Twenty years ago my best friend Suzy married a sweetheart of a guy. His name is Ron. Earlier this spring, I asked folks to send me their favorite family recipes, and Ron was one of the first to share his. His story goes like this:
“Here’s the recipe for Syrian cookies (Ghak) that my Mom measured from my Grandma’s hands (she didn’t use a recipe herself). It’s sort of a shortbread cookie. I have a short movie of my Mom making them a few years ago, when even Alzheimer’s couldn’t suppress her memories of baking so many meals and treats for us (14 in all) over many decades. Lotta love and good memories in this recipe. Peace and love, Ron”
Sadly, Ron’s Mom lost her battle with Alzheimer’s 2 years ago. And tomorrow on Mother’s Day is Ron’s birthday. So with this in mind, I thought what better birthday gift than to bake up a big batch of these favorite cookies that his Mom and Grandma lovingly made for him and his siblings – just in time for Mother’s Day.
Ghak (Syrian cookies)
Yields approx. 8-dozen
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup milk
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon of any/all (to taste): nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, lemon (I grated the rind), almond, and anise (I used ½ teaspoon of all with exception of the anise.)
¼ cup sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix all ingredients (except sesame seeds) by hand until you get the consistency of pie dough.
Pinch off a small bit at a time, roll into a small ball, then into the shape of a fat worm, and wrap that into a circle. (My first batch I left the 2 little “tails” on, but as I went along, I ended up pinching those off to make more of a clean round shape.)
Little at a time spread sesame seeds on a clean surface and pat the top of the cookie with the seeds.
On a Silpat lined cookie sheet, space cookies so they have room to grow. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the top of the cookie has a hint of brown and the bottom a golden brown.
“This recipe makes 8 dozen, depending on how large you make them. Best to make them small. Double quantities (16-dozen!) were penciled in next to that, because 8- dozen weren’t enough! The first few dozen might have been eaten before the last ones got into the oven.” – Ron
Since Ron and Suzy live over in Ohio, I packed them up with a lot of loving care and mailed them out yesterday. Of course, I squirreled away the “ugly ones”, and I see why Ron loves these so much – they’re delicious.
Happy Birthday Ron!
And a Happy Mother’s Day to you!