The Confectioners Shop – Islamic Pastries

As soon as someone mentions Middle Eastern or Islamic cooking, visions of pastries and sweets flash through everyone’s mind. Every ones taste buds tingle with the anticipation of Baklava and Turkish Delight.

Andalusian Pastries

These recipes are from An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century as translated by Charles Perry. Duke Cariadoc recently webbed this cookbook.

The main thing I have notice with the Andalusian recipes, I have redacted is the use of oil, instead of other fats. I have used Olive oil as this oil, working on the knowledge that it is still a common oil in the region today.

Another ingredients use I have noted is that sugar is used as much as honey in these recipes. During the Andalusian time period, sugar was introduced to the Spanish peninsula as well in Sicily . I do not think that it was very common but much more common in the rest of Europe at this time.

The original recipes are followed by my redaction for it. That is except the last recipe, Recipe of the Necessities of Bread and Confection. In which the original is there but we will try to work this redaction here today.

The Preparation of âdhân (Ears)

Knead white flour with water and oil without leaven, then roll out little thin qursas, like the qursas of aqrû n, and let them be as big as the palm of a hand or bigger. Fold in two, and mix fold with fold, and open their edges, and fry, after inserting thin sticks into them so that the open ends do not seal. And when they are fried, make a filling of pistachios or almonds and sugar and knead with rosewater, and stuff the “ears” with them. Whoever wishes to aromatize the stuffing [with spices] may. Then pour into a plate and moisten with stiffly thickened rosewater syrup, after sprinkling with rosewater. And sprinkle with sugar, galingale [literally, “wood”], clove and ground cinnamon and use.

The “mix fold with fold” instruction is vague, but we may proceed on the assumption that the product will look like an ear when fried. I must say that the prospect of eating an “ear” stuffed with green paste bothers me. (CP)

My redaction:

Pastry Filling

2 cups White Flour 1 cup Pistachios or Almond, ground

½ cup Olive Oil ½ cup Sugar

Water 2 tbs. Rosewater

Olive Oil for Frying

Syrup Topping

¼ cup Rosewater Sugar

3/4 cup Water ½ tsp. Galingale*

2 cups Sugar ¼ tsp. Clove, ground

½ tsp. Cinnamon, ground

Make the pastry dough with the flour and oil, adding as much water as neccessary. This will make a very soft pastry dough, be prepared. Let the dough rest for at least a half-hour.

While the dough is resting make a sugar syrup with the rosewater, sugar and water. Cook in a thick bottom pot until thick (about 200F.). Cool and reserve. Mix the topping ingredients together.

When the dough has rested, form small balls of the dough and then roll into circles approximately 4 inches in diameter and a ¼ inch thick. Fold circles in half, form into a cone with a open end at the point. Deep fat fry in the other olive oil. Drain.

If you have access to a food processor, grind your nuts in it. When they are processed add the sugar and rosewater so that it stick together. Fill the cones or ears with the nut mixture. Drizzle with rose syrup. Sprinkle with the topping mixture.


*note: This is hard to find, but not impossible. I substituted Ginger, relative of it.

Stuffed Muqawwara, a Hollowed Pastry

Sift a ratl and a half of wheat flour [p. 29 verso] well, knead it with the yolks of fifteen eggs and as much fresh milk as they will bear. Put in a little leavening and let the dough be stiff, make a qursa like a raghîf of this, and leave it to rise. Then fill a frying pan with fresh oil and take it to the fire, and when it has heated, put in the raghîf , turn it little by little, and watch that it not break apart. Then turn it over and when it has browned a little, take it out and put it in a dish and hollow it out as one hollow out muqawwara . Take out all the crumbs that are in it and crumble it by hand until they are pounded fine. Then take sufficient peeled walnuts and almonds and sugar, pound them well and put a layer in the muqawwara , then a layer of crumbs, until it is full; and sprinkle sugar between every two layers and sprinkle during that with rosewater. Then boil fresh clarified butter and good honey, pour it on the muqawwara and when it makes a boiling sound, put the lid [the removed crust] back on top and seal it, and pour the rest of the honey and butter over the lid, sprinkle with sugar, and present it.

