For the July Daring Cooks challenge, Kouky from Cuisine à 4 mains, challenged us to make Griwech, a popular Algerian dessert that is a full flavoured delicacy that has both a melt-in-the-mouth and a crispy texture.
Sometimes you just don’t have a good day in the kitchen – the planets overseeing culinary endeavours just aren’t aligned and you’re destined for disaster no matter what you do. That’s how it was for me with this challenge – I was in a hurry and not feeling in the mood for cooking. Not surprisingly, the pastry was a total flop and the home-made ‘honey’ turned into toffee. Three hours of kitchen time and all I had to show for it was a bin full of sticky toffee-covered dough paper-weights. I threw a sulk big-time.
A week later, with the challenge deadline over but in a much more positive frame of mind, I decided to try again. I’d wondered if the recipe I’d used first time round had been part of the issue, so I chose an alternative one and this time it worked a charm. The dough felt ‘right’, the pastries puffed up beautifully when cooked, and the honey remained… well… honey-like. I was proud as punch to serve them to my family.
I’ve been wracking my brains to come up with a taste and texture description for these deep-fried pastries, as they’re not quite like anything I’ve had before. In terms of their texture, they’re slightly crisp on the outside but tender on the inside. Taste-wise, they’re a delight. The orange blossom water adds an intriguing floral note and they’re not overly sweet, despite being doused in honey. And, just in case you’re wondering, the honey doesn’t remain sticky – it absorbs into the pastry as it cools.
As this isn’t the usual type of food I eat nowadays, being mostly gluten-free, I halved the recipe to reduce the temptation! Just as well… they were particularly moreish and I could have easily scoffed more! If you’re up for the challenge, I encourage you to try this delicious African dessert. And, if you want to explore other versions of the recipe, or try your hand at the several other shaping possibilities, click through to The Daring Kitchen website.
- 4 cups all-purpose (plain flour)
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp of orange blossom water
- Warm water, about 2/3 cup depending on the flour absorption capacity
- Cornstarch (cornflour)
- Oil for frying
- ‘Honey’ flavoured with orange blossom water (see recipe below)
- Toasted sesame seeds
- In a large bowl, blend the flour, instant yeast, baking powder, sugar and salt. Mix well.
- Make a well, add the melted and cooled butter, beaten egg and orange blossom water and mix well. Add as much warm water as needed to the dough to bring it together, then knead for a few minutes until the dough is smooth and pliable. Divide dough into several (about six) balls, wrap in cling film and let rest for at least 1 hour.
- Sprinkle your board with cornstarch. Take a ball of dough and flatten slightly by hand. With a rolling pin, flatten the dough to 2 to 3 mm (about 1/10 inch) thickness. If you prefer a crispy result, flatten it as thinly as you can. If not, leave it a bit thicker.
- To make the braid: (see The Daring Kitchen for process images). With a pastry wheel (cutter), cut dough into rectangles of 10 to 12 cm (4 to 4¾ inch) long and 7 to 8 cm (2¾ to 3 inch) wide (larger or smaller depending on whether you prefer small or large pastries) Inside each rectangle, make 7 cuts lengthwise without cutting the dough through. This will result in 8 strips of 1 to 1.5 cm (4/10 to 6/10 inch) wide of attached dough. Take one rectangle in the left hand. Pass two fingers of the right hand between the odd strips (1 front strap, 1 strap behind etc.) Then pass thumb through and pinch the upper left corner of the rectangle and pull it gently between strips to slide down off the other side. This will result in a braided shape. Place the braids on a tray. Cover with plastic wrap so they will not dry out. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
- Once all the pastries are shaped, deep fry them in batches over medium heat (if the oil is too hot, they will brown too quickly without being cooked through). You’ll find that they puff up immediately and may ‘blister’ which is perfectly fine. Once they are golden brown, flip over to cook the other side. Remove from oil using a slotted spoon and drain on a tray covered with paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
- Dip the pastries in the warm home-made honey. Drain then sprinkle both sides with toasted sesame seeds. Set them aside on a plate or uncovered container to completely drain and cool before serving. You’ll find that the honey absorbs into the pastries as they cool.
- 2 cups (400g) (14 oz) sugar, divided
- 1 cup (250 ml) water, plus 2 Tbsp water
- Few drops of lemon (important)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
- Mix 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup water and place in a saucepan over medium heat.
- In the meantime, put the other cup of sugar in another saucepan, moisten it with 2 tablespoons of water, put on high heat at first then decrease and caramelise the sugar (it should be a nice medium amber colour).
- Pour the caramel gently over the sugar-water mixture – be very careful, as it will splatter and bubble at the beginning. Stir and add a few drops of lemon juice to prevent crystallisation of the sugar. Then add the vanilla. Leave over medium heat for ten minutes then take off the heat. Keep an eye on the honey as it cools – if you find it starting to firm up and set like toffee (as I did), add a little boiling water and stir until incorporated – it needs to be syrupy and remain that way as it cools.