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Moroccan Almond Macaroon – Mlewza or Ghrieba d’ellouz

Moroccan Almond Macaroon – Mlewza or Ghrieba d’ellouz

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I have yet to meet anyone who can resist the unbelievable chewiness of these Moroccan almond macaroons, a type of ghrouiba or ghrieba. And I have yet to attend a wedding or a happy event in Morocco where they are not served.

In Morocco, this sweet treat has many names: mlewza, ghriebat el a’kda, ghrieba d’ellouz or bellouz. You would be forgiven for comparing it to the Italian cookie Ricciarelli as to some extent you would not be far off.

I’ve been using this family recipe for a solid 25 years after copying it from one of my aunties decades ago. The recipe itself is dead simple but the size of the eggs, the type of the oven and the quality of almonds all play a role in the outcome.

I always keep batches of Moroccan almond paste ready in my freezer. I never know when I will need a ghrieba for my teatime.

In Morocco, we are blessed with a good variety of local almonds that deliver in flavor and also in texture. Making an almond paste with Moroccan almonds tends to be moist while other almonds just yield a dry paste, hence the use of apricot jam to save the day and bring a bit of that missing texture.

I also use standard medium-sized eggs and as my auntie used to say, use the second egg wisely—start with an egg yolk, and if you think you need more, add the egg white.

Old ovens are still used in Morocco and convection ovens can be found in a few urban houses. We used to start off by test baking a few ghrieba. Initially the cookies went into the oven with the rack positioned for the grill or broiler and with the door slightly ajar. Once cracks appeared over the ghrieba’s surface, we would move the baking rack down and use the bottom third of the oven for the remainder of the time. If we were satisfied with the cracking and how it spread, we shaped the other ghriebas and baked them. Otherwise we adjusted the mix.  Now that we have a convection oven, I just place the baking sheet right in the middle throughout the baking time and I know that my recipe delivers with the measurements listed.

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A Moroccan almond ghrieba or macaroon

Moroccan Almond Macaroon - Mlewza or Ghrieba d'ellouz

Nada Kiffa | Taste of Maroc
In Morocco, this sweet treat has many names; mlewza, ghriebat el a'kda, ghrieba d'ellouz or bellouz. It looks and feels like an Italian artisan Ricciarelli.
Ghrieba bellouz is easy to make and it keeps for a good couple of weeks. You can also freeze it for months, well sealed. It will only need 15 minutes thawing before serving. 
I like to crumble it to make a cheat version of Moroccan almond juice or mix it with a good vanilla ice-cream.
4.30 from 10 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Cookies
Cuisine Moroccan
Yield 40 cookies
Calories 125 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1.13 lbs almonds - blanched, skinned and well dried (do not use almond powder)
  • 7 oz caster sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp apricot jam, - measured after straining
  • 1 egg, - medium-size
  • 1 egg yolk, - medium-size
  • 2 tbsp butter, - melted and cooled
  • 3 to 4 grain of mastic gum
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 4 drops almond extract - (optional, if you suspect that the almonds lack flavor)

Finishing and decoration

  • 8 oz icing sugar

Instructions
 

  • Make an almond paste with the sugar and almonds until it forms a paste or nearly there. You will need a good food processor for this. 
  • In a pestle and mortar, mix 1 teaspoon of sugar with the grains of mastic gum and crush them to a powder. Alternatively, use the back of a glass and crush the mix. Flavor the almond paste with this mix.
  • Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C) and cover 2 baking sheets with baking paper. Fill a large bowl or a deep plate with the icing sugar intended for the finishing.
  • Lightly whisk the eggs with the sugar and salt. Break the almond paste into rough pieces and add it along with the rest of the ingredients. Mix until everything looks homogeneous. Do not overwork. You can do this by hand as well as with a food processor. Be sure there are no lumps left in the mix.
  • Shape small smooth balls of about 0.7 oz or 1.2" diameter. If your hands get sticky, wash them and keep them slightly moistened to carry on. Some people place a large bowl of water and a towel alongside so they don't have to keep going back and forth the the sink.
  • Drop the shaped balls into the icing to coat the top and sides with icing sugar.
  • Place the ghreiba balls on the baking sheets leaving at least 3" space between them. Slight flatten by pressing your thumb in the middle but do not over-flatten it.

Baking and storing ghrieba

  • Convection oven: Place the tray in the middle of the oven and bake for at least 12 min. If more time is needed, turn the baking sheet for even coloring and continue baking for a few minutes or until the ghriebas are ready.
  • Conventional oven: Place the baking pan in the top third of the oven with the grill on for about 5 minute or until the tops of the cookies crack. Move the rack to the middle or lower third of the oven to finish baking. I usually use both the grill and oven heat at the same time so the cookies bake in 15 to 18 minutes.
  • Once cooled, store in an airtight container. I suggest you place a layer of baking paper or foil between each layer so the nice icing does not get damaged by friction between ghriebas.

Notes

  • Mastic gum or meska is the secret ingredient that gives this ghrieba delicate taste while the spoon of jam reinforces the chewy texture and makes it last. Mastic gum is not to be confused with gum arabic as the former is used for flavoring and texture. It is a resin from Pistacia lentiscus. Also beware of false meska.
  • You can replace the apricot jam with a sweet orange marmalade, just make sure to chop the orange rinds before adding it to the mix. Ideally, you can blend it with the almonds so it is combined perfectly.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 125kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 2gFat: 7gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 7mgPotassium: 98mgFiber: 1gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 30IUVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 38mgIron: 0.5mg

Nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate obtained from online calculators. Optional ingredients may not be included in the nutritional information.

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About the Author

Nada Kiffa is Contributing Editor at Taste of Maroc. A native of Casablanca with strong Fassi roots, she writes about Moroccan and international cuisine at Ainek Mizanek.

Recipe Rating




Lorien

Thursday 30th of May 2024

love it! but just wondering, is it 125 calories for 40 ghriebas or for 1?

Christine Benlafquih

Saturday 1st of June 2024

That's simply the estimated calories for 1 cookie, based on a nutrition app's calculation which assumes you're making exactly 40 cookies. However, if you don't use the full amount of powdered sugar when coating the dough, or shape smaller balls of dough to yield more cookies, then the calories per cookie will be a little lower.

Brahim ElHadry

Friday 22nd of May 2020

Great recipe I tried it and the consistency is great. Thank you for sharing. I used Orange Blossom while shaping small balls and before dropping them into the icing. I did not use meska since I did not want to wait for amazon shipment.

Nada Kiffa

Friday 22nd of May 2020

Glad you like it. I will be making some for Eid. It's always a crowd pleaser.

Steven Edwards

Saturday 28th of April 2018

Thanks for sharing this recipie. We read orange blossom water could added, being unable to find thos locally we used Valencian orange extract. Large Duck eggs which are super yolky were used. Perfect with a refreshing glass of mint tea.

Christine Benlafquih

Saturday 28th of April 2018

So glad the recipe was a success for you, and I imagine the extract gave great flavor. In Morocco, I like to use beldi (free range) eggs as the yokes are deeper hued and more flavorful than regular eggs.