on Dec 25, 2014 By Danielle Issa
The Christmas holiday is tinged with sweet traditions passed down from yore. Bakeries and patisseries are to a growing extent churning out batches of goodies for the selling, but everyone knows these novelties are best baked at home.
So ready your aprons, spatulas, and blenders. We’re about to storm the kitchen and whip up customary Lebanese Christmas pastries.
Eid el Burbara is annually celebrated on December 4 by Christians in the Levant. Honoring the saint and martyr Barbara, who disguised herself in many different costumes to elude the Romans attempting to persecute her, the Halloween-like holiday has three classic treats associated with it. The first involves boiled wheat berries (ame7) in an ode to Barbara’s hiding in wheat fields to escape capture. These berries are topped with blanched almonds, pistachios, raisins, walnuts, pine nuts, and sometimes coconut shavings, too. A touch of honey and a drizzle of orange blossom water give them the requisite sugary lift.
Photo via loufwhatyoueat.wordpress.com
Personally, I’ve never been fond of the boiled wheat offering, vastly preferring the second of Saint Barbara’s trio sweets. Qatayef, closely resembling mini pancakes or blinis, are fashioned from a simple dough batter and stuffed with clotted cream (ashta) touched with crushed pistachios or a mixture of walnuts, sugar and orange blossom water. Ever so delicate and endearing, they are the perfect fluffy finger-food you’ll never get enough of.
Photo via fatisrecipes.wordpress.com
Don’t be fooled by the name—maacroun have absolutely nothing to do with those airy, melt-in-your-mouth French cookies called macarons. They are also wholly unrelated to those coconut mounds dubbed macaroons. Nope. Maacroun are pure, unadulterated Lebanese bliss. Crafted from flour, semolina, aniseed flavor, and a few other magical ingredients, maacroun dough is rolled across a grater or big-holed strainer to create the desired mini domes before being fried to a golden-brown and dipped in syrup. Super sweet and super dense, these saccharine spears are not for calorie-counting dieters!
Photo via tasteofbeirut.com
Mighli can best be described as the characteristic Christmas pudding in Lebanon. A brown-gray velvety concoction made from boiling rice flour, sugar, and water, it incorporates a rich trio blend of spices—cinnamon, caraway, and aniseed. Once it sets, mighli is garnished with blanched pistachios, pine nuts, almonds, coconut shavings, and raisins, much like the boiled wheat berry stew. Mighli is conventionally served when a baby is born, and Christians commemorate the birth of Christ at Christmas.
Photo via Silhouett Etiquette
On the occasion of the Epiphany, or Christ’s baptismal night falling 12 days after Christmas (on January 6), awwamat, or Lebanese donuts, are served. Small balls of dough about the size of a ping pong ball are fried to a golden crisp before being plunged into a pool of syrup or sugar water. Once they cool, pop one into your mouth and feel the sugar permeate the doughnut hole in a sweet, high-inducing trance.
Photo via Foodlve
Danielle Issa is a food blogger in Lebanon. You can find her on Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog, Beirutista.
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