Almond Mhencha

I have reached new levels of gourmet satisfaction. Seriously. Last week, I made about 3 kg of caramelized onions and ever since, I have been adding them to anything savoury. The majority of them were quickly thrown in a sandwich between melted cheese and occasional pieces of chicken.  It might be time to go on a veggie cure… What do you think? I am thinking I should stop soon anyway before I have a caramelized onions overdose, because that, my friends, would be sad.

On another note, I am off to Morocco soon and I cannot wait! There are so many recipes and techniques I want to investigate further when I am there. But mostly, I cannot wait to be home, see the family and let my mom baby-me a little bit. Something I became even more grateful for since, well, I had my own baby. But let’s go back to cooking techniques and discuss this pastry. 

Do you know mhencha? In Moroccan Arabic, mhencha comes from the word hench which means serpent, so in way, mhencha means serpentined. This cute pastry consists of a delicious almond paste tucked in a filo sheet (warqa for Moroccans), then rolled to form a swirling snake and finally dipped in simmering honey. I made minis a few weeks ago, they were so good, my friends argued over the last one. I know what to bake the next time they come to visit.

They might look or sound a bit challenging technically but in reality, they are pretty simple, the key to make a successful mhencha is to not break your filo pastry.  To avoid that, make sure to 1. brush the filo sheet thoroughly with melted butter and 2. not over-tighten the pastry the first time your roll it.

Ok, I am off to eat broccoli. 

Mhencha5.jpg

Almond mhencha

INGREDIENTS

Makes 8 mini mhencha

Almond paste

  • 250 gr blanched almonds
  • 120 gr caster sugar
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons orange blossom water
  • 10 gr unsalted butter, softened  

To roll the pastry

  • 8  sheets filo pastry, 20 x 30 cm (200 gr)
  • 50 gr unsalted butter, melted
  • 300 gr honey
  • Ground nuts and freeze dried berries for decoration (optional)

METHOD

• Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F)

• Start with the almond paste, you will it use to fill the mhencha. Transfer the almonds and sugar in a nut grinder or a food processor and run until it becomes a moist paste. This will take a bit of time, about 5 minutes. Add in the orange blossom and butter and run again for a few seconds. Remove the paste and divide it into 8 equal parts. Shape each part into long tubes (approximately 30 cm) and cover with cling film.

• Place a filo sheet on a work surface and brush it with melted butter (keep the other ones covered with a cloth to avoid from drying out). Take an almond paste tube, place it on the long side of a filo pastry and loosely roll up the sheet. Don’t be tempted to over-tighten the pastry when rolling it because it will break during the baking process. Cover the rolled almond paste with more melted butter and roll it up to form a snug coil. Place the mhencha onto a lined baking sheet and repeat until you’ve used all the almond paste and filo sheets. Transfer in the warm oven for about 15 minutes until they are baked and lightly golden.

• Meanwhile, heat the honey in a small saucepan over medium heat. Avoid burning the honey by controlling the heat, once it’s foamy, you should reduce the heat.

• Once the pastries are baked, immediately transfer to the simmering honey and soak for 2 minutes. You will have to do this in batches as all the pastries won’t fit in the pan.

• Remove to a flat dish to cool before serving. Decorate with ground nuts and/or freeze dried berries if desired.