The direct translation from Dari into English of awb e dundawn, the name of these delectable Afghan cookies, is “water from the teeth”. I'm guessing that's the Afghan way of saying, “melt in your mouth". And these cookies will melt in your mouth. They should: Each one packs a hefty tablespoon of butter and oil.
Cooking fats are considered quite precious in Afghanistan. One of the ways Afghans, who are famous for their hospitality, honor their guests is to serve them the fattiest cut of meat, the dish brimming with the most oil. Butter is particularly dear on Afghan soil and not likely used for baked goods. Indeed the original recipe for this cookie, which I adapted from Helen Saberi’s book Afghan Food & Cookery, calls for vegetable oil. The use of butter in the recipe below is my own greedy addition.
I have to admit that I nearly stopped in my tracks when I first read the recipe for awb e dundawn. The instructions recommend kneading the dough for at least a half hour, ideally an hour. An hour of kneading anything is a baking deal breaker. Then it struck me that my kitchen, and hopefully yours, is outfitted with something even the most well-to-do Afghan woman lacks: a stand-up mixer. Whether my version of the cookies would measure up to Helen’s standards, I can’t be sure, but they disappeared from my own cookie tin in short order.
“Melt in your Mouth” Afghan Cookies
Awb e Dundawn
3 cups all-purpose white flour
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. ground cardamom
½ tsp. salt
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp. rosewater
1 tbsp. ground pistachios*
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, cardamom and salt into the bowl of a stand-up mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer turned to low add the butter and oil to the flour mixture in a slow and steady stream. Then, add the rosewater. Mix the dough on medium speed for 10 minutes.
Form the dough into smooth, round balls, about the size of a whole walnut, and distribute onto two baking sheets. Use your thumb to make a distinct imprint in the top of each cookie.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. The bottoms of the cookies will be lightly browned, the tops should remain pale. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the ground pistachios over the tops of the cookies. Allow them to cool and store in a tin with a tight lid.
*Grind the pistachios in a mini food processor or with some vigorous chopping using a chef’s knife.
Note: If you don’t have a stand-up mixer, you can do this by hand with a bit of elbow grease by first mixing the liquid and dry ingredients together in a bowl, and then kneading it by hand for a good long while.
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