It was a picture in a French magazine that won my heart and set me to dreaming about what these cookies would be like. In the picture, the sugar-coated cookies were cracked — I later learned that in Morocco the cracks are often called smiles — and you could see the slightly rough crumb in the crevices. I couldn’t tell if the cookies, sometimes called ghrieba, sometimes ghoriba, would be airy or substantial, but I was betting on a shortbread-like texture, and I was right. I was also betting on a certain very agreeable graininess because of the semolina. Semolina falls somewhere on the texture continuum between whole wheat our and cornmeal; it’s golden and it’s high-gluten, which is why it’s the flour of choice for pasta. In a cookie, it provides a bit of bite and a slight grit, the kind of presence the French would call sablé, or sandy. And then there’s the almond flour, for flavor, of course, but it also adds another mysterious layer to the cookie’s surprising elegance.
So, semolina, huh? I found some in a local supermarket (from Russia of all places) but Bob’s Red Mill also does one that you should be able to find in store or you can easily buy it online. I pondered using regular flour but now I have tasted the cookies, it definitely needs the texture the semolina brings.
These cookies are definitely something a little different – I used Meyer lemon zest which really brought a lot of brightness. The dough came together very easily and felt light and airy when I was rolling them in my hands (I used a small cookie scoop). When they came out of the oven though, I was worried they would be a little bit too dense as they felt heavy removing them from the baking tray.
Dorie suggests these cookies would go well with a cup of mint tea or even a glass of wine because they are not super sweet. I’m not sure I’d have a glass of wine with them but they were a perfect “light” bite at the end of a big dinner. I kind of like their rustic elegance too!
Get the recipe for Dorie Greenspan’s Moroccan Semolina and Almond Cookies on page 155 of Dorie’s Cookies.
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Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of “Dorie’s Cookies” for review purposes. I was not asked to write about the book, nor am I being compensated for doing so. All opinions 100% my own.
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