Fried sweets are a staple of party days, when village squares are filled with cauldrons of boiling frying oil producing a variety of fried treats. Fried sweets are a post-Christmas tradition, too, when in the old times “frying nights” were between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6) and a pot of boiling oil was always on in the kitchen to produce maakroun, zlebyieh (fried bread sticks), and ouwaymet (fried dough balls).
Maakroun are finger-like biscuits that are fried, then dipped while hot into a syrup that is scented with the garden’s herbs, mainly ooter, the scented geranium.
For the biscuits:
- 1 1/4 cups + 2 1/2 tablespoons (330 ml) vegetable oil
- 8 cups (1 kg) all-purpose flour
- 6 1/2 cups (500 g) semolina flour
- 1 tablespoon (7 g) whole aniseed
For the syrup:
- 2 1/2 cups (500 g) sugar
- 1 cup (235 ml) water
- 3 unsprayed leaves of scented geranium (optional)
- 2 tablespoons (28 ml) orange blossom water
- Juice of 1 lemon
Vegetable oil, for frying
- Kamal Mouzawak
To make the biscuits, warm the vegetable oil and rub it with the all-purpose and semolina flours to coat the grains of flour.
Bring 2 cups (475 ml) water to a boil and boil the aniseed for about 4 minutes. Strain the water and discard the aniseed. Add the aniseed water to the flour mixture, little by little, kneading well to obtain a dough similar to a bread dough. You may not need all the water, as the water quantity will depend on the flour’s quality. Let the dough rest, covered, for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the syrup by boiling the sugar, water, and geranium leaves for 5 minutes in a pot. Add the orange blossom water and lemon juice at the last minute. (If geranium leaves are not available, the orange blossom water is enough to scent the syrup.)
To shape the biscuits, take a small piece of dough and roll it thin, into the size and shape of an average finger. To imprint a traditional pattern on the dough, hold the piece of dough with 3 fingers and roll it over the surface of a large colander or a basket. Repeat until all the dough is used.
Heat vegetable oil in a deep pot over medium heat or in a deep fryer. Deep-fry the biscuits in batches in the hot oil until golden all over, and, as they are done, transfer them immediately from the fryer to the syrup. Let the biscuits soak for 30 seconds, then transfer to a rack to drain. Serve at room temperature.