WEEK 5 (Continued)
After posting my last blog, I followed the recipe from Sousou’s Youtube video to make the baked version of the Makrouts. I went through the steps of steaming and blending the dates to make the date filling; I rolled the date paste into licorice shaped tubes and put them in the fridge. Watching the video as I rolled the dough, the woman was effortlessly manipulating the dough into shape. I on the other hand, seemed to be having an arm-wrestling contest against a clump of cornmeal, and I was losing. My frustration started to creep in, but I told myself that since I was not going to be deep frying this batch, the dough would at least not fall apart in the oven.
I decided to only roll out a quarter of the dough and use a quarter of the date paste, in case the oven batch did not work out. It is hard for me, week after week, to throw away the failed pile of ingredients, so I figured only using 25% of it would be a good place to start.
Soon, the cookies were in the oven, and I began washing the dirty bowls. I started to think about the last time I had a Makrout. I remembered my 4 foot 2 aunt at 89 years old, wobbling around our kitchen, mumbling in Arabic, French, and a language she made up all while attempting to show me how to make the dough. At this point in her age, she had lost a lot of her memory as she was well into the beginning stages of dementia, so the baking process was a bit of a danger for her. As I pictured my little Tata going through the same steps as me to make these cookies, I started to think; how the heck did this little woman with dementia deep fry anything, when I can barely figure it out in good health? I had thought about how with my previous attempts, oil was flying, I received several small burns (never wear shorts in the kitchen), and the whole fishing the cookies out of boiling oil just seemed like it would have been way too dangerous for her to do on her own.
Suddenly, it dawned on me. I realized that the reason I could not remember the deep frying portion of this whole experiment was because my aunt never actually deep fried the Makrouts. The cookies she made weren’t oven baked cookies, but they weren't deep fried either. I thought about it for a few seconds and then bam! I remembered! She had pan fried the cookies! Just a little oil and that was it. I was so excited, that I prepared the rest of the dough, pulled a big skillet out and tried the process once more. Pan frying happens to be something I am familiar with, so the process went smooth. I was so excited, that I almost forgot that I had put a whole batch of cookies in the oven! I pulled them out and set them aside. Thankfully they didn’t burn and they seemed to resemble large Fig Newtons. But at this point, I didn’t even care about the oven version anymore. I was focused on my pan fried success. I made probably 6 different batches of the pan fried Makrouts (only cooking about 4 at a time). Each time I fried another batch, they got better and better in consistency. They became easier to keep from burning, once I got a rhythm down, and the shape of them started to resemble more of the diamond shape I was trying to create. For the first time in this 20time project, I was back in the groove of really enjoying the baking process, as I most often bake for the relaxing calm it brings me.
Above are several different batches of the pan fired Makrout. The middle bottom picture shows the cookies covered in honey. The dates caramelize a bit in the oil, making a deliciously-sweet burnt sugar taste combined with a sticky candy-like texture. The orange blossom water and rose water combine to add a hint of a savory floral after taste. Yum!
I was successful, finally! But, now it was time for the taste test. I added rose water to the honey, warmed the mixture in the microwave, and then drenched this sticky blend on top of the cookies. Then, I set the cookies on a plate, and drenched them in even more honey. In the video, the woman said to dip the Makrouts in honey, and then let the honey drain off the cookies before eating them. Not happening in my world because I love honey, and I grew up eating Makrouts you had to rescue from a honey submerged state if you wanted to eat them. When I finally tried a Makrout, it was heavenly! The taste of these cookies is so unlike any American food or dessert there is, that I couldn’t explain it if I tired. The best way to capture my experience would be if you imagined that you had never in your life had bacon before, and today you were trying it for the first time. The cookies were so enjoyable, that they were almost too tasty. I ate so many, probably half the batch while cooking them that I really couldn’t stop. My family enjoyed them too. I was so excited when my dad approved of my Makrouts, because as a true Moroccan and chef, he is usually my harshest critic when it comes to food. He will tell me when I make something bad or not the way its “supposed to be.” I was so proud that my dad believed my Makrouts were like the traditional version he grew up eating in Morocco, and I finally had the feeling that I really mastered these cookies and achieved my 20time goal. While I have reached my 20time goal much later than my set timeline up until this point, I really believed I was going to have to accept failure and try again a few months from now to allow my my frustration to subside. I am so excited I now feel confindent that I can whip these cookies up anytime. I am saving this Sousou recipe for furutre use. I feel lucky it actually worked, considering it was meant for baked Makrous.
