Barazek is a delicious Syrian cookie with sesame seeds and crushed pistachios, flavored with spices, vanilla and honey. With its light and crisp texture, this little sweet delicacy goes perfectly with a hot drink.
What is barazek?
Barazeks are cookies filled with roasted sesame seeds and pistachio chips from Syria.
These crunchy biscuits are made of a fine sweet dough, very rich in butter and without egg. The texture, both sandy and melting, is similar to that of shortbreads, the famous Scottish butter biscuits. Some barazek recipes use clarified butter (or ghee), a butter that has been melted and where the lactose was removed to only keep the fat.
Each cookie is generously covered with a layer of roasted sesame seeds on one side and crushed pistachios on the other. A honey syrup delicately coats the sesame seeds and brings back an extra sweet flavor while remaining subtle.
Very fragrant, the barazeks contain vanilla essence and a Middle-Eastern spice called mahleb (or mahalepi). Commonly used in cooking and baking in Middle-Eastern countries, this spice is derived from the fruit of a cherry tree called the St Lucie cherry. The taste of the mahleb (or mahalepi) is similar to that of the bitter almond and cherry, and also reminiscent of the orange blossom.
What is the origin of barazek?
Barazek is a typically Syrian culinary specialty, rooted in Damascus, the country’s capital. These cookies are also very popular in Homs or in Aleppo, a city located in the north-west of Syria and famous for its production of tasty pistachios.
Although the barazek is originally a Syrian pastry, the recipe has spread widely throughout the Middle East, including Lebanon and Jordan. It is now common to find the famous sesame biscuits in many Mediterranean countries, exploring local shops and tea shops.
Traditionally, the best barazek can be found in Syrian bakeries. They are sold in a pre-packaged form in metal boxes, to maximize shelf life. These biscuits are an integral part of local culture and traditions, and those pastries are made to be shared with friends, family and neighbors at major parties and gatherings.
For many Syrians, barazek is a sweet treat synonymous with exchange, conviviality and community spirit.
How to make barazek?
Traditional barazeks are usually small (similar to cookies) and shaped fairly thinly, which gives them a very crisp texture. For a softer texture, simply make balls a little thicker and less flat before baking them.
The dough is slightly more sticky and difficult to handle than a standard cookie dough. This is actually so that the pistachio chips and sesame seeds stick correctly on each side and form a beautiful layer on top.
How is barazek served?
Barazeks are often eaten on festive occasions in Syria, but they are also popular at teatime in the middle of the afternoon. They can be enjoyed throughout the year, accompanied by a cup of mint tea, black tea (preferably full-bodied) or a delicious Turkish coffee.
For an even sweeter treat, barazek goes very well with a bowl of ice cream, such as pistachio or vanilla to remind the flavor of the cookies.
- 5 tablespoons honey
- ¼ cup water
- 1¼ cup white sesame seeds
- ⅘ cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- ¾ cup caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground mahleb (or mahalepi)
- 3 cups flour , sifted
- ⅓ cup milk (at room temperature)
- ½ cup raw peeled pistachios , chopped or finely crushed
- Mix the honey and water in a small saucepan.
- Place over medium heat and simmer, stirring until honey dissolves. This step lasts about 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let cool.
Mix the flour and baking powder.
- Roast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly until lightly browned. Let cool.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter, egg and sugar with the beater until obtaining a cream.
Add the mahleb (or mahalepi), vinegar and vanilla and mix.
Add the baking powder and flour mixture and using the flat beater, mix until smooth. Do not knead too long.
- Gradually add the milk to form a smooth dough.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 320 F (160°C) and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Pour the honey syrup into a large deep plate and add the sesame seeds. Mix.
- Place the chopped pistachios on a plate.
- Form balls of dough the size of a walnut.
- Squeeze each ball of dough on the pistachios, to flatten them a little.
- Turn each biscuit over and dip in the honey syrup and sesame seeds mixture.
Place the cookies on the baking sheet with the sesame seed side up, spacing them approximately 1 inch (2,5 cm).
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, turning them halfway, until the edges are golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a rack to let them cool completely.
- Keep the barazek in an airtight metal container.