These intricate Algerian Griwech pastries are made from contortioned dough into elaborate shapes, then fried and coated by a syrup and sesame seeds.
The word griwech translates to “crunchy” and that is a perfect description of the texture, yet they remain very delicate and are beautifully perfumed with orange blossom water. Algerian Griwech are very popular during religious celebrations, weddings and during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan which is just about to end.
For the last couple of months I felt nostalgic when reading posts around the net involving the Daring Kitchen. It’s a great group and one of the first I joined when I stared doing challenges. I was sure I had been kicked out for inactivity a long time ago. The last time I participated was in May 2011! Well turns out I am still a member. So there are actually two factions to the group: the Daring Cooks and the Daring Bakers. They post about 2 weeks apart. I’ll dip my toe back in once in a while, I love how one can really learn a lot of different cooking techniques in this group.
For the July daring cooks challenge, Kouky from “Cuisine à 4 mains“,challenged us to make Algerian Griwech, a popular Algerian dessert that is a full flavored delicacy that has both a melt-in-the-mouth and a crispy texture.
This is one of three recipes given to us by Kouky and it is from La cuisine Algérienne – SNED 1979. Alger . Click here for the full version of the challenge, all three recipes and many more shaping tutorials.
I have never prepared a pastry like this before. Working with a lightly orange perfumed dough was so lovely too. This shaping may look intimidating but once you actually do it its just clicks in the brain and it is easy to do. I worked a bit fast so they are not the most delicate looking Algerian Griwech but for a first timer I think I did a pretty good job.
And the syrup! Take the time to do the caramelization step because it really bumps the taste up. You will need to set some time aside as there are a lot of steps and it takes a bit of time. But OMG is it ever worth it. After the Gers Ogaily from Kuwait it is my favorite MENA dessert. These are the best! So good! Can’t…stop…eating…them…
Algerian Griwech Pastries
For the dough
- 4 cups all-purpose plain flour, spoon flour from bag and then level with knife
- 2/3 cup 150 gm butter, melted and cooled
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup 125 ml water
- 1 teaspoon 5 ml sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon 5 gm baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla powder or vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
- Saffron or yellow food coloring optional
For the syrup
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup 250 ml water
- few drops of lemon important
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water or other
Making the Dough
- In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder
- Make a well & pour the melted & cooled butter, vinegar, orange blossom water & beaten egg
- Beat all by hand and gradually incorporate the flour by rubbing with the palms
- Dissolve saffron or food coloring in 1/2 cup (125 ml) of water
- Gradually add the flavored water and continue kneading till you get a smooth and soft dough
- Divide dough into several balls, wrap in cling film and leave to rest for at least 1 hour
- 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 not, leave it a bit thicker.
- With a 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
- Inside each rectangle, make 5to7 cuts lengthwise without cutting the dough through . This will result in 6to8 strips of 1 to 1.5 cm (4/10 to 6/10 inch) wide of attached dough.
- Take one rectangle in the left hand. 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. This will result in a braided shape. Place the braids on a tray. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
- Once all the pastries are shaped, deep fry them in batches (SEE NOTE below), flipping them over half way, over medium heat until light golden. Remember to adjust temperature between batches. Remove from oil using a slotted spoon and drain on a tray covered with paper towel.
For the syrup
- Mix 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup water and place in a saucepan over medium heat.
- In the meantime, put the other cup of sugar in another saucepan, moisten it with 2 tablespoons of water, put on high heat at first then decrease and caramelize the sugar.
- Pour the caramel gently over the sugar-water mixture. It will bubble at the beginning. Stir and add a few drops of lemon juice to prevent crystallization of the sugar and the orange blossom water. Leave over medium heat for ten minutes then turn off.
- Plunge the pastries in warm syrup. Allow the pastries to soak for few minutes till you get an amber-like color. Drain then sprinkle both sides with toasted sesame seeds
- 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.
It is important to keep the oil at the correct temperature and fry the pastries in batches to give them room to puff and brown evenly. Oil that is too hot burns the outside of the pastry and leaves the inside underdone. If it is not hot enough, the pastries cook too slowly and retains more grease. Before frying, heat the oil to 365°F or 375°F (190 to 194°C). Use a frying thermometer to check and monitor the oil temperature.