Qa’b el-Gh'zal - Cornes de Gazelles cookies
Qa’b el-Gh'zal, or cornes de gazelles, are rarely prepared at home. They are normally bought from women who specialise in making them and other sweets and who only make them to order or from pastry shops or stalls. And for Eid when families make industrial quantities, the specialist women will be invited to homes to make them in situ.
By Anissa Helou
- Yield:40 servings
- Prep Time:60 minutes
- Cook Time:20 minutes
- Total Time:80 minutes
For the filling
1 pound 2 ounces blanched almonds
5 ounces icing sugar
4 tablespoons orange flower water
1 ounce unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon mastic, crushed into a powder
For the pastry
9 ounces all-purpose flour
1 ounce unsalted butter, melted
Soak the almonds in boiling water for 20 minutes, then drain and dry well.
Put the almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and process to a very fine paste (you might have to do them in several batches depending on the size of your processor bowl). Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the orange flower water, butter and powdered mastic and mix with your hands until you have a homogeneous paste (basically marzipan). Cover with a clean cloth and set aside.
Put the flour in a shallow mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the melted butter to the well and gradually add ½ cup plus 2 or 3 tablespoons water (this will depend on the flour you are using), working it in with your fingers. Knead for 15 minutes, or until the dough has a slightly looser consistency than that of bread. Let rest covered with a slightly damp kitchen cloth while you prepare the almond paste.
Divide the almond paste into 40 pieces. Roll each into a ball and then into a small sausage about 4 inches long with tapering ends.
Smear your pastry board, rolling pin and hands with butter. Take half the dough and roll it out, turning it over once or twice, into a very thin strip about 5 inches wide. Carefully stretch the dough with your hands to widen and thin it a little more, then place an almond paste sausage at one end, about 1 inch away from the edge. Fold the dough tightly over the almond paste and pinch the filling upwards and sideways, bending it at the same time, to form a crescent with a thin triangular body. Press the edges of the dough together and cut, following the shape of the crescent, using a fluted pastry wheel. The crescent should measure about 4 inches long by 1 ¼ inch high. Prick with a fine toothpick in several places on both sides and place on a buttered baking sheet or a non-stick one.
Repeat the process, using up the rest of the dough strip, until you have shaped the first 20 crescents. Bake these in a preheated oven at 400 F for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are barely coloured.
While the first batch is baking, continue making the crescents, and bake as before. You might have a little dough left over but you should not have any filling left unused. If you do it means that you haven't rolled the dough thinly enough. Let the pastries cool before serving. They will keep for at least a week in an airtight container.