Nina Dbesh's Lebanese Karabij. Photography: Anatoly Michaello.
Nina Dbesh's Lebanese Karabij. Photography: Anatoly Michaello.
Recipe

Karabij – Lebanese Pistachio Ma’amoul Coated with Meringue

These festive cookies starred in wedding parties of the Jewish community in Lebanon. The tradition has almost disappeared amongst Jews in the Diaspora

“For Jews in Lebanon, the chupah was held in the synagogue for a large number of participants,” says Nina Dvash, a designer of evening wear and wedding dresses, who emigrated with her family from Lebanon about 55 years ago, when she was nine years old. “After the chupah, a small group of those closest to the groom were invited to the groom’s house, and there the wedding party was held. The refreshments at these parties were regular and were called ‘Shivat Diafat’ – ‘seven refreshments’ in loose translation,” she recalls. “The refreshments were seven kinds of sweets – cookies and drinks prepared by the women from the groom’s family. Among the women in the community there was a sort of competition to see who was the best baker; each had her own version of each recipe. One of the tastiest cookies from this seven is the karabij – dough made from semolina and flour, filled with pistachio and dipped In meringue perfumed with rose water. In Israel, this tradition has almost disappeared, and today only a few still prepare these ma’amoul.”

Ingredients for Karabij - Pistachio Ma'amoul

For the dough:

  • 3 cups + 1 tablespoon (430 grams) flour
  • ½ cup (100 grams) semolina
  • 7 oz (200 grams) margarine or butter at room temperature
  • ½ cup less 2 tablespoons (75 grams) neutral - flavored oil
  • ½ cup less 1 heaping tablespoon (75 grams) Sugar
  • pinch ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder (½ packet)
  • ½ teaspoons rosewater mixed with ½ cup of water

For the filling:

  • 14 oz (400 grams) pistachio nuts Natural (unroasted) coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup (100 grams) Sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

For the meringue:

  • 1⅔ cups (200 grams) confectioner's sugar
  • 4 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 4-5 drops rosewater

For the garnish:

  • pistachio nuts ground

Instructions

Prepare the dough:

  • 1. Knead flour, semolina, margarine (or butter) and oil, until a dough is formed. Add sugar, cloves and baking powder and knead to combine. Add the rose water mixed with water gradually, while kneading, until a pliable and smooth dough is obtained. Cover with a towel and leave to rest for two hours.

Prepare the filling:

  • 2. Mix all the filling ingredients until uniform.

Prepare the meringue:

  • 3. Beat the eggs and sugar until stable and firm, drip in rose water and fold.

Shape, bake, and coat:

  • 4. Heat the oven to 355F (180C) degrees. Form the dough into balls the size of ping pong balls (weighing about .5 oz/17 grams each), put your thumb in the center of each ball and fill the hole with a spoonful of pistachio filling. Roll into a ball again and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper with small spaces between the balls. If you want to make the lines on the side, press the back of a simple butter knife to create 8 strips from the center of the ma'amoul down the sides.

    Nina Dbesh's Lebanese Karabij. Photography: Anatoly Michaello
    Nina Dbesh's Lebanese Karabij. Photography: Anatoly Michaello
  • 5. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 320F (160C) degrees and bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and cool.

  • 6. When the ma'amoul reach room temperature, dip each one in the meringue so that it covers half of it, place on a serving plate and sprinkle ground pistachios on top. Allow the meringue to dry and harden slightly at room temperature.

    Nina Dbesh's Lebanese Karabij. Photography: Anatoly Michaello
    Nina Dbesh's Lebanese Karabij. Photography: Anatoly Michaello
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In December 2021, we launched the first festival of its kind in the country, which aims to revive home baked goods that are disappearing from the landscape to ensure that they will remain with us for many years to come. We started by researching and locating nine bakers from different ethnicities who prepare traditional pastries that are now extinct, we connected them to 9 selected bakeries from around the country and launched the festival of lost pastries: ten days in which each bakery prepared one pastry and offered it for sale.

For all of the recipes from the Festival

About the bakery:

Sagi Meller, the chief-pastry chef of Nordinyó and the We Like you Too group chose karabij. “First of all, because I really, really like hard work. In addition, I really like discovering new territories and discovering a cookie like the karabij right under my nose is a lot of fun. This is a very unusual cookie both in the ratio between the flour and the semolina, which is usually reversed, and also in the play of textures created by the meringue layer.”

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