Epiphany in Lebanon

I know I should have made this post earlier, but I was mostly going out with my friends who are visiting for the holidays.

Epiphany in Lebanon marks the end of the holidays’ season. Usually on the 5th of January (Epiphany eve) people tend to make special kinds of sweets and I don’t know if I can call them cookies. They are available in pastry shops and some bakeries all around the year, but people make them at home mostly on Epiphany.

Another tradition is making yeast and hanging it on a plant or a tree outside in a cloth bag: careful though it has to be hanged on a non cursed tree, so no yeast hanging on fig trees and there is another one which I forgot. There is a belief (not sure where it really came from or if it has any theological origins) that Christ will be passing at midnight to bless homes and the hanging yeast balls. Some even leave a light on for this purpose. I don’t know if these traditions are carried on by younger generations.Part of this yeast is used to cook something like a pizza or man’oucheh, the other part is used to hold coins and later on, when dried, they are given to each member of the family as an omen of prosperity along the coming year.

Now back to our sweets. Mom made only one kind this year (thankfully because there was way too much food for Christmas!). We call them macaroons. They are made of (I did not specify quantities because most of them are based on taste such as rose water and anise seeds or need such as water and yeast):

  • 1 part all purpose flour
  • 2 parts fine semolina flour
  • Yeast
  • Crushed anise seeds
  • Rose water
  • Oil
  • Water
  • Oil for deep frying

Rub the two kinds of flour with oil till they have a sandy texture. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients. Be sure to dissolve yeast in a little warm water before adding. Then the ingredients are kneaded with water to obtain dough similar to pizza’s. Cover with some cling film and let it rise for an hour. (I could not get pictures of this part because mom made it all when I was tutoring , even in the rest of the process I was the sous-chef. The things I do for the blog! :D)

Shape the dough in 1 cm wide ropes then cut them into pieces of 2 or 3 cm long.

Then roll them on the back of a large holed sieve or a grater.

Mom rolling the macaroons.

Deep fry till golden, let them strain on a kitchen towel.

When cooled coat them with sugar syrup (usually prepared before the macaroon so it cools down) at the rate of 2 parts sugar 1 part water. The syrup can be flavored with orange blossom water for extra taste.

Macaroons should be crunchy but not hard.

Other stuff can be made and all of these treats are coated with sugar syrup and can be super sweet:

Ouwaymet or Awwamat are fried dough balls that tend to be crunchy from the outside and mushy from the inside. If they are mushy all over then these are probably old and not good to eat.

Moushabbak or Mshabbak (it literally means entangled) a fried dough that can be colored in red usually. Its natural color is pale yellow and it is crunchy.

Zlabieh which is a cross between Mshabbak and Awamat. My aunt used to eat them with the local cheese: Labneh (without syrup of course). A lot of people shape those like fingers.

Here is a picture I found online where the four kinds of sweets are featured:

After eating all this, you can think of losing holiday weight! Quick to the gym!


12 responses to “Epiphany in Lebanon

  1. What a lovely tradition! Thank you for sharing.


  2. Wow! This is so interesting- Ouwaymet is similar to the Indian sweet Boondi and Moushabbak is almost exactly the same as the Indian sweet Jalebi. It is so wonderful to read about these similarities. Thank you for sharing!


  3. Another post that has me drooling, Viviane! YUM!!


  4. How enchanting traditions can be! I have had these marvelous sweets during a jaunt in the Port of Piraeus. I purchased half a kilo in order to take home. As my right foot touched the sidewalk, my fingers were already scrambling to tear a corner of the box. Had one, then had another one. Then suddenly stopped and sat down on a bench in the platia and ate the whole dam box. I couldn’t stop!

    I destroyed the evidence before getting back to the flat. Never spoke another word about it to anyone. Then a few friends stopped by with a young boy around 12 years old.

    Suddenly, out of no where the child said, “We saw you in the platia eating all those sweets.”

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful blog, I shall return for more sweets.
    Cheers, PT

    Share your comments with me @http://ptsaldari.posterous.com/


    • hahahaha, funny story! I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but my one sin is chocolate… But count on kids to divulge your deep dark secrets! 😀


  5. Very interesting! In the last picture the sweet on the right, the yellow one is what we call Jalebis.


  6. Thanks for this… looks yummy! Interesting to me because as you may know in Italy (the Campania region) they make little balls of fried dough covered with honey and sprinkles called ‘struffoli’. These looks quite similar.


    • Lebanese and Italian cuisine do go in the same direction: Mediterranean. I think that between the two of them they have the most delicious dishes that exist!


  7. These desserts look interesting and delicious. Such brilliant way to use the sieve to make the patterns! Love it.