Ah, the famous Tunisian ghraibas homs! Along with samsas, ghraïbas are a favorite North African pastries. These delicious pastries are similar to mantecados, but they distinguish themselves by their texture that melts in the mouth. The particularity of ghraiba homs is the chickpea flour that composes it and which gives it this particular texture.
What are ghraibas?
Ghraibas are North African pastries of the same family of mantecados shortbreads. These pastries are served especially at the break of the Ramadan, at Eid al-Adha or Eid al-Ftir. The origin of these pastries dates back to the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century. Etymologically, the word quribiya would be a word of Turkish origin. Ghraïba or El Gheraïba is a city in Tunisia. It is believed that the name of these shortbreads appeared for the first time in this city.
You can find ghraiba everywhere in the Middle East and in the Maghreb. These irresistible North African pastries are made by hand using simple ingredients: flour, sugar, butter or oil. In some areas of Tunisia, a dash of lemon or cinnamon is added to the dough.
Tunisia is famous for three types of ghraiba: graiba homs made from chickpea flour, ghraiba dro made from sorghum flour, and other ghraiba made from white flour and sprinkled with cinnamon.
To get back to the ghraiba homs, I’m used to the version of my nanny Najoua, who adds peanuts to the dough. I also tested another version of ghraiba homs at a friend’s house, in which she added roasted sesame to her dough. A pure delight! The ghraibas are part of these pastries that are made from dry ingredients to which fat like is added, just like mantecados.
You have to knead the dough and warm it in the palm of your hands to make chickpea ghraiba without the dough crumbling. A useful tip: consider placing your ghraibas 10 minutes in the freezer before baking. Be careful to bake these ghraiba homs at low temperature so as not to burn them. They require between 15 and 20 minutes of baking and must not change color during baking.
Ghraibas around the world
Ghraibas are shortbreads whose shapes and flavors are different around the world. Almonds, pistachios, nuts, cinnamon, and sometimes lemon can be added.
In the south of Spain and the Andalusian region, you can taste montecaos or mantecados. Manteca means fat, and montecaos are usually prepared with lard. The recipe for montecaos would originate from the city of Estepa, a city of the province of Seville. But a very old fresco clearly referring to mantecados in Antequera, a city of the province of Malaga, raises doubts about the origin of these shortbreads.
Gilena mantecado is a variety from the city of Gilena near Estepa. The flour is roasted and this technique results in a completely different product, crisp at the base and soft above. You have to oast the flour and add the other ingredients by hand. This technique makes it possible to obtain a product completely different from the montecaos that you would find in Andalusia.
In Morocco, ghriyba or ghoriba is served with mint tea.
In Mexico, there is a variety of almond shortbread sprinkled with icing sugar known as Mexican wedding cookies or polvorones.
- ½ lb chickpea flour , sifted
- 1¼ cup flour , sifted
- ½ cup butter , melted
- 2 oz. sesame seeds , roasted
- 1 oz. crushed almonds , roasted
- 1 cup icing sugar
- ⅔ cup vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a large container. mix the two flours, the icing sugar, and 1½ oz of sesame seeds.
Add the butter and mix well.
Add the oil and mix until smooth.
With the dough, form a cylinder about 1½ inch in diameter.
Flatten the cylinder very slightly and, using a sharp knife, cut square or diamond-shaped cakes and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Mix remaining almonds and sesame.
Sprinkle each ghraiba with this mixture and lightly press on them so the mixture adheres to them.
Bake the ghraibas for 15 to 20 minutes.
Watch closely during baking as the ghraibas must remain rather white.