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How to make Healthy Barazek Cookies with Sesame and Pistachios

Barazek cookies are healthy, delicious cookies from Syria that contain healthy ingredients for biscuits. Their main ingredients are sesame seeds and pistachios, hence the adjective "healthy". They have a nutty, sweet tinge and are quite "addictive" so be careful if you decide to use our sample recipe to bake a batch or two.

In today's article, we'll be taking a look at the cookies' history, origin and nutritional values. There will also be a sample recipe at the end which you can use to bake your very own batch of Barazek cookies. So, how do these Syrian cookies hold-up to some better-known types of biscuits? Read-on to find-out.

Barazek cookies: Origin and recipe

Barazek cookies are a staple dessert in Syrian cuisine. They originate from the city of Damascus, which is the country's capital. Besides Damascus, the cookies are very popular in other cities like Homs or Aleppo and neighbouring countries as well. The cookies are especially popular in Aleppo since it is most known for its production of tasty pistachios, one of the main ingredients in Barazek cookies.

The recipe has spread throughout the Middle-East region, to countries such as Lebanon and Jordan. Over time, however, the Barazek cookies have become popular in many Mediterranean countries as well. I hope that after this article has been published, the Barazek cookies will have many new fans! The most common places where you'll find Barazek cookies on offer are local pastry and tea shops.

However, if you would like to try the best possible variant of Barazek cookies there are, your best bet would be to try out the recipes they use in Syrian bakeries. You can also order some for yourself, as they're packaged in metal tins, to maximize their shelf life.

The cookies are also an important part of Syrian culture. To the people of Syria, they represent exchange, conviviality and community spirit. The cookies are made to be shared with friends and family, and they are almost always present at parties and gatherings. It is always nice to discover such cookies with an interesting origin that means so much to so many people.

Another great thing about the Barazek cookies is that they are very healthy! So if you ever wished to know how to make some healthy biscuits, you are in luck!

Source: 196flavors.com. "Syria: Barazek" by Laurie Liagre.

Recipe

The best way to enjoy Barazek cookies is with some tea or ice cream. It is going to take you around an hour and a half to bake a batch of around 40 Barazek cookies - 50 minutes prep time, 45 minutes cook time and 45 minutes resting time. For the ingredients, you will need the following things:

For the honey syrup you will need:

  • Five tablespoons of honey
  • One-quarter cup of water

For the cookies themselves you will need:

  • One and one-quarter cup of white sesame seeds
  • Four quarters cup of unsalted butter at room temperature
  • Three-quarters cup of caster sugar
  • One egg
  • One tablespoon of white vinegar
  • Half a teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • One teaspoon of baking powder
  • One teaspoon of ground mahleb or mahalepi
  • Three cups of sifted flour
  • One-third cup of milk at room temperature
  • Half a cup of raw peeled pistachios

As for equipment, all you will need is:

  • A stand mixer

Pretty basic stuff, you will not need any heavy-duty equipment to bake these cookies.

Instructions

Now that you have prepared all of the ingredients, it is time to take a look at the biscuit baking process. First, we will begin with the honey syrup:

  1. Take the five tablespoons of honey and one-quarter cup of water and mix them in a small saucepan.
  2. Place the mixture over some medium heat and let it simmer. Stir the mix until the honey dissolves. This should take you about three minutes.
  3. Remove the syrup from the heat and let it cool.

Next-up, we will be focusing on the cookies themselves:

  1. Take the recommended amount of flour and baking powder and mix these two ingredients.
  2. Take the one and one-quarter cup of white sesame seeds and roast them in a dry skillet over medium heat for around two minutes. Stir the sesame seeds constantly until they become lightly browned. After this, let the seeds cool.
  3. Take your stand mixer and mix butter, egg and sugar inside the mixer's bowl, beat these ingredients together until they turn into a cream.
  4. Take the mahleb (or mahalepi, depending on your choice), vinegar and vanilla and mix these ingredients.
  5. Add the baking powder and flour mixture and mix everything with a flat beater until it's smooth. However, do not knead it for too long.
  6. Add some milk (gradually) to form a smooth dough.
  7. Take the dough and cover it with a plastic wrap. After that, let it sit at room temperature for around 45 minutes.
  8. Preheat your oven to about 320°F or 160°C. Take two large baking sheets and place some parchment paper on them.
  9. Now take your honey syrup, put it in a large deep plate and add some sesame seeds to it. Mix it all.
  10. Chop some pistachios and place them on a plate.
  11. Take the dough that you have left to sit for about 45 minutes and form balls out of it, around the size of some walnuts.
  12. Take the balls and squeeze each one on the cut-up pistachios, to flatten them a little.
  13. Now that you've pressed the dough balls into pistachios, turn them over and dip them into honey syrup and sesame seeds mixture.
  14. Almost finished! Place your raw Barazek cookies on the baking sheet and make sure to place the sesame side upwards, space the cookies for about 1 inch or 2,5 cm.
  15. It should take about 25 to 30 minutes to bake the cookies. Be sure to turn the cookies halfway and to bake them until the edges are golden brown.
  16. Remove the cookies from your oven and let them cool a bit on the baking sheet, for about 5 minutes. After that, transfer them to a rack and let them cool completely.
  17. You should keep your freshly-baked Barazek cookies in an airtight cookie tin or cookie jar, to prolong their freshness.

And there you have it! This is how you can bake you very own batch of Barazek cookies, thanks to Laurie Liagre. If you followed this guide properly, then you should have had no problem baking these goodies. Enjoy!