My redaction:

Pastry Filling

5 to 6 cups Flour Crumbs from Pastry

8 to 10 Yolks ½ cup Walnuts, ground

¼ cup Milk ½ cup Almonds, ground

1 package Yeast dissolved in water ½ cup Sugar

Olive Oil app 2 tbs. Rosewater


8 oz. Butter (if you are using unsalted butter add ½ tsp. of salt)

1 ½ cup Honey

Dissolve the Yeast in ¼ cup warm water. Add all the pastry ingredients together. Mix as if making bread dough. Leave to rise. After the first rising punch down, form into balls approximately the size of a lime. Deep fat fry in the Olive oil. Drain.

When cool, take a sharp knife and cut off the top quarter of each of the pastries, reserve tops. Hollow out each one and reserve the crumbs for the filling.

Mix the walnuts with the almonds. Fill each of the pastries with layers of each of the fillings in turn – nut layer, crumb layer, and a sugar layer. Sprinkle with the rosewater in between layers. Fill to the top.

Melt the butter in a heavy bottom kettle. Add the honey. Bring to a boil, cooking until thick. While still hot ladle syrup into each pastry, replace top and seal with more syrup. Let cool. Serve.

Khabîsa with Pomegranate

Take half a ratl of sugar and put it in a metal or earthenware pot and pour in three ratls of juice of sweet table pomegranates [ rummân sufri ; probably tart pomegranates were more common in cooking] and half an û qiya of rosewater, with a penetrating smell. Boil it gently and after two boilings, add half a mudd of semolina and boil it until the semolina is cooked. Throw in the weight of a quarter dirham of ground and sifted saffron, and three û qiyas of almonds. Put it in a dish and sprinkle over it the like of pounded sugar, and make balls [literally, hazelnuts] of this.

My redaction:

2 ½ cups Sugar

3 tbs. Pomegranate Syrup

2 ½ cups Water

1/3 cup Rosewater

1 1/3 to 1 ½ lbs. Semolina, Fine Grain

10 to 12 oz. Ground Almonds

4 or 5 threads of Saffron

Power Sugar to roll in

Add sugar, pomegranate syrup, water and rosewater together. Bring to boil, cooking until the syrup stage (approximately 200 F). Add the Semolina, cook until done. Soak Saffron in 2-tbs. warm water, until colored. Add saffron water and almonds to Semolina mix.

Let cool down until you can handle it. Form into balls about the size of a walnut. Roll balls in powered sugar. Serve, makes about 60 balls.

Recipe for Mujabbana (Fried Cheese Pie)

Know that mujabbana isn’t prepared with only one cheese, but of two; that is, of cow’s and sheep’s milk cheese. Because if you make it with only sheep cheese, it falls apart and the cheese leaves it and it runs. And if you make it with cow’s cheese, it binds, and lets the water run and becomes one sole mass and the parts don’t separate. The principle in making it is that the two cheeses bind together. Use one-fourth part cow’s milk and three-quarters of sheep’s. Knead all until [p. 64, recto] some binds with its parts another [Huici Miranda observes that this passage is faintly written and only a few letters can be made out] and becomes equal and holds together and doesn’t run in the frying pan, but without hardening or congealing. If you need to soften it, soften it with fresh milk, recently milked from the cow. And let the cheese not be very fresh, but strong without…[words missing]…that the moisture has gone out of. Thus do the people of our land make it in the west of al-Andalus , as in Cordoba and Seville and Jerez , and elsewhere in the the land of the West [here written as al-Maghrib ].

Manner of Making it

Knead wheat or semolina flour with some yeast into a well-made dough and moisten it with water little by little until it loosens. If you moisten it with fresh milk instead of water it is better, and easy, inasmuch as you make it with your palm. Roll it out and let it not have the consistency of mushahhada , but firmer than that, and lighter than musammana dough. When the leaven begins to enter it, put the frying pan on the fire with a lot of oil, so that it is drenched with what you fry it with. Then wet your hand in water and cut off a piece of the dough. Bury inside it the same amount of rubbed cheese. Squeeze it with your hand, and whatever leaves and drains from the hand, gather it up [? the meaning of this verb eludes me] carefully. Put it in the frying pan while the oil boils. When it has browned, remove it with an iron hook prepared for it and put it in a dipper [“iron hand”] similar to a sieve held above the frying pan, until its oil drips out. Then put it on a big platter and dust it with a lot of sugar and ground cinnamon. There are those who eat it with honey or rose syrup and it is the best you can eat.

