Wednesday, February 28, 2007

mizrachi-style mohn cookies

this is a great recipe for the upcoming holiday of purim which commemorates the triumph of the jews of the ancient kindgom of persia over an edict to annihilate them set forth by the evil vizier haman. the date of the proposed demise of the jews was chosen through the drawing of lots (lottery) or "pur-im" with different dates on them and explains why this holiday is called the feast of lots. what? you didn't think there'd also be "lots" of food involved? think again! this is both feast and festival.

luckily, this plan was foiled and the jews of what is now modern-day iran and environs were saved due to the valiant efforts of the heroine of the story, queen esther. every year, we listen to the recorded history in the often elaborately decorated megilat ester [scroll of esther] and make noise and a ruckus when the evil haman's name is mentioned. both children and adults dress up in masquerade to commemorate and celebrate this happy holiday. it is a major celebration in israel and perhaps the happiest one of the jewish calendar of holidays. it's also the one time when jewish adults are "encouraged" [responsibly, of course] to drink alcohol in copious amounts.

the following recipe comes from another friend of mine who actually escaped from iran, alone as a teenager, in the 1980's making his way first to israel and then to canada. it is a cookie both he and his family eat at jewish holidays and is a mizrachi (middle eastern) version of the popular ashkenazi mohn [poppyseed] cookie. it only seems appropriate to post something from the part of the world where the whole story of purim took place centuries ago. it is also perfect for those people who cannot consume flour; it is completely gluten free.

poppy seeds are very popular in many cakes, cookies and pastries for the purim holiday and these are no exception. this particular cookie is often likened to a type of shortbread and can be made with margarine or butter, or even oil. traditionally, they are made with rose water and cardamom. my friend's mom even adds a tsp or so of crumbled dried rose petals sometimes. dried rose petals for cooking are available at iranian or middle eastern stores. i prefer these cookies the way i show below, however. it is possible to flavour them the way you prefer — you can use lemon juice and zest as one option, too, if you don't like or have orange flower water.

rice flour poppyseed cookies
naan-e berenji


1 stick margarine or butter (1/4 lb), softened
2 eggs
2/3 c *sugar

2 tsp orange flower water [try to use it; it makes a big difference]
3 tsp water
1/2 - 1 tsp poppyseeds
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder, rounded

2 1/2 - 2 3/4 c **rice flour (i use bob's redmill)

1/4 c poppy seeds for rolling cookies

*you can use just regular white sugar but my friend's mother says to measure it and then put it in a processor or blender and grind it finer for a few minutes. some naan berenji versions also use confectioner's/icing sugar.

**no rice flour? you can grind your own in a coffee grinder; just make sure to sift it well. it should be very finely ground.


cream the margarine or butter and sugar until it is well blended. grinding the sugar helps with the incorporation.

add the eggs and blend well. it will look curdled after this addition.

mix in the salt and the baking powder. also add the water and orange flower or rose water.

add the and poppy seeds and mix again.

now blend in the rice flour.

it should be very thick. take note that it is still a soft dough and delicate. doesn't it remind you of vanilla ice cream?

measure out 35 portions of about 2 tsps each. at this point you can continue if you are comfortable working with a softer dough or you can refrigerate them for about 20 to 30 minutes. i like making them right away as i find the edges tend to crack after they've been refrigerated. also, measuring out the portions helps to make the shaping go faster and lets them chill more effectively. it is worth the few minutes preparation.

heat the oven t0 350F.

fill a small dish with the 1/4 c of poppy seeds and set it next to you. take a small ball and roll it so it is round.
now dip the top half into the poppy seeds.

place this on a parchment lined baking sheet or lightly greased one.

press down on the ball with your fingers gently to expand it to make a round which is about 1/4 inch thick.

do this to the rest and leave space between them (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches).

bake them for exactly 20 minutes or until they are very lightly browned at the edges.

place them on a rack to cool. they are still somewhat delicate at this point and need to cool fully before eating them. they will firm up further when completely cooled.



ByTheBay said...

Oh, how gorgeous! I can't wait to make these.

burekaboy — said...

BTB - they really are as good as they look, especially for a gluten free cookie. i've been making them for years instead of the regular mohn ones which require rolling out and cutting. hope you enjoy them :D they're great for the seudah if you're making one.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

They are very dainty and wonderful looking! I bet they even taste better!!!
Poppy seeds are always great when used in any recipe. Until now, I have never made cookies with rice flour, although I have a few recipes on stock...
Thanks for the great story behind the cookies.

Beenzzz said...

These looks wonderful, BB. Very delicate and pretty!

Allergic Girl® said...

yay a GF cookie and for purim. you rock BB!

Chanita Harel חני הראל said...

Happy Purim !
חג שמח :-)

Jihan said...

I have never seen anything like this before. Is Poppy Seed a sweet something?

burekaboy — said...

rosa - i love poppy seeds in pastries, too. try out using the rice flour :) you'll probably like it. it's used in the regular type shortbread cookies too and makes a difference in the outcome, i find.
beenzzz - thanks as usual :))

allergic girl - glad you like; happy purim.

chanit - חג שמח גם לך

PJ - the cookies are sweet because of the sugar in them but poppy seeds don't have a sweet taste to them. hard to explain what they taste like. try getting a bagel in Toronto with poppy seeds and you'll see how they are. they are mostly used in baked goods. in indian cooking there are white ones, too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you burekaboy,for this recipe. When I was a child my father was a general in the US Army and was very close to a general under the Shah of Iran. Often when I would visit the son of my fathers friend I would spend time with his children and became very close to them. Once I was there and cookies like these were offered us. I remember some were scented with rose water and others with orange flower water and others with cardamon and sweetened with honey. Sadly my friends did not survive the fall of the Shah. For years I mourned the loss of my friends. Then I was invited to a wedding announcement party of some Iranian friends and they had these cookies and as I took a bite of them I recalled those days vividly. Thank you again.