The left picture is all of the cookies together on a Moroccan dish of ours. The right picture is what was left of the cookies once my family caught wind that I had made them. About an hour after both of these pictures, there were zero left!
Oh, and if you are wondering how the baked version tasted, they were not bad. If I had not made the fried version, I would say they were really good. They tasted like a sweeter, better, and crunchier version of a Fig Newton. But, since I had the fried version to compare with, the baked Makrout version does not stand a chance. I would probably make this version again, if I wanted a lighter snack, because I did get quite a sugar rush followed by a debilitating food coma from eating so many cookies. But, I think if I am going to make these cookies for friends and family, I might as well go all out and pan fry them to give the full Moroccan experience. I definitely will be making them again very soon. I had told my friends and teacher candidates at my job site that I would share my tasty Makrouts, but the entire batch disappeared that night! I guess I will just have to make some more and maybe with some Moroccan mint tea this time!
I am heading into the last week for meeting my goals to master the Makrout cookie. I thought I would have had the cookies down by now, and been moved on to other types of Moroccan sweets. But, I am putting those thoughts aside and focusing my efforts this week using a change of game plans. I really want to be successful, because I have put a lot of time into learning this recipe, and I do not want to feel like I have little to show for it in week 5. I have spent the week researching and reflecting on how I can conquer these cookies. I have considered many ideas. First, I am taking teacher candidate George Porter’s advice to refrigerate the dough once I have cut the cookies into diamond shapes ( prior to deep frying.) I think this is a good idea, because the cold fridge may help bind the cookies together, so that they do not fall apart once in the fryer. I did some more googling to see if George’s suggestion had credibility. The funny thing is, that when you google search using the words “deep fried,” it becomes very easy to get sucked into the infinite land of a fried-food-photo double-clicking frenzy. I stumbled upon deep fried cookie dough, how to make the “perfect french fries,” how to make churros(yum!), and several more deep fried cookie dough recipes: chocolate chip, peanut butter, sugar-they have it all. I figured I would keep these recipes in case my 20Time doesn’t work out, and I need some fried comfort-foods in my life from the disappointment of another failed attempt. I really think people are on to something with the whole deep-fried cookie dough. Think about it, raw cookie dough, with a deep fried crust...genius; I'd even throw some vanilla ice cream in the mix.
An hour passed of mouthwatering google-searching, when I realized I was halfway through the list of the 101 best comfort foods of the South.Ops! Way off topic...Focus...Focus...Anyways, I was able to refocus my goals and refine my search to re-align with my 20Time project, and I found a really interesting option to solve my issue with the deep fried Makrout. This round-a-bout search process was worth it in the end, because it led me to a “baked” Makrout recipe, or "Makrout au Four,” which directly translates to Makrout of the oven. I think because I have not been too successful thus far, I will try out this new recipe, since it does not involve deep frying, a simple oven bake instead. I know the taste will not be as decadent (theres no true substitute for deep fried anything), however; if I succeed with the baked Makrouts they should be similar in taste since the ingredients are the same-and more importantly edible!
Once I further investigated the Blog page Sousous Kitchen, I found another great Youtube video! I loved the video, because the woman began by speaking all in French. I was shocked that I completely understood every word in the video. Sometimes I assume I have lost my French, since I never practice speaking as my relatives have all passed away. My dad and I do not speak French even though we could, but we just don’t out of habit. As well, when my dad watches the French channel, I often miss whole parts of the story leading me to believe I have forgotten a lot of the language. This video was a relief however. I probably really understood the woman’s French due to her French-Moroccan accent, an accent I have grown up hearing. Anyways, the video became even more helpful, as the woman switched off between French, English and Arabic. I loved hearing the Arabic, because today, I rarely hear this language in my household as my dad does not have many people to speak it with. I was surprised that I even recognized many Arabic words. This was a nostalgic moment of my research, because it made me realize just how often my grandmother and aunts used to cook when I was little; they cooked so much that I was able to pick up the arabic words for different food ingredients and cooking materials they would use while cooking.
The Youtube Video that guided my learning:
The last 10 seconds show a nice visual of the texture I am trying to create; rich and grainy with a coat of moist honey coating.
The beginning of the video is all in French, but the woman basically describes that she will be presenting the recipe and process of how to make the Makrouts, and she also shares a little background info that these cookies are in high demand everywhere during the month of Ramadan.