My redaction:

Pastry Filling

2 cups Flour, white or Semolina 8 oz. Farmers Cheese

1 pkg. Yeast 8 oz. Cream Cheese

½ cup Milk or Water (more might be need) Salt to taste

Olive oil for Frying

Sugar and ground Cinnamon

Optional: Honey or Rosewater/ Sugar Syrup

Heat the olive oil to frying tempura.

Proof the yeast in ¼ cup warm (not hot water) water, add a little sugar and/or flour if neccessary. Add the proofed yeast to flour. Add water or milk to flour mixture until you have a smooth dough. Cover and let rest until it has risen.

Mix the cheeses together. Taste, add salt if nessairy.

Roll out (or pat out)dough till about ¼ inch thick and 5 to 6 inches around. Take a palm full of cheese mixture, mold together in your hand. Place in side of dough circle and fold the dough around it and seal. It should look like a turn-over.

Fry in oil, turning over so to brown both sides. Drain. Dust with sugar and cinnamon, if you would like coat in a sugar syrup flavored with rose-water.

Recipe of the Necessities of Bread and Confection

Take a ratl of wheat flour and knead it with twenty egg yolks, a little water and oil. Then make small, very thin round flatbreads of it, and as soon as they are made, fry them in plenty of oil until they are close to browning. Put them in a dish, boil honey a little and clean it of its foam, and cut almonds and walnuts into the honey, pour it into the dish, sprinkle with sugar, set whole pine-nuts about, and present it.

The word translated as “necessaries” ( hawâ’ij ), which can also mean “things,” is used in some cookery writings to mean ingredients other than spices added for flavoring. (CP)

My redaction:

Flat Bread

2 cups flour 10 egg yolks or 4 whole eggs

2 to 3 tablespoons of water 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil

Olive oil for frying


1 to 1 ½ cups honey ¼ cup chopped almonds

¼ cup chopped walnuts

sugar and pine-nuts for decoration

Mix the flour and egg yolks (or eggs) together until smooth batter. Add water and oil as nessary to achieve the texture needed. (I see this as a crepe or pancake batter.) Pour batter on to a frying pan to make small pancakes. Fry until they just become colored. Move to a waiting plate with a small lip.

Heat the honey until warm. Add the nuts to it. Pour honey mixture on to the waiting pancakes. Sprinkle with sugar and pine-nuts. Serve.

The Making of Qâhiriyât

Take sugar and pound sweet almonds well; take equal parts of each in a mortar and mix them and knead them with fragrant rosewater, and perfume them with fine spices, like cinnamon, Chinese cinnamon, lavender, pepper, galingale, and nutmeg. Add these in proportion to what the sugar and almonds can bear. Beat all this well and the kneading will be stronger. Then make small rings of this in the shape of ka’k . Then take a ratl or half a ratl of fine flour or as much as the sugar and crushed almonds can bear, knead it with khubaiz and salt and leave it until it rises. Then take some starch and put into that starch the dough with water. Then take a frying pan and clean it well and put in some fresh oil, and if it is oil of sweet almonds, it is better. Put this on the fire and when the oil boils, take the rings made before, [p. 28 verso] one after another, and dip [reading ghumisat forhummisat ] them in that dough and throw them in that boiling oil, so that they cook before they are taken out, and they have begun to brown a very little. Arrange and order them on a dish in an attractive order. Then pour over them skimmed honey from the comb, or well-thickened julep syrup [i.e. rose-flavored sugar syrup], and sprinkle with ground sugar and present it, God willing.

My redaction:

Filling Batter

Sugar* Flour

Almonds, ground * Yeast

Rosewater Water

Spices: starch, Wheat or Rice



Lavender flowers




Olive Oil for Frying

Honey or Rose syrup


*Note – Almond Paste can be substituted.

Heat oil to frying tempura. Proof yeast.

Grind the sugar and almonds in a food processor until it forms a paste, or use Almond paste. Mix the spices of you choice in the almond paste. Form into rings.

