One of my favorite takeaways from my college education as a comparative literature student is the term synecdoche–using the part to refer to the whole. In baking, we use images in our heads of flour (scattered all over our aprons), butter (creamed to whipped perfection), and sugar (its crystals dazzling in the light) to stand in for the entire process of making cookies or loaf cake. In reality, there’s chocolate chips and vanilla extract and a couple of eggs in the batter, too.
But today, the part is really the whole cookie. Today’s butter cookies contain nothing but butter, sugar, and flour. Of course, we use some nuts for garnish, but let’s let the synecdoche stand.
These cookies hail from the Middle East. As my year of exploring Middle Eastern cuisine for Sargento winds down, I went through the archives and noticed there were no desserts. I’ve tried pomegranate molasses on grilled cheese sandwiches and made lentils every which way. I got stupidly obsessed with za’atar and dukkah. But I haven’t shared anything sweet. Perhaps this is because cheese doesn’t figure in Middle Eastern dessert (though there are plenty of delicious-looking milky puddings). So today we’re venturing away from the cheese and the savory so that I can share these cute, simple, three-ingredient cookies with you in time to get them on your Christmas table.
Yesterday I shared a holiday tart, kicking off a sweets week of sorts. Tomorrow, we’ll have chocolate-dipped shortbread gems from a really talented contributor, so keep your sweet teeth tuned in!
This sponsored post is part of an ongoing collaboration with Sargento, called Flavor Journey. Throughout this year, with the support of Sargento, I’ve been exploring Middle Eastern cuisine–at home, in Brooklyn, at cooking classes, and wherever the flavors may take me. You can see the whole series here. Sponsored posts let me do some of my best work on this blog, and I only ever work with brands whose values and products mesh with the content I love to produce for you. Here’s my affiliate disclosure.
Ghorayebah (Middle Eastern Butter Cookies)
Adapted from Claudia Roden
Makes about 30 cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
Handful of blanched whole or sliced almonds, shelled pistachios, and/or pine nuts, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter in a large mixing bowl until it turns white, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and continue to beat for about 5 minutes, until very smooth and creamy. The combination will look a lot like buttercream! Retire the mixer and slowly work in the flour with a spatula. The dough will be quite soft.
Take walnut-sized pieces and roll them into balls, then flatten slightly. Place them on the baking sheet 3 inches from each other (these spread a bit). Press a nut onto the center of each cookie.
Bake for 12 to 18 minutes, watching carefully: you want the cookies to be firm but completely white…not brown at all. Cool on the sheets for 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.