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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Weekly Recipes: December 10

(Sweet Wheat Dish for the Feast of St. Barbara)

This is a traditional dish in Syria and Lebanon served in honor of St. Barbara. We double this for the family.

2 cups wheat berries (I use Kamut, as its origins are in Egypt)
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 cups water
1 cup honey
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds + 2 tablespoons to garnish
1/4 cup pine nuts + 2 tablespoons to garnish
1/4 cup unsalted, raw pistachios + 2 tablespoons to garnish
3/4 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
12 dried apricots, finely chopped
2 teaspoons rose water
2 teaspoons orange flower water
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I use Ceylon cinnamon)
pomegranate pips to garnish
silver, gold and colored dragees to garnish (optional)

Boil wheat, salt and water in a large pot, partially covered and at a low boil for an hour, or until the wheat is soft and most of the water has been absorbed. You may need to add more water or stir occasionally. Add honey, nuts, dried fruit, rose water, orange flower water and cinnamon and stir to combine. Allow to simmer a few minutes more.

Serve in small glass dishes and garnish with pomegranate pips, the extra nuts and the dragees.

My pictures are from a couple years ago, as I didn't take any pictures before the cookies were eaten last year and this year, I did not find my recipe until the next morning and had tried to recreate it, ending up with tripling the sugar and a sticky, messy dough that puffed and cracked terribly in the oven. They ate just fine, and none of the children complained of their cookies being too sweet. These are fun, and relatively quick to make for shaped cookies.

Initial Cookies for the Feast of St. Nicholas

1 2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 cup of unsalted butter, two sticks, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice water

1/2 cup almond or hazelnut meal
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons milk

Mix the flour and powdered sugar in a medium bowl, cut the butter into the mixture as you would to make pie crusts or biscuits, and quickly stir in the ice water to form a ball of dough. If the dough is too dry, add more ice water one teaspoon at a time. Flatten into a disc and wrap well. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

While the dough is chilling, mix the almond meal, powdered sugar, almond extract and milk with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough out on a very lightly floured board to 1/4" inch thick. Cut into 2 1/2" X 4" rectangles. Make little rolls out of the almond paste to lay along the long side of the rectangle, leaving a little edge of the dough uncovered on both ends. Roll up the rectangle around the filling and seal the dough well. Shape into your letters of choice. You may need to roll (and fill) some of the smaller scraps to form additional parts of the letters. Join the dough where necessary in the same manner as attaching clay to clay.

Place each letter, seam down, on an ungreased and unlined baking sheet. Bake them for about 15-25 minutes.

Here is Yasmina, eating her Y two years ago:

This year, I wanted to make an additional R for our little, lost Rayan. I just couldn't think of what to do with it after that. It has been bittersweet, celebrating such events that we help create for our children and feeling the lack of one of our children. Even though this year there would have been no little stocking put out for Rayan and that child would not have been at our table, it was still a loss I felt.

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