After my earlier failure with Moroccan honey cake I was determined to do the country of Morocco proud and successfully make one of its desserts. To do this I turned to M’Hanncha – a dessert consisting of an almond honey paste wrapped in filo dough, baked, and drizzled with honey. Sound familiar? Kind of like baklava? Well…. it is baklava, just in a cool spiral form that gives the dessert is name – M’Hannacha translates as “snake”.
Before you ask, heck no I did not make the filo dough from scratch. Only professional chefs and GBBO contestants do that. I did the sane thing and bought a pack from my grocery store. If you follow that route this dessert is pretty simple.
The mixture is an easy combination of almonds, spices, and honey. I would recommend using a food processor to grind your almonds as opposed to buying pre-ground ones or using almond flour. That way you can better control the size of your almond pieces and the resulting texture of your filling.
Lining the filo with the filling was a little tricky, but by the second and third rolls I was able to roll up the whole thing without too many tears. With a little nudging and some careful crimping together of filo ends, the signature circular shape came together. Pop the whole thing into the oven, bake, cover with some pistachios and voila – fancy pants dessert.
The Moment of Truth
Damn, baklava is good. I could eat slices of this for every meal and feel good about my life choices. Heck, there are nuts in it and nuts are healthy. Despite the undercooked filo, the M’Hanncha was devoured within forty-eight hours and no one had any complaints. I call that a win.
I followed a recipe from Spice Traveller. Food52 has a tasty looking version and the recipe used by one of the aforementioned GBBO contestants can be found here.
1 packed filo pastry (6-8 sheets)
200 grams almonds
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp orange blossom water
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
Zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup butter (use half for filing and half to brush filo pastry)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp orange blossom water
Preheat the oven to 340 Fahrenheit (170 Celsius). Combine all dry filling ingredients in a food processor and mix until the texture of very coarse sand. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined. The mixture should be a thick paste that holds its form.
Roll out two sheets of filo pastry and brush the top one with melted butter. Spread 1/3 of the filling mixture along the long end. Roll the dough into logs and seal the ends with another light brushing of butter. Repeat two more times.
Spray a baking tray with Pam, or brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with icing sugar. Coil the three rolled logs into one large spiral, pinching the ends of each log to prevent the filling from leaking out.
Whisk an egg and brush over the top of the spiral. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the dough on all sides is golden brown. I think I undercooked my M’Hanncha so I would suggest leaving the spiral in the oven until slightly longer than you think you should.
While the spiral is baking combine all of the syrup ingredients and warm slightly in the microwave (~30 seconds). Remove from the oven and transfer onto a serving plate. Brush with the syrup and sprinkle with pistachios or almonds. Theoretically you should let the whole thing cool before serving, but I certainly did not have that kind of patience.
Morocco is home to the oldest existing, and continually operated educational institution in the world – the University of Karueein, founded in 859 AD.