If you haven’t checked out Arabic sweets as a way to round out your culinary skills, you’re missing out! Arabic desserts have beautiful flavor profiles without being overly sweet. They rely on ingredients like nuts and honey to add flavor and sweetness. Probably the most well known Arabic dessert is baklava. So, if this is your first foray into Arabic sweets, then this is a great recipe to start with! I’m also including a recipe for Semonline cake and Arabic butter cookies to round out your first adventure. All of these recipes come together in a sinch and are delicious served with coffee or tea. Enjoy!
Arabic Sweets Are Tasty Treats
Arabic Sweet 01: Baklava
Layers of delicate phyllo dough layered with honey and nuts make this a dessert that is perfect year-round! Grab a set of these pans to make baking these even easier.
- ½ c. melted butter
- 1 16-oz. package phyllo dough thawed
- ¾ c. unsalted pistachio nuts finely chopped
- ⅓ c. sugar
- ⅓ c. sugar
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- Start by heating the oven to 350°F and buttering a 15x10 inch baking pan. In a small bowl, combine the pistachios and butter and set aside. Then, take eight sheets of phyllo dough and layer them in the pan, making sure to brush each sheet with melted butter. Next, spread half of the nut mixture over the phyllo dough and cover with another buttered sheet of phyllo. Continue to layer and butter five more sheets of dough before adding the remaining nut mixture and topping with remaining sheets of buttered phyllo dough. Before baking, cut into diamond shapes about 1 ½" wide. Then bake for 50 minutes or until the baklava is golden brown.
- About half an hour before the baklava finishes baking, combine the sugar, honey, cinnamon, and lemon juice together in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking to ensure that all the sugar dissolves. When the mixture is smooth, reduce heat and allow to simmer for about five minutes. Drizzle the syrup over the top of the baklava and allow to cool. Serve and enjoy!
Arabic Sweet 02: Basbousa (Semolina Cake)
While most Westerners think of cake as a sweet sponge sandwiched between layers of frosting, but this sweet Semolina cake will change your mind. You can change up the flavor profile for a slightly different flavor by switching out the lemon for rose or orange-blossom water if desired. It’s a great idea to have a spring form pan like this. It will make serving much easier.
Basbousa (Semolina Cake)
- 2 c. fine semolina
- 2 c. dried coconut unsweetened
- 2 c. granulated sugar
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 c. plain whole-milk yogurt
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ c. granulated sugar
- 1¼ c. water
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- Finely chopped pistachios and unsweetened coconut for garnish
- Start by heating your oven to 350°F and greasing and lining a 10" springform pan with parchment. Then combine all cake ingredients together in a bowl until combined. The batter will be really thick. When it's thoroughly mixed, press the batter into your prepared pan. Then bake for 20-25 minutes or until the center is set. When the center is set, turn the oven to broil and broil the top of the cake for 3-4 minutes so that it gets a beautiful golden brown color. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool.
- While the cake is cooling, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over high heat and boil until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then add the lemon juice and allow to boil for another minute before removing from heat and allowing the syrup to cool slightly. Next, pour the sugar syrup over the top of the cake and allow to completely absorb. Before serving, top with chopped pistachios and flaky coconut. Enjoy!
Arabic Sweet 03: Ghraybeh (Butter Cookies)
These cookies are a distant cousin to the shortbread cookie. They are melt-in-your-mouth delicious and perfect for a gathering. Traditionally, these cookies are made with almond or pistachio, but you can always alter the flavor by adding a little orange-blossom water if desired.
- 1 c. butter melted
- 1 c. powdered sugar
- 1 large egg white
- 2 c. flour
- 1 pinch salt
- 40 pieces slivered almonds or pistachio pieces
- Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and lining a baking sheet with parchment paper. Then combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat the sugar and butter together for five minutes until the color lightens. Next, add the egg white and continue to beat on medium speed until fully incorporated. Then add in the flour and salt and continue to mix until a dough forms. Remove the mixer and allow the dough to rest for an hour, covered.
- To form the cookies, either roll a walnut-sized piece into a ball and place an almond sliver in the middle or roll it between two hands until you have a short, thick rope. Bring the ends together and place a pistachio over the meeting place. Bake for 8-10 minutes and remove before the cookies start to brown. Allow the cookies to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.
So the next time you’re in the mood for something sweet, let the cake mix stay on your shelf. Stay away from the Nestle Tollhouse. Indulge and pamper yourself by making one of these delicious Arabic sweets. They are delicious and delightful!