DEEP FRIED SUGAR PRETZEL.
That’s basically what we’re talking about here. So, now that I have your attention let me introduce you to one of my favourite North African sweets — zlabia . This pastry is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. It’s ridiculously sweet and sticky. I don’t even want to entertain the idea of how many calories one has but I think it’s nearly as gluttonous as an American-style deep-fried Oreo. The texture is what gets me though — the dough sort of ‘pops’ in your mouth with each bite like a little bright orange firework. 💥
We typically only eat these during Ramadan because I’m not brave enough to make them on my own (deep frying things is not my jam) and so I just buy them from my local Tunisian bakery.
Versions of zlabia exist all across North Africa, the Middle East and West Asia (where it’s called jalebi) and it’s a popular dish during Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious festivals. You know, I’ve always been a firm believer that food can bring people together!
Since it was impossible to find a recipe in English for the North African version I’m talking about, I translated one for you from Algerian French. Keep calm and eat zlabia!
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
- a few sprigs of saffron
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 teaspoon sesame
- 1 teaspoon of plain thick yogurt (like fromage blanc or fermented milk)
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 1 packet instant dry yeast (1/3 oz)
- pinch of salt
- a little under 1 cup lukewarm water
- oil for frying
For the Glaze:
- 1 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 oz orangeflower extract
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, cornstarch, yeast, cardamom, sesame, yogurt and oil. While mixing, add the lukewarm water little by little then whip for 1 minute. Cover with a dry towel and let sit at room temperature or warmer.
- While waiting, prepare the glaze. Over medium heat, dissolve the sugar into the water and lemon juice. Cover and let cook down for 30-40 minutes until the glaze is a nice golden colour.
- Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes, then add the orange-flower extract and mix well. Pour into a large mixing bowl.
- Prepare your frying oil in a proper pan (less than a half-inch depth should do it)
- Pour the prepared dough into a piping bag with a small round nozzle.
- Once the oil is hot, pipe the dough directly into the oil using smooth, round movements. Each zlabia should be not more than 4 inches in diameter.
- Let them brown on each side, flipping over when ready.
- When cooked, remove from the oil and let drain on paper towel.
- Plunge them into the glaze making sure to cover each zlabia completely.
- Remove with a fork or skimmer and let dry on a rack.
- Serve with a mint tea and enjoy! 💥🍵 🌿