Mix flour and yeast together. Add starch and water to form a thin batter. Coat the rings in the batter and fry until golden. Drain. Coat in honey or Rose flavored syrup, sprinkle with sugar.


Arabic Recipes

The inspiration for this section was an article in Medieval Arab Cookery . In “A Thousand and One ‘Fritters’, The Food of The Arabian Nights” Charles Perry talks about one of the stories from 1001 Nights, ‘The Tale of the Porter’. In the ‘Tale of the Porter’, a wealthy lady by out a confectioners shop.

I could not find recipes for everything on the wealthy lady’s tray but was inspired to fill my own tray of sweetmeats from Medieval Arab Cookery . Medieval Arab Cookery is a collection of 3 period Arabic cookbooks as well as articles about medieval Arabic cooking.

Sabuniyya – (sabun, soap)

Dissolve sugar, then take half of it up from the cauldron and put it in another cauldron or a vessel. Then throw sesame oil into the cauldron, and when it boils, take some good starch, as much as needed, a sixth as much. If it is rice starch, better. Then stir it uninterruptedly, and when it is nearly thickened, throw the (other) half if the syrup on it bit by bit, stirring continuously. Then take two ounces of honey for every pound of sugar (and throw it in). Then throw in some pounded peeled almond, two ounces for every pound, and a quarter ounce of rose-water, and moisten it with sesame oil and stir it continuously. When it is entirely done, spread it out and sprinkle it with pounded sugar.

My version:

2 lb. Sugar


¼ cup Sesame oil (more may be needed)

2 oz. Rice starch

2 oz. Peeled almonds

1 tbs. Rosewater

4 oz. Honey

Powdered Sugar

Make thick sugar syrup. Divide in half, reserve half. Add oil to syrup and bring to a boil. Add rice starch, stirring in to the syrup. Add the other half of the syrup. . Add Honey, stirring constantly cook mixture until at the soft-ball stage. Stir in the almonds and rose water. Moisten with sesame oil if needed.

Spread out on an oiled pan. When cooled cut into squares and coat in powder sugar.


Nuhud al-‘Adhra (Virgin’s Breasts)

I found two versions of this recipe in the cookbook. I have listed both here, but I like the #2 recipe. It is the recipe I have prepared. Recipe #1 proportions seem wrong to me, more of a candy than a cookie.

#1- One part flour, one part clarified butter, 15 parts ground sugar. Everything is mixed and made well. Then it is made like breasts and baked in a tray (tabaq) in the bread oven. It emerges nice.

My version:

¼ cup flour ratio 1/1/15 actual

¼ cup clarified butter

3 cups sugar

Mix, shape into breasts, bake on trays at 350. Cool and serve.

#2- Knead sugar, almonds, samid and clarified butter, equal parts and make them like breasts, and arrange them in a brass tray. Put in into the bread oven until done, and take it out. It comes out excellently.

My version:

1 cup sugar

1 cup flour (Semolina flour is what is called for, samid*)

1 cup almonds, ground

1 cup clarified butter

Mix together, form into breast shape. Bake on cookie sheet at 350 until lightly browned. Makes 2 ½ dozen cookies.

*Note – it has been suggested that this may be calling for “hard wheat flour” like Semolina, not specifically Semolina flour. I know from making this recipe several times with both All-purpose flour and Semolina, that I can form the cookies much easier with finer ground flour, maybe Cake flour.


Take a pound of finely ground sugar. Take a third of a pound of peeled almonds, and grind them fine also, and mix them with the sugar and knead with rose water. Take some thin bread, like sanbusaj bread, the thinner the better; the most suitable is kunafa bread. Spread out a sheet of that bread and put the kneaded almonds and sugar on it. Then roll it up like a belt, cut it in small pieces and arrange them in a vessel. Refine (viz. By frying with spices) as much fresh sesame oil as needed, and put it on them. Then cover them with syrup to which you have added rose water and sprinkle them with sugar and pistachios, both pounded fine. And if the pistachios are fried and thrown in the syrup, it is a marvel.

