I’d always wanted to learn how to make Moroccan gazelle horns, with their paper-thin pastry encasing an almond filling delicately flavored with cinnamon and orange flower water. On a visit to Morocco, I met Touria, Lalla Myriam, and her mother, Lalla Fatima, a lovable grandmother straight out of a storybook. The three women know all the secrets of their country’s cuisine. My patience was rewarded, because what I learned far exceeded my expectations.
For gazelle horns, they told me that it was important to peel the almonds myself. Immersing almonds in boiling water to be able to easily peel them gives the nuts a tender texture that you can’t achieve otherwise. Though if you want to make things easier for yourself, you can use ground almonds (almond flour). One ingredient traditionally incorporated in the pastries is gum arabic, which improves the consistency of the filling. But if you can’t find any, it’s not essential.
Makes about 50 small pastries
Preparation time: 2 hours
Chilling time: 1 hour
Drying time: 24 hours
Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes
Ingredients for the dough
- 2 ½ cups (10 oz./300 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons orange flower water
- 1 pinch salt
- 2⁄3 cup (150 ml) water (you may need a little more or less)
- 1 tablespoon (½ oz./15 g) butter
- A little oil for brushing
- For the filling
- 3 cups (1 lb./500 g) almonds, preferably unpeeled
- 2 cups (13 oz./375 g) sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1–2 tablespoons orange flower water
- 6–7 crystals gum arabic, optional
- A small bowl of oil
Place the flour in a large mixing bowl with the orange flower water and salt.
Add water little by little, mixing it in with your hands, just until the flour has absorbed the water.
Now you can put the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (or continue by hand).
If you add the water without doing the kneading by hand, there’s a risk of adding too much water. Add the butter and knead for 10 to 15 minutes. The dough should be very soft and silky to the touch. Brush a large dish with oil. Divide the dough into balls each weighing about 3 ½ oz. (90 to 100 g). Brush them with oil so that they don’t dry out and place them in the dish. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Immerse the almonds in boiling water for 5 minutes. Rinse them under running water and remove the skins. If you only have blanched almonds, of course this will speed up the task. However, the almonds will be less tender. To remedy this, add an extra tablespoon of orange flower water to the filling. Do the same if you’re using ground almonds.
Process the peeled almonds with the sugar to form a fine powder that sticks lightly to the fingers. If necessary, add a little water to achieve this consistency.
Mix in the cinnamon and melted butter using your hands.
Then add the orange flower water.
If you are using gum arabic, crush it with a mortar and pestle and incorporate it into the filling.
Réduire la gomme arabique en poudre au mortier.
It’s best to weigh the portions of almond filling to ensure that your gazelle horns are identical. Prepare balls of filling weighing ½ to 2⁄3 oz. (15 to 20 g). Roll each ball of filling into a small oblong log.
Keep a small bowl of oil at hand. Oil the work surface (a marble pastry slab if possible, or even better, cedar wood). Lightly oil the chilled dough again.
With a rolling pin, thinly roll one ball of dough into a rectangle. You’ll need to finish shaping it by hand as follows: take the edges and pull the dough lightly, lifting it up a little outward to make it even thinner. The dough becomes very thin. If it’s been well kneaded, it should be very malleable and easily stretched, but do be careful not to tear it. Place 2 or 3 logs of filling on the length of the rectangle of dough. Fold the dough over the logs of filling and press down at the join, to seal the dough.
Using a pastry wheel, separate the gazelle horns, following the shape of the filling. You don’t need to cut them with great precision because you’ll be cutting them a second time, closer to the filling.
Take a gazelle horn, pulling sharply upward to separate it from the rest of the dough. Flatten it between your fingers to give it its final shape.
Using the pastry wheel, trim the excess dough to give the gazelle horn its finished shape. Use the remaining rolled-out dough. Trim the edge, place 3 logs of filling on it, and repeat the procedure. Continue until all the dough and balls of filling have been used up. Oil a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. Place the gazelle horns on the sheet to allow them to form a crust and dry out. This takes no less than 24 hours and is a very important stage for ensuring the crispness of the dough.
Preheat the oven to 320°F (160°C). With a thin needle or toothpick, pierce 3 small holes at the top of each gazelle horn to enable air bubbles to escape during baking. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven. The gazelle horns should be only very lightly colored. Serve warm, accompanied by hot mint tea.