Gluten-free Moroccan ghrieba (macaroon) with almond and peanuts

I was looking for an old set of family recipes I gathered when I was still living in Morocco and I stumbled upon this irresistible and chewy ghrieba/ghrouiba.

Ghrieba with almond and peanuts is very easy to make and I won’t even ask you to blanch the nuts yourself as long as you buy them whole and skinned. But if you want to do it all by yourself, it’s rewarding from a taste level and you know that for sure.

The logic of this ghrieba is just like the class ghrieba with almond but we just replace half the weight of homemade almond paste with peanuts.

I’ll leave you with the recipe to make one of the chewiest macaroons or ghriebas known to mankind.

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Ingredients
For about 20 ghriebas depending on the size
Prep : 20 min/ Baking : 18 min by batch
  • 250g almonds blanched
  • 250 g peanuts, blanched
  • 165 g of sugar (can go to 200 g)
  • 1 egg + 1 yolk
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp of jam, sifted (apricot is preferred)
  • 1 tbsp of butter, melted
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder.
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • A good pinch of mastic gum or Meska
  • Essence of Almond (3 to 4 drops if you suspect that the almonds do not have a strong taste)
Finishing and decoration with icing
  • 200 g icing sugar

Preparation

Make-ahead nut task

If you are opting for a traditional way to do everything from scratch. Separately blanch the almonds and the peanuts for 2 minutes in boiling water. Drain and instantly start peeling the skin. Wash about 3 times and drain. Spread each nut in one layer over a kitchen towel and rub to dry them further.
My family usually leaves the trays in a balcony or the garden in sunny days but I place the nuts in a very hot oven which I knock off before they go in. They stay a good 10 minutes and they’re ready.

Next, use a good food processor to turn these nuts to a paste, each one respectively.
Use 1/3 of the sugar for the almonds and 1/3 for the peanuts. Make sure you get a paste or at least a fine powder.

The fact of having a paste helps with the chewiness of the ghriebas, but if you are unlucky with the food processor, double the quantity for apricot jam.

Making ghrieba

Mix mastic gum with 1 teaspoon of caster sugar and crush it with the bottom of a glass or use a pestle and mortar to do the job. It will take you 5 seconds.

Preheat the oven at 170 degrees C and cover 2 baking sheets with baking paper.

Lightly beat the eggs with the remaining of the sugar quantity and the pinch of salt. Break in the almond and peanut paste. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with hands or with a food processor until the mixture looks lump-free. You don’t need to overwork it especially if all ingredients are at room temperature.
Form small balls of approx 2 to 3 cm.
Drop the balls in the icing sugar so they coat from one side and all around. They need to pick as much icing sugar as possible as this plays a major role in the highly sought crackling.

Bake ghriebas

Place the ghriebas on the baking sheets, leaving about 5 to 6 cm gap between each one. Place your thumb right in the middle from the top and slightly apply a pressure. This helps with the final look.

If you have a convection oven, place the tray in the top tier for 5 minutes then place it in the middle for another 5 minutes. Turn the baking tray around to ensure even baking and bake for a few more minutes until the ghriebas look nicely crackled and golden from the sides. The icing sugar will look set and not damp, a sign the ghrieba is ready.

If you are using a traditional oven, bake on position “grill” until it crackles then bake from the bottom. I usually put the 2 positions ON at the same time. This way it bakes in 18 minutes.

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Notes

 
  • Mastic gum or meska is the secret ingredient that gives this delicate taste. The spoon of jam reinforces the chewy texture. Although some also call it gum arabic but I believe there is a difference. The one used in our Moroccan baking usually comes from Greece. Gum arabic is from a species of Acacia, while mastic gum is in the Pistacia family and is related to frankincense.
  • Always keep lemon rinds with the chewy ghriebas in an airtight container as they help them keep their texture and the lemon touch longer.

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A plate of almond macarons decorated with whole almond

Special bakery almond macarons, a French/Moroccan treat

Macarons (I refuse to use add another “o”) have gone viral during the last 7 years. Since I grew up in a mixed Moroccan/French culture these sweets were not a discovery to me. Yes I love how Pierre Herme reinvented these almond sweets. I particularely love the generous filling and the imagination he puts in all of them. How can one not like it! But hasn’t the world gone overdosed with that?

