While Moroccan meals typically conclude with a helping of fresh fruit (figs, dates, oranges with cinnamon), or just a mint tea, the most common dessert is a selection of classic Moroccan patisseries, notable among them being Kaab el Ghazal, or gazelle horns. Flavoured with cinnamon and orange blossom water, they consist of a scented almond paste wrapped in delicate pastry, moulded into a crescent shape and baked until just golden. Here is the recipe.
Making Almond Paste
To make these delicious little sweetmeats, you need first to create the almond paste. For this, you will need the following ingredients (enough to make 50 ‘gazelle horns’).
- 500 g (1 lb) skinned, blanched almonds
- 275 g (1 1/3 cups) sugar
- 75 ml (1/3 cup) orange blossom water
- 60 g (1/4 cup) melted, unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Gum Arabic or mastic powder (optional)
Grind the almonds in a food processor for about five minutes and then mould the resulting mix into a paste. Using your fingers to mix them thoroughly, add the remaining ingredients into the paste, adding extra cinnamon, sugar and/or orange flower water to produce the desired flavour. Shape small portions of this paste into sticks, each roughly the size of the little finger; cover and place them into the fridge.
Making the Dough
For the pastry dough, you will need:
- 375 g (3 cups) flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 large or 2 small eggs
- 170 g (3/4 cup) melted unsalted butter
- 4 – 5 tablespoons of orange blossom water
Mix these ingredients to form a soft dough and knead it by hand until elastic and very smooth. Divide the dough into five or six portions and allow them to rest for at least 15 minutes before rolling out, one portion at a time, on a lightly-flowered surface into the thickness of very thin card.
Shaping and Baking
Place one, two or more sticks of almond paste (depending on the width of your rolled-out dough) near the top of the sheet of dough, leaving a 1½” gap between the sticks. Conceal the paste by folding the top edge of your dough snugly down and around it, allowing the dough to overlap slightly. Seal the dough tightly around the paste by pressing it down and using your fingers to mould/ pinch the concealed paste into the traditional crescent shape, which should be wider at the base and tapered near the ends.
Carefully cut out the crescents (fluted pastry wheels provide an attractive edge), ensuring the cut edges remain tightly sealed, before placing them onto a baking sheet (not greased) and baking them in the middle of the pre-heated oven at 180° C (350° F). Allow to cool before tasting or storing your ‘gazelles’ in a plastic container.