When I had my first kitchen during college, I spent a relaxing spring break without housemates, doing whatever I felt like - such as cooking. My mother had recently given me a copy of our church's cookbook, and I decided that trying my hand at some of my favorite Armenian foods would be a good way to spend the break. That week, I made manti and lehmajun and simit for the first time, and I've since gone on to expand my repertoire a bit. I'm not sure when I first made baraze (a Lebanese cookie hiding out in my Armenian cookbook), but it's found its way into my rotation of cookies.
I first wanted to try making baraze because it uses mahleb, one of my favorite spices. Mahleb is the pit of the sour cherries, and has a fabulous nutty and slightly bitter flavor that is important to many baked goods in Armenia and other surrounding countries. It should be bought whole and ground just before using (although I usually get it ground at the store for convenience's sake).
Of course, once that I saw that the recipe included honey, sesame seeds, and pistachios, I was sold. These buttery cookies are slightly addictive, and the combo of the mahleb, sesame seeds, and pistachios is satisfying to any nut lover.
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. mahleb
2 Tbsp. baking powder
2 sticks butter, melted
1/4 cup warm water
4 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. warm water
sesame seeds (about 3/4 cup)
pistachio nuts, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, mahleb, baking powder, butter, and 1/4 cup water. Mix until dough is firm. Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine honey and water and mix until honey is thinned. On a small plate, combine sesame seeds and chopped pistachios.
Preheat oven to 350°. To form the cookies, roll a piece of dough into a walnut-sized ball, then flatten between your hands. Brush on side with the honey, then dip honey-side down into nut mixture. Arrange cookies on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet about 1 inch apart and bake for 10-15 minutes, until edges begin to brown and the mahleb flecks in the dough begin to darken.