It’s almost the full moon, I can feel it in the air. I can also feel in the air the eagerness of my Muslim friends who will celebrate the end of Ramadan on the day of the full moon. Depending on the lunar cycle, this will occur either Saturday or Sunday.
In Muslim kitchens, preparations are underway!
I was fortunate enough to participate in a baking day yesterday with friends who were preparing ‘cornes de gazelles,’ gazelle horns, a typical, crescent-shaped cookie which is the cornerstone of those made for Ramadan. It was a privilege to be there.
We were four women, two sisters, their mother, and me. Nadia, one of the sisters, has been a friend for a decade. She’s always shared Ramadan cookies with me; this year our daughters are spending the week sailing together and she invited me to come to her mother’s house to help with the cookies. I jumped at the chance.
Houria, Nadia’s mother had the flour out and the butter melted when we arrived. She clarified the butter while Nadia sifted flour, baking powder and salt into a huge, aluminum bowl. In went the butter, then enough orange flower water and tap water to make a silken dough. Houria worked the dough vigorously for fifteen minutes, then made little balls of it and put it in plastic bags, to rest.
While it rested, she made the filling by mixing almond powder, sugar, and orange flower water together. “No egg,” she said. It was true, the almond powder thickened up the filling and it held together as we formed it into short, fat sausages to use as filling for the dough.
We rolled out the dough into rounds, cut the rounds into triangles, and rolled out each triangle to transparency. On top of the triangle went a sausage of filling, then we rolled the dough over the filling, and bent it slightly form a crescent shape. After trimming each end of the crescent to keep the filling inside, we moved along to the next one.
This went on for hours, until every surface in the kitchen was covered with baking sheets and pans filled with cornes de gazelle.
Once baked, they went into a sugar syrup, then into a large bowl filled with confectioner’s sugar. Each one was dusted and patted until the sugar adhered.By days’ end, we had hundreds of cornes de gazelle. I took home a plateful. I’d fasted along with my friends during the day (almost – a cup of coffee and a broken corne de gazelle kept me going!); I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into one of those sugared cookies come nightfall. Along with my daughter, we consider ourselves connaisseurs, because we buy cornes de gazelle regularly at our farmers’ market. Never, though, had we had any as good as these!
As I sit and write this Houria and another of her daughters, Dalila, are making other cakes. By the weekend there will be tray after tray of different varieties. Some will be enjoyed by Houria’s large family. The rest will be distributed to friends and neighbors – that is the Ramadan tradition!
I will publish Houria’s Cornes de Gazelle recipe, once I’ve tested it. To do that, I’ll need a whole day and a small staff to help! Stay tuned.