Traditional Lebanese Sweets at Christmas
Christmas time is here…happiness and cheer! No doubt the festive holiday season has descended upon Lebanon. In addition to all the gift shopping, hot cocoa sipping, and carol singing animating the atmosphere, many will take to the kitchen to bake sweet somethings passed down from yore.
So brandish your aprons, spatulas, and cake mixers. It’s time to bake up a storm, for Christmas is near!
- To kick off the month of festivities, Eid el Barbara is celebrated on December 4 by Christians throughout the Levant. Honoring the saint and martyr Barbara who disguised herself in many costumes to escape persecution by the Romans, the holiday evokes three classic treats. The first involves stewed wheat berries, or “ame7”, in homage to Saint Barbara who sought shelter among vast wheat fields. These berries are crowned with blanched walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, and raisins. For a sugary lift, honey and orange blossom water round out the novelty. Photo source
- The second in the dessert lineup on Saint Barbara’s feast day are qatayef, which bizarrely resemble blinis or miniature pancakes. Created from a simple dough batter, these dainty bites come stuffed with either clotted cream (“ashta”) or crushed walnuts kissed with sugar and orange blossom water. Qatayef make the ideal finger food and thus one is never enough! Photo source
- Don’t let their name deceive you. Maacroun bear absolutely no relation to the French macaron cookie, neither in shape, texture, or taste. Nor are they kin to the coconut cookies called macaroons favored in the UK. Formed from flour, semolina, and aniseed, maacroun fingers are rubbed against a grater or big-holed strainer to render the bubble façade. They are then immersed in an oil bath before being dipped in syrup. Diet material? Hardly! Photo Source
- Meghli is spiced pudding made from rice flour, sugar, and water, but the real magic emanates from a blend of three magical ingredients: cinnamon, caraway, and aniseed. Velvety in texture and brown-grey in hue, meghli has for centuries been served to mark the birth of a baby. Thus, at Christmastime, meghli heralds the birth of baby Jesus. Once it sets, the pudding is adorned with blanched nuts, coconut shavings, and raisins, similar to ame7. Photo source
- On the 12th day of Christmas, commonly known as Epiphany or Christ’s baptismal night, Lebanese donut holes are the name of the game. Awwamat are small spheres of dough fried to a golden brown before being submerged into a pool of sugary water. After they cool, try popping one into your mouth without reaching for the entire bowl! Oozing with cloying sweetness in every nook and cranny of their consistency, they put Western donuts to real shame. Photo source
Contributed by Danielle Issa from Beirutista.co