A variation of the batter:

Take flour and knead it stiff, and when it stiffens, macerate it until it becomes like fresh milk. Take the mirror of Manqush (literally of the painted or engraved thing) and put the batter on it with the ‘emptier’ (mifragha ) and take it up.

My version:


¼ to ½ cup Sugar

1 pkg. Almond Paste

Rose-water, to moisten


1 ½ cup flour 1 ½ to 2 cup water

a pinch of salt oil

or use Phyllo dough

Sugar syrup

2 cup sugar / 1 cup water / 1 tbs. rose-water

Pistachios, ground


Mix the almond paste with the sugar. Add the rose-water. Knead until a smooth paste. Roll it out into a thin sheet.

If making your own dough, in a large mixer, place your flour and salt. Add the water a little bit at a time, with the mixer running. The amount of water will vary with the dryness of the flour. Keep adding water until it is the consistency of a light cream. Heat a griddle up, brush with oil to coat. Pour the batter on the griddle like a crepe. Do not let the batter brown, you just want it to set well. Remove and stack on wax paper or parchment.

If using phyllo dough, take the phyllo dough sheets and layer two or three of them together with oil in between them.

Place the sheet of paste on to the crepe or phyllo. Roll it up together like a pinwheel. Cut into small pieces about a inch long. Bake in a low oven until golden. Brush with sesame oil. And place them in the sugar syrup. When coated sprinkle with ground pistachios and sugar.

Asabi ‘Azinab (Fingers of Zenobia)

Take a pound of flour and knead it with three ounces of sesame oil. Then knead it with hot water and put it on a cane and fry it somewhat. Then take it out (and remove the cane) and throw it in honey and water, and take up. Stuff it with plenty of pistachios and musk and rose-water, and sprinkle sugar on it, and it is taken up.

My version:

Sugar syrup was used instead of honey due to the fact that I need for other recipes and had extra.


2 cups flour 3-oz. Sesame oil

Hot water Oil for frying

Sugar syrup* Sugar


Pistachios, chopped



Mix flour and oil together. Knead the paste with hot water until smooth. Roll the paste out into a thin sheet and form around a cane or dowel to make a cylinder. Fry on the form, drain. Remove the form and place in the honey. Drain the pastry and let dry.

Mix the nuts, mush and the rose-water. Stuff the hollow cane of pastry with the nut mixture. Sprinkle with sugar. Serve.

(Untitled) , Golden Clouds , fried puffs

Mill starch fine and sieve it and take for every dirham of it an egg white and beat it well. Then take a nice quantity of it with a spoon and throw it in sesame oil and put it in syrup. It comes out excellently.

My version:

3 or 4 Egg whites

4 oz. Rice starch

Oil for frying

Sugar syrup*

Beat egg whites until stiff, add rice starch slowly. Fry spoonfuls of the mixture until firm. (Make sure that your oil is hot enough or the puffs will absorb it and be greasy. ) Drain. Place in sugar syrup. Drain.

*Sugar Syrup

This is my basic sugar syrup recipe. The KITAB WASF AL-AT’IMA AL-MU’TADA does not give a recipe for syrup. I think that the assume that you should know how to make one.

2 cups sugar 1 cup water

1 to 2 tsp. Rose-water

Add the sugar and water together in a heavy bottom pan. Stir while bring to a boil. Cover. Cook until sugar is dissolved and syrup will coat the back of a spoon, about 200 degrees.

Halwa ‘Al (al, excellent)

which I ate and found wonderfully delicious. Thicken halwa: two pounds of sugar, half a pound of bees’ honey, half a pound of sesame oil, four ounces of starch. Then roll it out like thin flatbread, or a little thicker, and put four ounces of sugar and three ounces of finely pounded pistachios in it, and musk and rose water. Leave another thin sheet of this sweet on it, and cut it into triangles.

My version:

2 lb. Sugar 1/2lb. Honey

½ lb. Sesame oil 4oz. Rice starch


4 oz. Sugar 3 oz. Pistachios, chopped

Musk Rose-water

Mix the first four ingredients together, divide into two parts, rolling out each piece into a thin sheet, about ¼ inch thick. Reserving in one half of the mix for later. Mix the filling ingredients together. Scatter the filling on top of the roll out piece. Top with the second sheet, pressing together. Cut into triangles. Serve.