Alright, I am back in the kitchen again. After another fail, I decided that I need to switch things up a bit. First, I need to do a bit more research and perhaps create a new plan. The Youtube video I have been using is helpful due to the visual support it provides me; however, I do not think it is the right recipe to be using. I pulled out my Grandma's 80's Moroccan cookbook to inspire me today. After all, none of my relatives even knew what Youtube was, nor did they use technology to support their cooking. I remember my grandma's most valued use of "technology" was one of those cool old-school cooking timers that you would manually turn the nob on to set the time. My grandma and my relatives; however were expert cooks, so they did not necessarily need much technology to cook. I on the other hand, have a long way to go, and am lucky to have abundant access to technology. So, I am definitely going to continue to use it as support
I started first with some more research. I looked up tips for deep frying, since this has been the hardest part of the entire project. I feel like I have the consistency of the dough just right and the date paste has a good texture and flavor. For the most part, my abilities to fill the inside of the dough with the date paste seems to belooking and feeling right. That part is fun and always reminds me of memories of childhood family diner trips, where we would order "pigs in a blanket." Anyways, the deep frying is tricky! What I found from doing research and reading different articles was that temperature is extremely important. Since my cookies keep burning quickly, I think that I am frying at too hot of temperatures. According to one of my research findings, if you put a wooden spoon in the oil, bubbles will form around the spoon which indicates the oil is hot. I think I have been waiting too long to drop the cookies and as a resut they burn fast. The oil has been quickly turning brown upon inserting the cookies, which is probably another indicator the oil is way too hot. Another tip I found was that any excess moisture causes the food you fry to bubble and the oil will sometimes spill out. The last attempt at frying, I remember that there were so many bubbles that I could barely see the cookies. It almost appeared that the oil was somehow evaporating. To prevent excess moisture from spilling out of the cookies, I will pat them dry with paper towels before placing them in the oil. Lastly, a final valuable tip I learned from my research I is the importance to "not overcrowd" your fried items. I will only add 2-3 cookies at a time instead of half of the batch.
Reading the cookbook was fun! First off, it is all in French! I liked having to translate it as I planned the baking process, because I rarely read French anymore. I liked that the Recipe was titled "Makrod." This type of spelling aligns more with how I have grown up pronouncing the name of these cookies. Also, I thought it was interesting how the book explained the measurements. For instance, "1 petit verre d'huile" translates to "a small glass of oil," and "1 pincee," meaning a "pinch." It is not very often recipes are so non-specific with measurements , so I thought that was pretty amusing. I am used to seeing measurements in cups not glasses. The whole units of measurement in units of grams was a bit difficult as well, but I figured it out with a few conversions. Another fun part about using this cookbook was that I could read my grandma's little notes throughout the book to herself. For instance, she had wrote "1986" in the front of book and one of my relatives names. Perhaps it was a gift from them, or to them? Either way, it was cool to feel like I was not just using a cookbook or internet recipe, but was connecting with a piece of family history; a primary source.
So after setting up to bake and keeping all my new tips in mind, here is more of what the process looked like. Since the process is so similar to my previous posts, I wont go back into explaining the steps.
I did switch to a metal pan! Teflon is definitively not a productive way to deep fry. You can tell from the photos above that the cookies seem a bit more dry than my previous attempts. I really tried to make sure there was not to much moisture, so the whole over boiling issue wouldn't happen again. I also used the wooden spoon trick that I discussed above to get the heat right.
Drum roll please...
My Questions for making Makrouts:
1. Where will I find the recipes for the cookies?
2. What kinds of technologies could I use to learn the process?
3. What ingredients would I need?
4. Do I have the proper tools in the kitchen for this?
5. Should I expand the idea to learning how to make a few different Moroccan cookies?
6. How much time should I devote to making cookies every week?
7. How long will it actually take me to learn this cookie?
8. Where can I look up information about the origins of this cookie?
9. Who should test my cookies for authenticity?
10. How many variations are there of this cookie? (Pictures on the internet look different than the ones I grew up eating.)
My Questions for a Creative Writing Book:
1. Will I have the time to be writing everyday?
2. Should I make the writing into a book or something else?
3. Should I reach out to my past creative writing teacher for support?
4. What will get me back into the groove of writing everyday?
5. Will my stress from this program inhibit some of my creativity?
6. Should I create a routine time to write or just write when I think of something?
7. Should I do a little more research on creative writing projects? Where should I look?
8. If I am struggeling to come up with ten questions about this project, can I trust that I will have enough to write about everyday?