The thing about Macarons is that all the Mediterranean coutries have their own version in a way or another, especially the almond-producing countries.

The other thing about Macarons is that they come in different shapes and textures than the trendy Parisian macarons which have invaded the web and the patisseries. Even in France, the early versions of these almond sweets depends on the region where it originated from. Sometimes, they have the same ingredients, only different in the look or the name. So yes, there is more to the macaron world than the sandwiched coloured ones with a filling.

We do have our array of Macarons which we call “ghrieba” and one of them is a bit like amaretti.Thn we have the walnut version, the coconut version etc…

Now, since Morocco is a former French colony, we happen to have some recipes which we grew up enjoying without thinking they were anything but not Moroccan. So we always had the classic trio of Parisian macarons sold in the posh bakeries (vanilla, chocolate, coffee).

One macaron that you find in Morocco, especially in the old Casablanca bakeries in the middle of forgotten streets is one that we all buy but don’t bother making. So I did my research and tried a few recipes which claim they deliver the same result. Until I tried a French recipe of Lenôtre (THE one and only) where he reproduces Saint Emilion’s macarons. It was it! The same texture, the same taste, the shape, except that we decorate ours with an almond while the French version does not ask for it.

Lenôtre’s website generously shares the recipe and only a few blogs really went on to try it (French ones). The version available in Morocco looks different and rather like this here  only flattened and topped with an almond.

Let’s wait for the rest of the foodies in this world to discover it after they wake up from the Parisian macaron’s fever..They don’t know what they’re missing. It’s not that glossy is the coloured ones but they’re so tasty!

Free-form way almond macarons

The recipe I followed was adapted from Lenôtre page with a support from Chef Damien’s video which is self-explanatory regarding the method. However, I worked around it to get what the Moroccanized macarons look like.

The Moroccan version won’t have alcohol and I reckon they follow the staight forward method consisting of beating the egg whites, mixing and shaping. However, Lenôtre’s method make them last longer.

I reckon the old way of making it involved using a proper ground almond instead of almond powder. I tried this option and I didn’t need to add water as the almonds when turned to paste have a naturally perfect consistency.

Ingredients
Makes 
Prep: 20 min – Baking: 15 min

  • 200 g almond meal/ground almond
  • 75g + 75g of icing sugar
  • A pinch of salt (my addition)
  • 4 drops of almond extract (my addition)
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla sugar (optional)
  • I used 2 tbsps of water ( I replaced alcohol in Lenôtre’s recipe)
  • 10g of honey (I used a neutral one)
  • 60g egg whites (about 2 egg whites)

Preparation

Grind the almond powder along with 75 g of sugar to a finer texture for 15 seconds.

In a pot with a heavy bottom, mix the almond/sugar ix almond meal, sugar, honey, half of the egg whites and half of the water. Place over low heat. Mix with the back of a spatula until you get a sort of a paste. This will remind you of the panade we make for choux pastry.

The mix on the cooker, trying to break it and mix it

Keep mixing for 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a cold glass bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix for about 2 minutes to combine and cool.

The mix after adding all ingredients

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bring 2 small spoons and a glass of water on the side. I use the water to wet the spoons when they start becoming sticky but also when I give the final shape to the macarons.

Not using a piping bag and keeping them “generously” plumped

Make sure you stick your baking sheet to the baking tray with some dough mix in all corners.

Using a piping bag

Preheat the oven at 165 degrees C.

Somehow, make small quenelles with the two spoons, try to turn each quenelle to a sort of ball. Place each one on the baking tray, leaving some space in between.You could also use a piping bag!

Wet your fingers and go around each macaron to give it a nice shape. Flatten it a bit and place a whole almond on the top of each piece.

Bake for 15-17 min until lightly golden.

It keeps well for 2 weeks in an airtight container. You could also freeze them and thaw them 20 min before serving them.

Note

Follow the method shown in Chef Damien’s video with his guest. You won’t fail!

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