Back to Bread: Moroccan Cigares aux Amandes

CigaresAmandes_BlogPassover has passed over and we are now back to eating our favorite breads, cakes, cookies, crackers, and yes, pasta. For our break fast (from bread) we decided to have a simple pasta with sauce and cheese (other choice was pizza), a cold beer, and some delicious Moroccan pastries called, Cigares aux Amandes, which are a specialty served during Mimounah, the festival celebrated at the end of the Passover holiday. Below is a recipe that I later developed after having first learned them from Fatima, a Moroccan woman I met while visiting my husband’s family in France. Because France has a large North African population from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, one can easily purchase store-bought leaves of dough in a package to roll and fill and make these cigares, but in the U.S. I have only seen them in some of the more specialized Middle Eastern stores in places like Queens and Brooklyn. Instead one can make a version that using the Greek style of thin phyllo pastry, which also rolls well but is a bit more flaky and delicate to work with.

Cigares aux Amandes: Moroccan Phyllo “Cigars” with Almonds
& 
Honeyed Orange-Blossom Syrup
(Yield: Serves 12 / Makes 2 Dozen Cigares)

 

For Filling
1 cup blanched whole almonds
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 small egg or ½ large egg, lightly beaten
1 to 1½ teaspoons orange-blossom (flower) water

For the Cigares Using Phyllo Dough:
2 sticks sweet, unsalted butter, melted
½ pound phyllo dough (half of a 1-pound box), thawed according to package directions
2 to 3 cups vegetable oil, for frying

For the Cigares Using Feuilles de Brick:
6 pieces of feuilles de brick
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
¼ to ½ cup canola or vegetable oil, for frying

For the Syrup:
1 cup clover or orange-blossom honey
2 teaspoons orange-blossom water

For Serving (Optional: may choose which you prefer):
Confectioner’s sugar
Ground cinnamon
Sesame seeds


PREPARING THE FILLING:

1. Pulse together whole almonds and sugar in a food processor until finely ground into a meal.

2. Add ground ginger, cloves and cinnamon and pulse together again to blend.

3. Add eggs and orange-blossom water and pulse one last time to make an almond “dough” that is
soft and paste-like. Set aside.

FILLING, ROLLING, AND FRYING (using phyllo dough):
4. Unroll the phyllo pastry dough on a countertop and gently smooth out with dry hands. With a kitchen scissors or very sharp knife, cut the phyllo widthwise—along the short end—into three strips, making two of them about 7 inches wide. Place the strips on top of each other to form one stack and cover with a damp towel to keep the dough moist. (Cover and set aside the leftover, thinner strip of phyllo just in case you have some leftover filling at the end.)

5. Place the dish of melted butter beside you. Working with one strip of dough at a time, gently peel off a single layer of phyllo and place it vertically before you on a clean work surface. Re-cover the stack of phyllo with the damp towel.

6. Using a pastry brush, coat the entire strip lightly with melted butter.

7. Take 2 to 3 teaspoons of the almond filling and roll it out into a long, thin sausage, about the width of the phyllo dough before you. Place the almond sausage about 1/8 of an inch from the bottom of the phyllo strip.

8. Roll tightly from the bottom to halfway to the top, then turn the sides into the center and continue to roll to resemble a long, thin cigare. Brush the edges with butter and place on a platter or plate. Continue rolling the pastries in this fashion until all of the filling has been used up.

9. In a medium sized saucepan, heat the oil until very hot. Depending upon how large your saucepan is, deep fry 2 to 4 cigares at a time until they become a medium brown color. (Gently twirl each cigare around in the hot oil to make sure that all sides are evenly coated and fried.)

10. Place each deep fried cigare onto a platter covered with a paper towel to soak up the excess oil and place 2 to 4 more cigares into the saucepan for frying.

11. Position a cake rack over a plate. Combine the honey and orange blossom water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the honey has dissolved and becomes a thin liquid. Reduce heat to low. Gently pick up one fried cigare at a time with a tong or chopsticks, and dip it into the syrup to coat all sides. Place onto the cake rack for the excess syrup to drain onto the plate below. (Note: if you want to sprinkle with the sesame seeds do it at this point so that they stick onto the syrup.) Continue dipping all of the cigares into the syrup in this manner and allowing them to sit on the rack until they fully cool to room temperature.

12. Serve cigares stacked in a pyramid shape or in criss-crossed layers on a small platter or plate. If you like, you can lightly sprinkle the tops with a little confectioner’s sugar and/or cinnamon before serving.

FILLING, ROLLING, FRYING (using Feuilles de Brick):
4. Using a kitchen scissors or sharp knife, cut one leaf of dough into quarters so that you have four equal triangles. (Leave the dough attached to the paper it comes with to make the cutting easier.)

5. Peel one triangle of dough away from the paper and place flat on the countertop or table in front of you with the apex or pointy corner of the triangle facing up, and the wide base closer to you on the bottom.

6. Take 2 to 3 teaspoons of the almond filling and roll out into a long, thin “sausage,” about 4 inches wide. Place the almond sausage horizontally on the dough about 1 inch from the top or pointy tip of the triangle. (You want the almond sausage to be centered from left to right so that there is about one inch from the pointy top, as well as the left and right edges.)

7. Roll tightly from the top to halfway to the bottom, then turn the sides tightly into the center and continue to roll to resemble a long, thin cigare.

8. Dip your finger into the egg white and brush just enough along the inside edge of the dough to seal the cigare closed. Place cigare onto a plate and continue to fill and roll in this manner until all of the dough has been used up.

9. In a medium sized skillet, heat ¼ cup of the oil over high heat until very hot (when you sprinkle a little cold water into it and it crackles, then it is hot enough.) Depending upon how large your saucepan is, fry 4 to 6 cigares at a time until they become a light golden brown color, about 2 minutes. (Gently shake your skillet to make sure that all sides are evenly coated and fried in the hot oil.)

10. Place each deep fried cigare onto a platter covered with a paper towel to soak up excess oil and place 4 to 6 more cigares into the skillet for frying, adding more oil if needed.

11. Position a cake rack over a plate. Combine the honey and orange blossom water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the honey has dissolved and become a thin liquid. Reduce heat to low. Gently pick up one fried cigare at a time with a tong or chopsticks, and dip it into the syrup to coat all sides. Place on the cake rack for the excess syrup to drain onto the plate below. (Note: if you want to sprinkle with the sesame seeds do it at this point so that they stick onto the syrup.) Continue dipping all of the cigares into the syrup in this manner and allowing them to sit on the rack until they fully cool to room temperature.

12. Serve cigares stacked in a pyramid shape or in criss-crossed layers on a small platter or plate. If you like, you can lightly sprinkle the tops with a little confectioner’s sugar and/or cinnamon before serving.

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One thought on “Back to Bread: Moroccan Cigares aux Amandes

  1. Annette Hidary April 5, 2013 at 11:07 am Reply

    Yum! I’ll have a cigare (or two) right now, please, with a good hot cup of coffee! 🙂

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