Source: Laurie Liagre. "Syria: Barazek." 196flavors.com

Barazek Biscuit Type

Image by Hussein Kassir/Shutterstock.com

7 healthy benefits of sesame seeds

Since pistachios and sesame seeds are the main ingredients in almost every Barazek cookie recipe, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the numerous health benefits there are to be had from consuming them (in moderate amounts, of course).

  1. They are a good source of fibres - around 30 grams of unhulled sesame seeds (around three tablespoons) provide about 3.5 grams of fibre. Now, this may not seem like a lot but it actually makes-up 12% of the recommended daily intake of fibres. As many of you might already know, fibre is what helps our digestion stay healthy. Along with that, fibre also reduces the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity and diabetes.
  2. Sesame seeds can lower cholesterol and triglycerides - according to certain studies, consuming sesame seeds daily can, in fact, reduce high cholesterol and triglycerides which are the two main risk factors for heart disease. Eating more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can help lower one's cholesterol, and sesame seeds are comprised of about 41% of polyunsaturated and 39% monounsaturated fats.
  3. They are a nutritious source of plant protein - and that is an understatement. Sesame seeds supply 5 grams of protein per 3-tablespoon servings, which is quite a lot. You can maximize their protein availability by eating hulled, roasted sesame seeds. This is because hulling and roasting processes reduce oxalates and phytates. Oxalates and phytates are compounds that may hamper your digestion and absorption of protein. If you are wondering why protein is important, to put it shortly, it helps build everything, from muscles to hormones.
  4. They can help lower blood pressure - since sesame seeds are rich in magnesium, they can actually help lower blood pressure! Besides that, sesame seeds contain lignans, vitamin E and other antioxidants which can help prevent plaque build-up in arteries. This can help you maintain healthy blood pressure.
  5. May support healthy bones - another thing in which sesame seeds are rich are several nutrients that boost bone health! The calcium, certainly the main nutrient that maintains our bone health, is located in the hull. Three tablespoons of unhulled sesame seeds, for example, contain 22% of the RDI (recommended daily intake) of calcium, 25% of the RDI of magnesium, 32% of the RDI of manganese and 21% of the RDI of Zinc. However, sesame seeds also contain natural compounds called oxalates and phytates which, unfortunately, limit the absorption of these valuable minerals. To circumvent this, you should try soaking, roasting or sprouting the seeds to gain the most value from them.
  6. They can reduce inflammation - suffering from a severe case of inflammation? Sesame seeds to the rescue! Inflammation is no joke, as even low-level inflammation can play a huge role in many chronic conditions such as obesity or cancer (also heart and kidney disease). To reduce inflammation, you should try consuming moderate of amounts of sesame, as sesamin, a compound found in sesame seeds and their oil, can prevent inflammation build-up.
  7. Sesame seeds are a good source of vitamin B - the different kinds of vitamins are an integral part of any healthy immune system. Luckily, sesame can provide us with all the vitamin B our bodies need! The vitamin is distributed in both the hull and the seed, however, it is important to note that removing the hull may either concentrate or remove some of the vitamins. Three tablespoons, which is around 30 grams of sesame seeds, contain 17% fo the RDI of Thiamine, 11% of the RDI of Niacin and 5% of the RDI of vitamin B6.

There are many more health benefits to be gained from consuming sesame seeds, however, I would like to divert my attention to pistachios as well, since they are the second main ingredient found in almost every Barazek cookie!

Source: Marsha McCulloch, MS, RD. "15 Health and Nutrition Benefits of Sesame Seeds." February 13, 2019. Healthline.com

4 healthy benefits of pistachios

And finally, it is time to take a look at pistachios as well! Pistachios also have loads of useful benefits, some of which I have decided to write down on the list below!

  1. Pistachios are loaded with nutrients - pistachios are insanely nutritious. For example, one ounce (or 28 grams) contains 159 calories, 8 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fibres, 6 grams of protein, 13 grams of fat (90% of which are unsaturated), 6% of the RDI of potassium, 11% of the RDI of Phosphorus, 28% of the RDI of vitamins, 21% of the RDI of thiamine, 41% of the RDI of copper and 15% od the RDI of manganese. Quite impressive, wouldn't you say? Along with sesame, pistachios are one of the most vitamin B6- rich foods there are, so if you need these specific vitamins, be sure to buy some pistachios.
  2. Pistachios are rich in antioxidants - antioxidants are of vital importance to your health. They can prevent cell damage and they play a significant role in reducing the risk of diseases such as cancer. When it comes to antioxidants, the only other ingredients which contain more are walnuts and pecans. Pistachios also have one of the highest contents of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are very important for eye health.
  3. They are also low in calories yet high in protein - usually, nuts are high in calories, yet pistachios have very low caloric values. Around 30 grams of pistachios contain 159 calories, which is quite low when compared to some other kinds of nuts. When it comes to protein, however, pistachios are second only to almonds. Protein comprises about 20% of their weight. They are also full of amino acids, which are the building block of protein.
  4. Pistachios can help you with weight loss - pistachios are one of the best weight-losing foods out there. If you're looking to lose a couple of pounds, they can help you achieve that goal. That is because they are rich in protein and fibre, both of which make you feel full and help you eat less.

And with that, I'd like to conclude today's article! Now that you know about the many benefits of pistachios and sesame seeds, I hope you'll give Barazek cookies and chance and try and bake a batch or two for your friends and yourself. Be sure to also check out our website for some additional products. Cheers!

Source: Audur Benediktsdottir, MS. "9 Health Benefits of Pistachios." October 23, 2019. Healthline.com

Leading image: By actistudio/Shutterstock.com

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