Algeria – Griwech

On the recommendation of my former work-spouse (its a thing), big-law savior, and fellow dessert fiend – Ms. Ehrlich – I decided to head to Africa. Specifically, the largest country in Africa – Algeria. When I started my search for the dessert of Algeria about 15 blogs popped up all describing griwech. This turns out to be due to one blog called The Daring Kitchen which, back in July 2015, dared all of its followers to try cooking griwech. I won’t go into detail here about the cool idea behind The Daring Kitchen, but suffice to say, if you are looking to get out of your kitchen comfort zone check it out. With that caveat, back to the dessert.

Griwech, also called griouche, is a pastry drenched in honey and sesame seeds. That sounds enticingly exotic, but let me describe griwech another way – funnel cake with honey instead of powdered sugar. Yes, I know, not as exciting. Sadly, that’s the truth. The intricate shapes and sesame seeds threw me off too, but when you break this recipe down to the basics it is the same as that good old fashioned carnival food.

The Bake

Not a lot needs to be said here. Make the dough as you would a classic bread recipe. I didn’t use the orange blossom water because I couldn’t find any in the grocery store. I am sure it adds some extra tastiness to the dough, but you could just as easily use some vanilla to get a little hint of flavor.

If you have fried dough before you know the drill. If you haven’t, don’t be worried – it is easier than I anticipated. One tip: to make these goodies a little sweeter leave them in the honey for a longer time so that more of that golden-brown goodness seeps into the dough.

The Moment of Truth

Meh. If you like funnel cake this is a great alternative to the powdered sugar version. If you have a killer sweet tooth (like me) this isn’t the dessert for you. If you want to try your hand at frying or shaping dough then read on and good luck!

The Recipe

Recipe courtesy of The Daring Kitchen

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

1 egg, lightly beaten

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon orange blossom water (I skipped this)

~200ml of warm water

Mix together the flour, yeast, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the middle of the dough, add the butter, egg, and orange blossom water. Mix well. Add warm water until the mix comes together. Knead for a few minutes until the dough becomes smooth and rather hard. Divide the dough into four to six balls, cover, and proof for at least 1 hour.

After the dough has doubled in size, roll out the individual balls and shape as desired. For a good step-by-step guide of how to make the many different styles see, again, The Daring Kitchen. Personally, I found the bow ties to be the easiest and cutest. Cover the shaped dough with cling film or a towel so that it does not dry out until it is frying time.

Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a dutch over or other high-walled pan to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry the shaped dough 2 or 3 at a time for about a minute on each side until golden brown. Note that when dough is added to the oil the temperature will drop and, if it drops too low, could result in soggy griwech. To avoid this add the dough slowly and keep a candy thermometer in the pan at all times so you can carefully monitor the temperature.

Once golden brown, remove from the oil and place on a plate layered with paper towels. Let cool for a minute then dunk in a bowl of warmed honey. Let rest in the honey for about a minute to absorb a good amount of sweetness, remove, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and set aside to allow the excess honey to run off. These can be kept out for a few days but I found them to be best when warm.

Fun Fact

The national animal of Algeria is the Fennec Fox. Those ears! It is a good thing this guy likes the desert because 90% of the country is covered by the Sahara.

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