What is bjawia?
Bjawia (or bjaouia) is a Tunisian dessert prepared with roasted dried fruits that deliver all their aromas in a soft syrup to form a divine bite-size pastry with pistachios.
Just like baklawa, kaak, boulettes el bey, mlabes and makroud, among other delights, bjawia is part of the Tunisian hlou (hlou means pastry or candy in Arabic). Tunisian pastries are just as beautiful as they are good.
Bjawia are originally from Sfax, a city that is famous for its fine pastries, with a heritage from Turkey and Andalusia.
The traditions and the secrets of the preparation of these pastries are kept alive by Tunisian women. In each family, mothers or grandmothers transmit their know-how from generation to generation. Actually, until the late 1960s, making traditional pastries was only a family affair.
Fekya or dried fruits
Originally, bjawia is a luxury pastry. It was reserved for the big celebrations, with quality ingredients that are noble and precious. It is only composed of dried fruits, including walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, pine nuts, etc.
It’s a concentrate of energy. Nuts or oleaginous fruits are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
For the Tunisians, they symbolize hospitality and joy.
Bjawia is somewhat similar in concept to a number of other traditional recipes with dried fruits and syrup or honey, like Cypriot pastellaki, which is prepared with peanuts and sesame seeds, or Georgian gozinaki, which is made with a combination of almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, as well as flax seeds.
How to prepare bjawia
This recipe has 2 important steps: roasting and making a syrup.
Roasting will allow oilseeds to release their aromas. This step is essential. Soft and unroasted dried fruits taste rather bland in comparison.
The best is to roast them in the oven. The end result will be more homogeneous. Preheat the oven to 320 F (160˚C) and bake the dried fruits on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Watch and stir every 5 minutes.
They can also be dry roasted in a pan. Monitor and stir very regularly.
It is important not to mix them at this stage because their roasting time is not the same. Roasting will also help remove the skin from the hazelnut to remove any bitterness.
Right when they’re out of the oven, let them cool and put them inside a towel to be closed like a small bundle and rub the whole thing energetically. The skin will come off quickly and easily.
With almonds with the skin, blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling water. Drain them and then remove the skin with the fingers without letting the almonds cool, this would make the operation more difficult. Then, dry them in an oven at low temperature for 10 minutes and then roast them.
For the syrup, heat the water, sugar and lemon juice by mixing at the beginning to help the sugar to dissolve. The lemon will prevent the crystallization of the sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and start checking regularly. The temperature needs to reach about 240 F (115˚C).
It is also possible to dip the tip of a knife in cold water and then immerse it in the syrup and again in the glass of cold water. With the fingers, remove the syrup from the blade. A small soft bead must form between the fingers. It should take about fifteen minutes of cooking.
Bjawia is a Tunisian dessert that is prepared with roasted dried fruits which deliver all their aromas in a soft syrup to form a divine bite-size pastry filled with pistachios.
- 1 cup pistachios
- ½ cup walnuts
- ½ cup hazelnuts
- 1 cup almonds , blanched
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 1½ cup caster sugar
- ½ lemon
- 1 cup water
- Vegetable oil
- ½ cup finely crushed pistachios (for the decoration)
- 1 tablespoon rose water
Roast all the nuts separately, as the roasting time is not the same for each type of nut.
- Also, roast the finely crushed pistachios separately.
- Remove the skin from the roasted hazelnuts.
- Roughly crush everything except the pine nuts, using a large knife or a rolling pin (especially not in the blender).
- Put them in a large salad bowl.
In a non-stick saucepan, cook the sugar with 1 cup of water and the juice of half a lemon, until thickened and a golden color is obtained.
- To check the cooking, immerse the blade of a knife in a glass of cold water, take a little syrup with the knife, and plunge the blade into the glass of cold water. Slide a finger on the sugar. If a pearl that can be rolled between two fingers is formed, then the syrup is ready.
- Pour the syrup and rose water on the dried fruits and mix vigorously with a spatula or wooden spoon.
- Let cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Grease a sheet of parchment paper with oil and place on a baking sheet.
- Grease the hands, then form a large ball with the mixture and place it on the parchment paper.
Place a second oiled sheet of parchment paper over and spread with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 1½ inch (4 cm).
- Place the baking sheet in the fridge for a few minutes, then cut square or diamond shapes with a large, very sharp knife.
- Sprinkle each serving with finely crushed pistachios.