Unlike the espresso chocolate sables, I didn’t have any expectations for these little semolina and almond cookies. I picked them mostly because they call for semolina flour, which I somehow have quite a bit of, and also because of the crackled cookie top in the picture.
I told Caleb I was baking two batches of cookies, these and Dorie’s portofignos, apologizing that he probably wouldn’t like either. I was right about the portofignos (nuts & fruit in cookies aren’t his thing), but wrong about these Moroccan semolina and almond cookies. He declared these better than a Mexican wedding cookie (one of his favorite cookies) and more dangerous than my chocolate chip cookies because they aren’t as rich so it’s easier to eat more of them.
Evidently the name of these cookies, ghoriba bahla, is a play on the fact that the cracks on the surface of the cookies look like smiles/are silly. They look a lot like your traditional crinkle cookie, except the crinkly exterior covers a buttery, nutty shortbread.
Lightly crispy on the exterior, you make a depression with your thumb on top of the rolled cookie balls before baking – not only does it render these extra adorable, but the little dent keeps the cookie from exploding in the oven (see photo below) and also helps you bite through the crisp exterior.
Original source: Dorie’s Cookies
Moroccan Semolina and Almond Cookies
In Morocco, these cookies are called ghoriba or ghriba and are traditionally enjoyed with mint tea. Since these cookies are not very sweet, Dorie recommends pairing them with wine as well, either red or white.
- 1 medium lemon zest only
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (294 grams) semolina flour
- 2 cups (200 grams) almond flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1/4 cup flavorless oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon orange flower water optional
- confectioners' sugar for dredging
Preheat the oven to 350 F, with the racks positioned so as to divide the oven into thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or silicone baking mats).
Put the granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (alternatively, in a large bowl with which you can use a hand mixer). Finely grate the lemon zest over the sugar, then using your fingertips, rub the lemon zest into the sugar until it is moist and fragrant.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the semolina, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Make sure there are no large lumps of almond flour.
Fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs to the lemon-y sugar and beat together on medium speed for 3 minutes. Continuing to run the mixer, pour the oil down the side of the bowl, keep beating for another 3 minutes. Add in the vanilla and the orange flower water (if using), beat another 30 seconds.
Turn off the mixer. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix them in on low speed. Repeat with the other half. Mix only until the dry ingredients just disappear into the dough. The dough should be very thick.
At this point, the dough can be refrigerated for 3-4 days or frozen for up to one month.
Add (or sift, if you're feeling fancy) some confectioners' sugar into a small bowl. Scoop out a level tablespoon of dough, gently rolling it between your palms to form a ball. Dredge the dough ball in sugar and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing each ball 2 inches apart from the others.
With your thumb, gently press down on the center of each cookie to create a slight indent and cause the edges to crack.
Bake for 13-14, rotating the pans from top to bottom and back to front after 6 minutes. The cookies are done when they are just lightly colored, puffed up, firm to the touch, and quite dramatically crackled across the top. If you were to pick them up, you'd see they're golden on their bottoms. Carefully lift the cookies off the baking sheets and transfer them onto parchment or silicone sheet-lined racks to cool.
These cookies will keep for 4 days in an airtight container at room temperature. If the confectioners' sugar seeps into the cookies, you can always dust them with more. Because of the confectioners' sugar coating, these aren't good cookies for freezing post-bake.