Moorish Moroccan shortbread: Ghrieba Msseoussa
Unlike many Moroccan ghriebas (sort of macaroons) which come on the chewy and soft side of the baked good, today’s traditional ghrieba from the North of Morocco is more on the shortbread-like category with an indulging melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Butter, oil along with nuts gives a delicate texture to ghrieba.
Before going further with the recipe, I must explain the meaning of “msseouess”. It’s actually the state of something damaged by worms and therefore reaching a weak crumbly state. Do not let this rather unappealing description put you off. This remains one of the best shortbread recipes you may come across.
Moroccan ghrieba msseoussa or ghriebat el khalit (khalit in Arabic refers to mixture) is a rich mix of leftover nuts. Its other name is halwat laqita (bastard sweet) due to the use of leftover nuts hanging around with no major “rule”. However, to make it easy on you, I’ve put equivalent weight to all the nut components.
Ghrieba msseoussa is a nutty shortbread with Moroccan flavours perfect for Eid and other festive days
It’s worth mentioning that apart from raisins and sesame seeds, the rest of the nuts listed in the ingredients are interchangeable and replaceable. Again, the idea behind this recipe is to use leftover nuts from Achoura/Ashura (a Muslim version of Christmas in Morocco).
Having said that, nothing stops you from making it anytime you fancy a treat.
I find these ghriebas very delicate as they break while still warm. So I urge you to handle them with care.
You may need to wait until they cool completely although the icing sugar may not stick very well in this instance.
I tend to wait for 10 minutes after they are out of the oven and give them a good layer of icing sugar, sifted above them while they are still in the baking tray. When they’re cool I move them to the icing sugar plate so they also get covered from the bottom.
Just find a way to have them all covered, whichever way you go.
Storing ghrieba msseoussa
Although they are usually kept for a few weeks in an airtight container at room temperature, I found that keeping them in the fridge is not a bad idea and they even freeze and last longer. This also help with their texture as they hold a bit before melting in the mouth.
Moroccan shortbread with nuts: Ghrieba msseouessa
- 75 gram almonds fried or oven-roasted and cooled
- 75 gram raisins or sultanas rinsed with hot water
- 75 gram sesame seeds unhulled
- 75 gram walnuts kernels ideally oven-roasted for a few minutes and cooled
- 75 ml vegetable oil
- 125 gram butter soft at room temperature
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 4 gram baking powder
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 3 tbsp icing sugar
- 3 tbsp orange blossom water
- 300 gram flour sifted
- 300 gram icing sugar
- Toast the sesame seeds and set aside.
- Mix raisins with orange blossom water and set aside for 30 min, covered.
- Blend or chop them to a rough texture. Set aside.
- Crush the fried or oven-baked almonds to a rough texture, not too fine but not big either. You could use peanuts instead
- Do the same for the rest of the nuts.
Make the ghrieba mix
- Mix butter with sugar to a creamy texture. You could use a whisk or your hands
- Add the rest of the ingredients leaving the flour last.
- Do not overwork the dough, you just need to bring it together and combine it homogeneously.
Shaping and baking ghrieba msseoussa
- Preheat the oven at 170 C. Line baking sheets with baking paper.
- Shape ghriebas: roll small dough balls and flatten them no less than 1.5 cm thick. Ghrieba should be between 5 to 7 cm in diameter.
- Line ghriebas slightly far from each other.
- Use a cookie press and slightly press on top. If you do not have it, use the forks or those pastry tweezers to pinch the top of each ghrieba. Use the end of a manual whisk to get that rose-shape.
- Place the baking tray in the middle of the oven. Bake for 15 to 18 min until slightly golden.
- Let cool.
- Meanwhile, fill a deep plate with half of the icing sugar, delicately place a few ghriebas and sift some icing sugar on top. Do the same for the rest of the batch.