Shortbread Cookies: Ghriba
Ghriba is the delightful Moroccan Shortbread Cookie we grew up with. It is Vegan without even trying! Ghriba is beyond simple to prepare, in fact I’ve always had a no-fail mnemonic formula for the ridiculously simple ingredients: 4-1-1. Respectively: 4=flour, 1 = vegetable oil (melted butter if you are on a total splurge or don’t mind making your cookies dairy), 1 = sugar. That’s all ghriba is: Flour, oil and sugar. Optional but really cute: Ghriba gets topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon, but that’s just a garnish, so it doesn’t disrupt the 4-1-1 magic code. I’ll bet many of you are much too young to remember that 411, now defunct, used to be our Telephone Information Service, circa the Pre-Internet Age.
Three humble ingredients that end up being so elegant. We Moroccans would forego every cookie creation for the pleasure of our native shortbread cookies. Incredible that a humble mixture of flour, oil and sugar and nothing else should taste so rich and intriguing. Prepare for a wonderful surprise when you take your first bite: at once gritty and melts in your mouth. A Real marvel!
Shortbread Cookies: Ghriba Variations
Now you can take the totally artless Moroccan shortbread cookies ingredients, and take them places. It even includes a gluten-free variation, as you will see when you scroll down. Try my Moroccan nut truffles, shortbread cookies by any other name. But first I urge you to try the basic ghriba as given below: it is delicious just as is. You will love its funky gritty-sandy texture, and the reasonable amount of sugar it contains.
- 4 cups flour (all purpose, whole pastry, spelt, or gluten-free flour: more about this below)
- 1 cup vegetable oil (dairy: butter at room temperature)
- 1 cup sugar
- Cinnamon for sprinkling the cookies
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix flour, oil and sugar in a bowl. Work these ingredients thoroughly with your hands until you get a smooth “shortbread” dough.
Form little balls with the dough, closing your hands on them tightly to make the dough hold together. Flatten the balls slightly. Place the ghriba on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, one inch apart. Top the ghriba with a pinch cinnamon. Bake the ghriba 15 minutes, or until just pale golden. The ghriba will have tiny cracks all over them. Let the ghriba cool completely before storing in an air-tight tin at room temperature
- Gluten-Free: Even if you are not gluten-restricted, try making them with chickpea flour, or almond or hazelnut flour (the last two will produce a wonderful lower-carb treat)
- Dairy ghriba: Make the ghriba with melted butter
- Add nuts: I have devoted a whole recipe to this somewhat more delicate variation, Moroccan Almond Crescents (hlilins), and just for variety, I have shaped them into more elegant crescents