Mushabbak (Latticework)

Take some of this mentioned batter* and put it in a coconut pierced at the bottom. Then you put your finger on the hole and you fill it with batter. You put sesame oil in the cauldron, and when it boils, you take your finger from the hole and move your hand around. Rings of latticework are created from it. So take them up and throw them in syrup and it come out excellently.

* Barad (hail) – knead good flour as for qata’if and zulabiyya , and its flour should be first-rate, good. Its kneading should be closer or milk. Leave it until it sours. Then put the cauldron on the fire and put sesame oil in it, and when it boils decidedly, you ladle out some of the dough with the fingers and move the hand repeatedly so that the dough fall in drops. Whenever a piece stiffens in the cauldron, ladle it out and throw it in syrup and honey which have been boiled on another fire until they take their preferred consistency. Then take it out and put it on a woven mat until it dries. Then take as much honey as needed and thin it on the fire with rose-water, then whip it in the cauldron with the poker until it is beaten white. Throw the barad on it, and they put them on a smooth tile and gather them into one loaf and take it up.

My version:

2 cups Flour oil for cooking (sesame is listed in the original)

Water Yeast (preferably sourdough)

Sugar syrup – sugar / water / rose-water and/or spices

Make a thin batter with flour water and yeast. Set aside until risen and bubbly. Thin if nessairy with more water, it should be the consisty of heavy cream.

Heat the oil to frying tempera. Take the batter and place a ladle full of it in a funnel, covering the hole with your finger. Over the hot oil, release the batter in a stream while moving your hand (like a funnel cake). Fry until golden. Drain and coat in the syrup.

Natif (natafa, to dribble)

Thicken dissolved sugar or honey on a quite fire to the degree that when a piece of it is taken and cooled, it breaks and shatters. Then knead what you want of sesame, walnuts, pistachios, almonds and poppy seeds with it. It cools and is taken up.

My version:

2 cups Sugar or honey

Sesame seeds

Walnuts, chopped

Pistachios, chopped

Almonds, chopped

Poppy seeds

Cook sugar syrup or honey until it reaches the hard crack stage. Fold in the nuts of choice. Pour onto a marble sheet or a oiled cookie sheet. Be very careful, it will be Very Hot ! When it is cool enough score the top of the candy into pieces. When totally cold, break into pieces.

Luqam Al-Qadi

Take a pound of flour and knead it with water and 2 oz. of sesame oil. When it rises, take sugar and almonds, both finely pounded in thirds ( two thirds sugar and one thirds pistachios from K. Wush )and knead them with rose-water and syrup. Make morsels of it as large as you want, and coat them lightly with that batter and fry them in sesame oil. Then take them out and dip them in syrup and dry them and sprinkle with spiced sugar and take them up.

My version:


2 cups flour 2-oz. sesame oil

Water yeast


2 cups Sugar 1 cup Almonds or Pistachios, chopped

2 tbs. Rose-water Sugar syrup (2 cups sugar and 1 cup water)

Oil for frying

Spiced sugar (sugar and cinnamon)

Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup warm water, set aside for 5 minutes. Mix flour, sesame oil and yeast mixture together. Add more water if neccessary to make a thin batter. Set aside until doubled in size.

Mix together filling sugar and nuts. Moisten with rose-water and some of the sugar syrup. Knead until you can form balls of it. Make balls of nut mixture approximately the size of a hazelnut.

After the batter has risen, coat the balls of nut mixture with the batter. Fry in oil until golden. Drain. Dip in sugar syrup, let dry. Roll in spiced sugar. Serve.

Sayyida Dinah bint Ismai’l

Dinah Tackett


An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century, Translated by Charles Perry http: / /

The original of these recipes are from “The Description of Familiar Foods” or KITAB WASF AL-AT’IMA AL-MU’TADA as found in Medieval Arab Cookery

Medieval Arab Cookery , Maxime Rodinson, A.J. Arberry, and Charles Perry, 2001, ISBN 0907325912

Modern Sources for background:

The Art of Persian Cooking , Forough Hekmat, 1998/1961, ISBN 0781802415

Patrisserie of the Eastern Mediterranean , Arto der Haroutunian, 1989, ISBN 0070266654