 4 tbps of dried thyme/oregano (for version 1)
  • 6 tbps of wholegrain mustard (for version 2)
  • 2 tbps of harissa (for version 3)
For the work surface
  • Flour
  • Fine semolina flour (replace with flour)

 


Preparation
With the tip of your finger or using a food processor with paddle attachment, mix flour with all ingredients except the milk. You will have a sort of crumbly effect. Add the milk and combine. Do not overwork the dough.
Divide the dough into 3. Flatten each part in a cling film about 1 cm thick and seal 2 parts while you roll one. Each part will be used for a different filling.
To avoid adding a lot of flour, use sheets of baking paper and roll the dough in between as thin as 2 mm. If you don’t happen to have baking paper, you may use the flour and fine semolina flour but make sure you delicately dust the surface while rotating the dough by a quarter turn every time you roll it, making sure it does not stick.
Adding the cheese with the mustard and harissa reduces any risk of sogginess
For the Herby version
Crush the dried herbs between the palm of your hands and generously  sprinkle the dough all the way to the edges and corners. Sprinkle a layer of grated cheese and crushed black pepper. Cut the edges to form a neat rectangle or square.
Roll the dough tight to form a roll or a tube. Save it in the freezer while you prepare the other versions.
For the mustard or harissa versions
Spread the pastes all over the dough and all the way to the edges and corners. Sprinkle a layer of grated cheese and crushed black pepper. Cut the edges to form a neat rectangle or square.
Roll the dough tight to form a roll or a tube.
Shaping fekkas pinwheels
For small fekkas, freeze the roll while you preheat the oven to 170/180 degrees C and cover the baking sheets with baking paper. After 10 mins in the freezer, use a sharp knife to cut 2mm round-shaped pinwheels.

 

For large fekkas, cut 3-4 mm thick pinwheels and place them on a baking paper, leaving some space between them. Cover with another baking paper and gently roll them all together. Rotate the lower baking paper one quarter towards you and roll again to even the sides. This method allows you to have big pinwheels with even surface.
Bake fekkas pinwheels about 12-15 cms until just about golden from the edges and cooked through from the middle.
Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Notes

 

  • Try an anchovy paste for another version of these pinwheels, or a tapenade. Make sure you add grated cheese to avoid sogginess.
  • If you don’t feel like making pinwheels, try this version of Moroccan savoury biscuits with olives.
[su_spacer]