If you’ve been following the blog since the beginning, you might remember I already have an Egyptian shortbread recipe on the blog. It’s tweaked from a recipe that my aunt passed onto my dad over the phone a couple decades ago. He translated the recipe to English as she dictated it to him in Arabic and her measurements were in saucers, pounds, cups (probably not even the cup measures we use), and ounces. So every year we followed my aunt’s recipe, we always ran into problems. I worked with my mom to try to fix the recipe almost 5 years ago, and we thought we ended up with a reliable recipe. We made it a couple times more to be sure, and we thought the new version of the recipe worked fine. The recipe worked one year, and then another, until last year, it didn’t work at all, or at least, the dough was really difficult to roll, crumbling around the edges. And to be quite honest, that really pissed me off.
So, 5 years later, I headed back to the kitchen with my notebook and a calculator, Dad’s version of the recipe passed down from my aunt in one hand, and my version in the other. I needed to solve this and get the recipe to work again. I also wanted to convert the recipe to grams because I felt like part of the problem was how we were filling our measuring cups with the dry ingredients (were we scooping and packing it in? or were we spooning into the cups?).
- My original recipe from 2011 works (hah!), but the dough isn’t easy to work with (boo!)—it’s crumbly around the edges as you roll it out.
- The dough is probably crumbly because we don’t make the dough with regular unsalted butter. For Egyptian shortbread, we use ghee, a.k.a. clarified butter (with little to no water in it): there isn’t much gluten that can form in this dough because gluten needs water to arrange in a network and the ghee isn’t providing it. No gluten? Crumbly dough.
- The gluten network is also disrupted in doughs that are high in fat and high in sugar. This dough is both high in fat and has a fair bit of sugar.
- Adding a couple of tablespoons of water makes the dough easier to work with, but the cookies don’t bake as nicely, especially if you make thumbprint-style shortbread. Basically, water makes them look uglier somehow.
- An extra yolk doesn’t help the dough at all. Just as crumbly.
- Adding two tablespoons of egg white to the dough instead of the yolk gives enough “glue” to form a more cohesive dough and that dough is a little easier to roll out. When baked, the texture of the cookie is crisper with the extra egg white, and not as “short”.
- You can pat out the dough into a parchment-lined springform pan, score it and bake it, just like you would for classic shortbread. This works quite well and it’s the easiest solution to making the cookies without any trouble.
- Reducing the sugar or the flour in the recipe doesn’t make this dough much easier to work with, and most importantly, if you use less flour, the cookies spread more as they bake. I prefer the flavour with more icing sugar.
- My body is now 50% Egyptian shortbread (specifically located in the belly/thigh region, sigh!)
Here is the recipe for Egyptian shortbread with my conversion into grams. I’m giving you two options for the eggs. You can make the dough with a yolk, in which case the dough will be a little more challenging (but not impossible) to roll, and once baked, the cookies are perfect. If you opt for egg whites instead ( if you are worried about working with a crumbly dough), the dough will definitely be easier to work with and the cookies will be a little crisper, but still good. At this point, my mom told me to stop obsessing, so here we are!
Egyptian shortbread ghorayebah
These shortbread are made with clarified butter and flavoured with a little brandy or cognac yielding a very tender cookie
- 200 grams ghee at room temperature 1 cup
- 125 grams icing sugar 1 cup, sifted
- 2 tbsp brandy or cognac
- 2 tbsp egg whites OR 1 egg yolk
- 313 grams all-purpose flour 2 1/2 cups
- Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the ghee with the icing sugar for several minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- If you are using egg whites, in a small bowl, whisk together the whites with the brandy, or whisk together the yolk with the brandy if you've chosen to work with yolks.
- With the mixer running, add the egg/brandy mixture and beat it in.
- Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and switch to a wooden spoon.
- Sift in a third of the flour, and stir it in, repeat this until you have worked in all the flour. If it's too hard for you to stir, use your hands to work the flour into the dough.
- Divide the dough in half, and working with 1 disk at a time, roll it into a fairly thin (1/8"–1/4") circle. Cut with round cutters and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 14 minutes until the cookies are just beginning to colour on the bottom. Don't overbake! Let cool slightly before transferring to a rack to cool completely.