Here is another version of ka’ik, this one a molded shortbread cookie. Buttery, crisp, and beautiful, a tradition for Easter. Find ingredients such as mahlab and orange blossom water at MaureenAboodMarket.com, along with the molds here.
Why can’t I just leave a good thing alone?! Maybe it’s all of the home-time we’re having these weeks that has driven me to develop a new recipe for ka’ik, beautiful molded Lebanese Easter cookies.
Maybe it’s impatience? The classic version is made with a beautiful yeasted dough, one that does take a few hours to prepare so the dough can rise. I’m a big fan of yeasted dough, and yet . . . sometimes I want an oompa loompa, I mean cookie, and I want it NOW.
Drawing on the tradition of German and other beautiful molded shortbread cookies, I went for a shortbread version of ka’ik. The buttery, brown sugar flavor of the cookie is infused by an amazing supporting cast of spices and flavorings. We bake these to a rather deep golden brown to achieve a short, crunchy/crumbly texture and to get that toasty flavor.
The result is so harmonious. And if the starring flavor of anise is not your thing (as is the case with my brother Chris, vehemently), you can take these in another direction of classic shortbread flavor, with vanilla only or vanilla and orange blossom water. Just be sure to replace the hefty amount of dry spice ingredient with about that same amount of flour.
What I love, LOVE, about this dough is how beautifully it holds the shape of the ka’ik cookie mold. So beautiful. The (delicious) glaze on top should coat rather thickly while still revealing the pattern underneath.
The molds I offer at MaureenAboodMarket.com are custom made just for us, in solid walnut. They are stunners, and as the new batch arrived for Easter baking, I’m realizing that it’s really the molds that inspired my new recipe. I wondered, and have been asked by some of you, how else can we use these beauties?
Molded Shortbread Cookies
This is a crunchy, buttery version of molded Lebanese Easter cookies, "ka'ik" or "ka'ak." The cookie is flavored with the classic spices of mahlab, anise, and orange blossom water. Use the traditional flat mold to shape your cookies (find them here), or use the tines of a fork to make your own design. Be sure let the glaze dry completely before storing the cookies.
For the cookie dough:
- 1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 3 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons orange blossom water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon anise extract
- 4 cups plus 2-3 tablespoons, unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more to flour the molds
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons mahlab
- 3 tablespoons ground anise
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the glaze:
- 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- 2 teaspoons orange blossom water
- 4-5 tablespoons water
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment.
In the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand with a wooden spoon, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, about two minutes on medium speed.
With the mixer off, scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs, orange blossom water, vanilla and anise extract and beat until it's well incorporated.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, mahlab, anise, and nutmeg. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture. Once moistened, add the remaining flour mixture and beat until combined. The dough should hold together when squeezed, without leaving dough on your fingers. Add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed, to create a cohesive, but not dry, dough.
To shape the cookies with a mold. flour the mold well with flour, then knock of excess flour. Do this each time before pushing dough into the mold to ensure an easier release of the shaped dough.
Pull a large, 4 oz. piece of dough and shape it into a smooth ball. Flatten the dough to about a 3-inch disk on your work surface. Smooth any cracks in the dough. Gently lift the disk and press it into the floured mold. Evenly push the dough across the mold and shape the edges to prevent any cracking.
To remove the dough from the mold, gently loosen the dough around the perimeter of the mold, slowly working your way in as you loosen. Let gravity assist as you hold the mold face down and gently pull the shaped dough from the mold.
Repeat with all of the dough, placing the cookies on the prepared sheet pans about two inches apart, six cookies on one pan and four on the other.
Bake the cookies one sheet pan at a time, for 17 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown throughout (not just at the perimeter). Remove from the oven and cool completely before glazing.
Make the glaze just before using it. In a medium bowl, combine the confectioner's sugar, corn syrup, orange blossom water, and 3 tablespoons water. Stir until the glaze falls in a very thick ribbon off of the spoon. Add drops of water if needed to get the correct consistency. Cover with plastic wrap until you're ready to use the glaze, stirring again to smooth it out.
Place the cookies on a rack with parchment underneath to catch drips. Spoon the glaze in the center of a cookie, and spread the glaze evently to the edges using the back of the spoon or a pastry brush. You'll get a feel for how thick you want the coating of glaze to be, making sure the cookie pattern shows through.
Allow the glazed cookies to harden over night. Store the cookies in an airtight container, in layers separated by waxed paper, for up to one week or longer. These are crunchy biscuit cookies so they last a good long time.