My favorite cookies growing up were Syrian butter cookies called “greybeh” in Arabic. My grandmother would serve them for dessert on a doily sprinkled with powdered sugar. The delicate cookies were shaped like bracelets and would usually have a pistachio pressed into the area where the two ends of the dough overlapped. They would melt in my mouth, with a hint of sweetness and the creamy taste of butter.
I was always convinced that they had almond paste in them because they tasted so much like marzipan (one of my other favorite childhood treats). When I finally got a hold of a recipe for greybeh, I realized that bits of almond would transform the simple little cookies into a heartier biscuit that would hold up when dipped into milk or tea.
Note: The original recipe for greybeh does not include rosewater, but I find that it adds a depth of flavor I really enjoy. If you don’t have any, feel free to leave it out. You can find a more authentic recipe in Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews by Poopa Dweck.
Recipe: Almond Butter Cookies
Makes 3-4 dozen cookies
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (1/2 pound)
- 3/4 cup superfine sugar
- 3 cups flour
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup almond paste leftover from almond milk
- 1 tbs rosewater (optional)
- Clarify the butter. Or, if you’re feeling lazy, simply microwave the butter for 30 seconds at a time until liquid. Then skim the white bits of milk fat off the top with a spoon and discard into the trash. The butter will not be completely clarified, but you can get a lot of the milk fat out this way.
- Pour the clarified, melted butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar. Stir to mix well and dissolve the small sugar granules. Refrigerate the bowl for 30 minutes
- Whip the butter with an electric mixer for roughly 5 minutes or until the consistency resembles that of stiff whipped cream.
- Preheat the over to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Fold in the first cup of flour with a broad utensil such as a wooden spoon or spatula. Fold in the second cup of flour. Next fold in a half cup of flour. Add the rose water if you have it. Mix well. Fold in the last half cup of flour.
- Add the almond paste leftover from making almond milk.
- Knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes. Form into a smooth ball.
- Pull off a small chunk of dough about an inch in diameter. Roll into a baton shape and, if you like, bring the two ends together to form a “bracelet”. Place the baton or bracelet shaped dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Fill the sheet, leaving about an inch and a half between each cookie.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the bottoms are slightly browned. Allow to cool in the pans completely before removing or placing on a cookie rack. The cookies will be quite delicate.