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
“Griwech” in Algerian Arabic means” crunchy”. These beautifully shaped pastries are made from a yeasted dough that is shaped, fried and then sweetened with orange blossom water flavored honey. The golden exterior is crunchy but the center is soft and chewy. .They are kind of similar to awameh if you have ever tried it.You bite into them, the crunchy outside crackles and you get a little burst of orange blossom honey perfectly balanced by the light and fluffy cooked dough. Simply addictive!
The pastry finds its roots in the western regions of Algeria, particularly in cities such as Oran and Tlemcen. Griwech later spread into the rest Algeria becoming one of the traditional signature desserts there.
Griwech is a special treat that is usually served in celebrations and weddings. It is also popular during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, where it’s often served for dessert after iftar with a cup of mint tea. A similar version called chebakiya is found in the neighbouring Morocco but the latter is slightly different as it contains almonds and ground spices.
The fun part in making Griwech (other than eating it of course) is the endless possibilities in terms of shapes. There are braids, cobs, flowers, bows, windmills only to name a few. The kids and I had a blast trying out different shapes and possibilities.
Servings: 25 -30 griwechs depending on the size
Preparation time: 15 min + 1 hour resting time for the dough
Cooking time: 30 min
Cooling time: 10 min
4 cups (500 gm) (17-2/3 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, (spoon flour from bag and then level with knife)
1/2 cup (1 stick) (125 gm) butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon (3 gm) instant yeast
1 teaspoon (5 gm) baking powder
1 tablespoon of orange blossom water
Warm water (about 150 ml (2/3 cup) depending on the flour absorption capacity)
In a large bowl, blend the flour, instant yeast, baking powder, sugar, salt and vanilla (powder). Mix well.
Make a well, add the melted and cooled butter, beaten egg and orange blossom water and mix well.
Add warm water to the dough till you reach a smooth firm result.
Divide dough into several (about six) balls, wrap in cling film and let rest for at least 1 hour.
How to make the braid
Cornstarch (called cornflour in Australia and NZ and called maizena in Europe)
Oil for frying
Honey flavoured with orange blossom water
Toasted sesame seeds (I didn’t use them because I did not have any on hand)
Take a ball of dough and flatten slightly by hand.
Sprinkle your board with cornstarch. 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 you prefer your Griwech to be soft and chewy, leave it a bit thicker.
With a fluted 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. (The kids were “helping” with the cutting part, hence the uneven rectangles and cuts but we still had a blast)
Take one rectangle in the left hand (I shot a simple video to help you understand the steps better)
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 (see video). 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. Remember to adjust temperature between batches. If the oil is too hot, they will brown too quickly without being cooked through
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.
Plunge the pastries in warm honey, flavored with orange blossom water. Allow the pastries to soak for few minutes till you get an amber-like color. Drain then sprinkle both sides with toasted sesame seeds
Keep uncovered till they are completely cooled.
Place in an airtight container.
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons of rosewater
1 cup honey
In a pot add the sugar, water and lemon juice
Cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil and all the sugar had dissolved
lower the heat and cook for 2-5 more minutes.
Take off the heat, stir in the orange blossom water and the honey. Stir until the honey is completely dissolved
Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
– Griwech can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. You can store it in the same sealed container in the freezer for three months.