Ghorabieh (also written Qurabiya) is an almond macaroon that originates in Tabriz, Iran. Tabriz is in the Eastern Azerbaijan province of Iran and is famous for its delicious food, fantastic restaurants and special pastries and sweets. The bakeries, or “ghanadi” in Tabriz bake hundreds of Ghorabieh in any given day. These soft disk shaped cookies are popular “soghati” among tourists who visit Tabriz. Soghati is what you bring back home as a gift from your travels to your favorite people. Whenever I go back to Tabriz, besides spending time with my family and friends, I do a lot of shopping at Tabriz Bazaar, home to old spice shops and some famous bakeries that have been around since my childhood. Ghorabieh has always been one of my favorite sweets so I really wanted to come up with a recipe that reminds me of old times. This Ghorabieh recipe has been in the works for a while and I’m finally very pleased with the result and ready to share it with all of you. These almond macaroons are soft and chewy, just like Ghorabieh is meant to be!
Ghorabieh has been around in Tabriz ghanadies (bakeries) since ancient times. It is a very popular sweet at the weddings, engagement parties and most celebrations. In older times when a girl was engaged to be married, the groom’s family would send large oval platters “bloot,” mounded high with stacks of Ghorabieh to her house on a khonche aghd. Aghd means wedding, and khonche was a light wooden crate that a man carried over his head. Khonche was usually covered with a beautiful handmade tapestry fabric bordered with metallic lace (photo) called “termeh,” which is an antique item now. Also carried in the khonche aghd were a lot of gifts for the bride and her family. Since one khonche was never large enough to carry everything, the bride would receive many khonche (s). In the present day Iran the special sweets and gifts are given to the bride either in person or delivered by a gift service from the bakeries or shops to the home of the bride to be.
Ghorabieh is also a favorite baked good during different “Eyds,” but especially Eyd e Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Eyd e Nowruz is the celebration of the moment that spring arrives in the Northern hemisphere. This happens on March 19, 20, or 21. This year spring arrives at 10:30 p.m. on March 19th in my mountain town. For other time zones you may check this link . I have previously posted a special Nowruz article about the rituals of this ancient Zoroastrian ceremony which might be interesting to those who would like to learn more about this celebration. Ghorabieh is made with ground almonds, egg whites, sugar and very little cake flour. Blanched almonds are sold at the bakery aisle of supermarkets but you may also blanch them at home. To blanch your own almonds, add 1 cup of almonds to a bowl and add enough boiling water to cover them. Cover the bowl for 10 minutes. Without burning your fingers pick up an almond and squeeze it between your thumb and index finger to remove the brown skin on the outside. Don’t drain the water until all of the almonds are done. The blanching can be done 3-4 days in advance and the blanched almonds can be frozen in a freezer safe zipped bag. Freezing causes some discoloration but it does not compromise its texture or taste. Leave the bag at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to thaw, before grinding.
Cake flour is sold in the supermarkets but you will need only two tablespoons of it for this recipe, and it is super easy to make: Measure one cup of all purpose flour. Remove 2 tablespoons of it and put it back in your flour bin. Then add 2 tablespoons of corn starch to the cup of flour. Now, sift it 5 times. You will need 2 tablespoons of the cake flour for this recipe, save the rest for a later use.
Process the blanched almonds with sugar until fine and soft like the picture. Don’t process to the point that it turns to paste, you want the particles to be small but chewy, slowly add 2 tablespoons water and vanilla extract with the food processor running. The almonds will start bunching up to one side. Turn the processor off. Beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form (this is the stage after the foaming but before stiff peaks).
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper (do not grease the paper). Sift the powdered sugar and cake flour into a small bowl. Gently fold in the ground almonds with the beaten egg whites until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and cake flour mixture in two additions to the almond and egg mixture and stir to blend after each addition. Fit a plain round tube on a pastry bag (I used a Wilton 1A tip), or cut a small tip off a small Ziplock bag. Fill the bag with the batter. This batter is soft and as you fill the bag, it will start coming out of the tip; I let the tip touch the bottom of the bowl and this helps keep the batter inside the bag.
