November 12, 2011

Lebanese Sweets

I had the privilege of meeting my good friend M's mom last month when she was in town from Jordan. I spent a day in the kitchen with the two of them making traditional Lebanese sweets. We made Awameh, we like to call them Sweet Balloons as M's mom kept saying, "Make a balloon." It was important to have the little air bubble to create the correct texture.

These little sweeties are typically found piled high in Arabic Sweet Shops, you can purchase by the kilo. Not traditionally made at home, which reminds me a bit of France with their gorgeous boulangeries, why bother to make desserts at home? When you can just walk down the street and find a tasty sweet concoction ready-to-eat! I'm sure you're well aware by now, I could never imagine NOT making desserts at home!

Awameh Sweet Balloons
1 cup water, divided
1 teaspoon yeast
1 cup AP flour
1 cup corn starch
2 teaspoons sugar
pinch of salt

Blossom Syrup
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
½ of a lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 tablespoon rose water

In a small bowl, bloom ¼ cup of tepid water
with yeast for 2-3 minutes. In a larger bowl, mix all of the remaining ingredients together and stir in the water & yeast mixture. Let sit for half of an hour.

Meanwhile, heat a neutral high heat oil such as safflower, sunflower or refined can
ola oil over medium-high heat until reaches a good temperature for frying, approximately 350 degrees F.

Also, create the blossom syrup. By bringing the sugar and the water to a boil, shutting off the heat and stirring in the lemon juice, orange blossom water and rose water. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.

After the batter has rested for half of an hour. Pick up the batter with your hands and make a vertical fist...squeezing the batter to form “very little balloons,”c
atch the little balloons with a spoon, and drop the little balloon of batter into the hot oil. We will call this the Little Balloon technique. Turn the balloons over in the hot oil until a deep golden color, pull out with a slotted spoon and place directly into the blossom syrup. Let sit in the solution for a few seconds until well coated and then pull out and place into a serving dish.

You will most likely have quite a few left-over, as they are delicious but this recipe yields quite a few. Simply store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

M and I also created the most scrumptious Baklava I have tasted. The trick, ghee, and we learned that we should have used less, but that's okay a little more butter was blissful! Another Lebanese trick, simple syrup, in fact never honey at least not in M's family!

I think Baklava should only ever have pistachios, no walnuts, no pecans, only pistachios. We will definitely put in a much thicker layer of pistachios next time.

The process for brushing is pictured below, patience is a must for this dish. Thin layers of filo dough gently brushed with ghee and eventually sprinkled with a thick layer of hand-chopped pistachios. Cut before baking, as it's merely impossible after baking. All of the crispy thin layers will break apart into little shards. Bake until cooked through and light golden. Set on a cooling rack and immediately pour simple syrup over the top. Let cool, put in an airtight container and chill. Eat directly from fridge.

Thanks so much Mrs. H & M for sharing some of your treasured family recipes. I haven't made Baklava since culinary school, so nearly a decade ago and I'm pretty sure we used honey instead of simple syrup as well as a mixture of nuts rather than straight pistachios. It was a blast learning some of the sweets reminiscent of M's childhood, including the Zayneb and Tamryeh that M is so fond of.


  1. That sweet balloon is really mouth-watering and an asset to my recipe collection. thanks for sharing it.

  2. You are most welcome Noonuenoch! I'm grateful for my friend M's Lebanese Mamma for that one! Happy Cooking!

  3. Thanks Vaida!! Love the new look, thank you so much for all of your design expertise! Happy New Year!