Arabic Cardamom Shortbread Cookies (Ghorayebah)
Ghorayebah, also sometimes known as the “Queen’s Bracelets”, are fragile shortbread-like cardamom cookies. They derive their rather quaint name from their shape – each cookie is shaped from strand of dough, where the two ends are joined together and a blanched almond is pressed in at this joint. Thus the finished cookie looks like a bracelet with an almond “gem”. These cookies are sometimes served during Purim and thought to represent Queen Esther’s bracelets.
Ghorayebah is made through out the Middle East and there are many variations to the recipe. Some recipes use orange flower water or rose water, while some use pistachios instead of almonds. Some recipes call for use of almond extract and even suggest that the use of cardamom is optional.
While I have no idea which of these is the authentic recipe, I made some of these delicious cookies using the following recipe and as I had run out of almonds, I used chironji/ charoli (small nuts also known as cudpah nuts/ cudpah almonds). These nuts taste somewhat like almonds. I also shaped them into flat rounds rather than “bracelets”
- In a pan, heat the ghee. Add the sugar and keep mixing till the sugar dissolves. Take this off the heat. When it has cooled, add the cardamom powder, salt, baking soda and flour and knead everything gently to a soft non-sticky dough. If the dough is sticky add a little flour. The dough may seem a bit crumbly but this is alright as long as the dough holds its shape when held.
- Shape the dough into walnut sized (about an inch in diameter) balls. To do this take the dough and clench it in your palm as if squeezing the dough, couple of times. This will make the dough clump together and take the shape of a ball, roughly. Now lightly roll the dough into round balls. Flatten gently and press down an almond half in the centre of each cookie. As I mentioned earlier, I used chirongi instead of almonds. Place on a greased sheet, leaving a little space between cookies. These cookies don't spread but puff up a bit. Bake at 180C for about 20minutes.
- When done the cookies would have lost their whitish colour and just start becoming faintly golden. It is very important that the cookies do not brown or they would burn on the inside and become hard.
- Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container. This recipe makes about 15 cookies which are 2" in diameter.
- These cookies would be a bit flaky and fragile with a rich buttery, shortbread texture and taste, a lot like the “Nankhatai” we make in India.