Pipe out twenty 2-inch circles on the parchment lined baking sheet leaving some space between the circles. Leave the cookies uncovered on the kitchen counter for 1 hour. Coarsely chop some unsalted pistachios and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 F (center rack) for at least 30 minutes.
In a small bowl add one egg white and stir it with a spoon until uniformly clear (do not beat). Brush the top of the cookies with the egg white and lightly sprinkle with turbinado sugar crystals. Sprinkle the coarsely chopped pistachios on top. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until the edges turn light golden brown and the tops are a light tan color. Leave the cookies on the parchment paper and slip them onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Gently lift the parchment paper and lightly spray the back with water. Wait a couple of minutes and then gently peel the paper away from the cookies. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. These cookies also freeze well for up to a week in the freezer. To freeze Ghorabieh, line an airtight container with parchment paper, arrange cookies in a single layer and line with more parchment paper and repeat. Cover the container tightly with a plastic wrap and the cover with the lid. When ready to serve, leave the Ghorabieh in room temperature uncovered for 15 minutes.
Nowruz Mobarak!! Enjoy Ghorabieh for this upcoming festive celebration, or just bake it for a simple afternoon visit with a friend. The Persian way is to never forget some freshly brewed Persian tea on the side!
1 hour inactive time
Temperature: Preheated 350 F, center rack
Bake time: 20-25 minutes
You will need a food processor
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper
- 1 cup blanched (without the brown skin) almonds (8 ounces)
- ¾ cup + 2 TBSP granulated sugar (6 ½ ounces)
- 2 TBSP water
- 3 egg whites (keep the yolks for another use)
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup powdered sugar (1 ¾ ounces)
- 2 TBSP cake flour
- 1 egg white (use the yolk for something else), stir a few times for easier brushing, but do not whip
- ½ -1 tsp turbinado sugar crystals
- ¼ cup unsalted pistachios coarsely chopped, for sprinkling on top before baking
- Add 1 cup blanched almonds to the chamber of a food processor (Please see the tutorial for the blanching instructions at home. If you’re using the store bought blanched almonds soak them in warm water for 5-10 minutes and drain them before grinding).
- Add ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar to the chamber. Process for half a minute or until the almonds are processed into small chewy particles. You don't want almond paste, do not over process.
- Add 2 tablespoons of water and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract in a slow stream through the feeding shoot with the food processor running. The ground almonds will start bunching up in one corner, and this is the time to stop the food processor. This process takes just about a minute, do not over process. Set aside.
- Sift the powdered sugar and cake flour into a bowl and set aside.
- Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Do not grease the paper.
- Beat the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Remove the bowl and fold in the processed almonds into the beaten egg whites with a wooden spoon until blended.
- Add the flour and powdered sugar mixture in two additions and stir to blend after each addition.
- Fit a 12-inch pastry bag with plain flute tip (I used Wilton 1A) or make a small cut in one corner of a small ziplock bag. Fill the pastry bag with the batter.
- Pipe out twenty 2-inch circles with some space between them. Let the cookies rest for about an hour on the counter without covering them.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F for at least 30 minutes.
- Brush the tops of the cookies with the stirred egg white. Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar crystal and chopped pistachios.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges are light golden brown and the tops have tanned a bit. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Slide the parchment paper with the cookies still attached onto a cooling rack. Cool for about 30 minutes.
- The cookies will be stock to the parchment paper. To release, lightly spray the back side of the parchment with water, wait for couple of minutes, and remove the cookies one by one with your fingers.
- Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days at room temperature. These cookies also freeze well but bring them to room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.
*Measure 1 cup all purpose flour
*Take 2 TBSP flour out of the cup and return it to your flour bin
*Add 2 TBSP corn starch to the remaining flour and sift the whole thing 5-6 times.
You will need only 2 TBSP of this cake flour for this recipe. Save the rest for a later use.