Edible history: Makroud El Louse
Algerian history is a rich history, and their cuisine has been deeply influenced by the countries and cultures who ruled and traded with their country.
Makroud El Louse is a delicious almond cookie from Algeria – a delightful almond-flavoured cookie coated with powdered sugar – and they have a tendency to melt in the mouth. They also happen to be one of my favourite cookies! Oh, and they’re also flourless, so they’re perfect for anyone who is on a gluten-free diet.
Algerian history is a rich history, and their cuisine has been deeply influenced by the countries and cultures who ruled and traded with their country. The indigenous Berber tribe was one of the earliest inhabitants of Algeria, and they live there still, but Algeria has been ruled by Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Turks, and most recently the French. French rule came to an end in 1962 and Algeria is now an independent nation.
Algerian cuisine is known as Maghrib, and it denotes the region where Algeria is located. It has strong similarities with the cuisines of Morocco and Tunisia, but it is also unique in that it is a beautiful fusion of Arab, Berber, Mediterranean, and Ottoman cuisine.
The various influences are visible in every aspect of Algerian cuisine. From the Berbers the Algerians learned to cultivate wheat and semolina wheat; they also introduced smen (aged, cooked butter) and fruits (such as dates and other dried fruits). Turks and Arabs brought exotic spices with them such as saffron, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. The Spanish brought with them olives and fruits such as peaches, oranges, and plums. The French brought pastries (as did the Turks and the Arabs), and introduced the use of ingredients such as tomatoes. Europeans also introduced tea and the Turks brought coffee with them.
Recipe (it's gluten-free!)
Makes 20 to 24 cookies
Almonds, whole, blanched -- 566 grams
Sugar -- 128 grams
Eggs, beaten lightly -- 2
Water -- 2 cups
Sugar -- 64 grams
Orange blossom water -- 1 tablespoon
Powdered (confectioner's) sugar -- 384 grams
Preheat oven to 180°C. Place the almonds and sugar in a food processor and process until the almonds are finely pulverised. Remove to a bowl. Make a well in the centre of the almonds and stir in the eggs with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together. Then knead the dough with clean hands until smooth.
Cut the dough into 4 equal portions and remove to a floured work surface. Roll one portion out into a rope about 3/4 inch in diameter. Press down with your palm to flatten the rope to about 1/2-inch thickness. Cut the rope on a diagonal into 1-inch pieces and remove to an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Bake cookies for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are lightly browned on top. Remove to racks and cool completely.
While the cookies bake, bring the water and 64 grams of sugar to a rapid boil in a saucepan over high heat. Stir to dissolve sugar and let boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature. Stir in the orange blossom water.
Put powdered sugar in a large bowl. To finish, dip each cookie first in the sugar syrup to wet. Then toss each cookie in the confectioner's sugar to coat well. Shake off the extra sugar, place on a rack to dry and repeat with the rest of the cookies.