[Sca-cooks] cuskynoles

David Friedman ddfr at daviddfriedman.com
Fri Jul 30 21:27:23 PDT 2010

Quoting emilio szabo <emilio_szabo at yahoo.it>:
> David wrote:
> << This has been one of my standards for many, many years--one of the
> things I offer my guests at the bardic circle. You can find my
> redaction in the Miscellany. There is a more detailed recipe for a
> variant in al-Warraq's 10th century cookbook; for the most part it
> confirms the guesses I had to make. >>
> David, do you mean, you knew it all before ...? Oh my goood ... Why 
> didn't you
> tell us??
> Please allow for a few questions. 
> 1. What do you mean by "This"?

Khushkananaj in al-Baghdadi. I've been making it for twenty or thirty 
years. It didn't occur to me that it had any connection with cuskynoles. 

> Which recipe? Which interpretation? Which kind of background information?
> 2. When exactly did you get aware of a translation of al-Warraq?

I knew of the existence of al-Warraq for many years, and made some 
unsuccessful attempts to get someone to translate it. I suppose I heard 
about the published translation when it came out, perhaps two years ago. 
> 3. Could you please provide the recipe from al-Warraq?

Take 4 ratls fresh almonds, taste them for bitterness, shell them then 
dry them in a big copper pot  set on the fire. Grind them finely. Pound 
8 ratls refined tabarzad sugar (white cane sugar), and mix it with the 
Take 2 ratl pith (brick-oven thick bread), dry it in the tannur, and as 
soon as you take it out, sprinkle it with 1/2 ratl rose water. Crumble 
the pith on a plate and dry it. Finely crush it with some camphor and 
musk then mix them well. Add the breadcrumbs to the almond-sugar 
mixture and sift them in a sieve so that they all mix well. 
Take 15 ratl excellent-quality fine semolina flour. Knead it with ¼  
ratl fresh yeast dissolved in water, and 2 1/2 ratls fresh sesame oil. 
Mix them all together then knead and press and rub the dough 
vigorously. Keep on doing this while gradually feeding it with water, 5 
dirhams at a time until it is thoroughly kneaded. The [final] dough 
should be on the stiff side. 
Divide the dough into portions, whether small or big is up to you. Take 
a portion of the dough, roll it out on a (wooden low table) with a 
rolling pin. Let it look like a tongue, wide in the middle and tapered 
towards both ends. Spoon some of the filling and spread it on part of 
the dough, leaving the borders free of the filling. Fold the dough on 
the filling lengthwise]. Press out air so that the dough and the 
filling become like one solid mass. If any air remains inside, the 
cookie will tear and crack while baking in the tannur. Bend the two 
ends of the piece to make it look like a crescent. Arrange the finished 
ones on a tray  and cover them with a piece of cloth. 
Light fire in the tannur and wait until the coals look white. Wipe the 
inside walls of the tannur with a wet piece of cloth after you brush it 
with a broom. Gather all the embers in the middle, and shape them like 
a dome. Now, transfer the tray closer to the tannur and put a bowl of 
water next to the top opening of the oven. 
When ready to bake, take the filled pastries from the tray one by one, 
wipe their backs with water, enough to make them sticky, and stick them 
all to the inner wall of the tannur, taking care not to let them fall 
down. When you see that all the pieces are sealed well at the seams, 
cover the [top opening of the] tannur, and close the (bottom vent hole) 
for a short while to create moisture in the oven. 
When the cookies start to take on color, open the bottom vent hole, 
remove the oven's top lid, and start scraping off the browned ones as 
they are done with a spatula held in one hand and a huge iron scoop 
[held in the other hand to receive the scraped cookies]. 
You should have prepared a bowl of gum Arabic dissolved in water. Wipe 
the khushkananaj tops with the gum solution [to give them a nice 
gloss], and stow the cookies away in a wicker basket, God willing. 

And here is my current redaction:

(1/10th recipe)

.4 lb almonds: about 1 ¼ c
.8 lb sugar =1.6 cups
3 ounces bread crumbs: 7/8 c
1 ½ T rose water
edible camphor : about 1/3 gram
1 ½ lb semolina: 3 c scant
1 T sourdough
½ c sesame oil
water: About ¾ c
Gum arabic: t dissolved in ½ c water

Combine semolina, sesame oil. Stir in sourdough dissolved in water. 
Leave about 5 hours to rise. Grind almonds. Grind camphor in mortar, 
combined with bread crumbs and rose water, spread out to dry fifteen 
minutes or so. Add sugar and bread crumbs to almonds, mix. Take a ball 
of dough about 1 ¼ inches in diameter, press and roll out to an oval 
about 5"x4", put T + of filling in the middle, fold along the long axis 
as a crescent, press out air. 
Put a baking stone in the oven, heat oven to 350°. Brush each crescent 
with water, put wet side down on baking stone, bake about 25-30 minutes 
until they start to brown. Remove, brushed with gum arabic solution, 
let dry. 

I generally discuss Khuskhananaj in the class Elizabeth and I do at 
Pennsic on Islamic cooking, because of several problems that arose in 
interpreting it. The first was the nature of sesame oil--I, 
unfortunately, knew what sesame oil was, having used it in Chinese 
cooking, and it proved difficult to follow the recipe and produce 
anything edible. Eventually I noticed sesame oil--pale yellow instead 
of dark--in a middle eastern grocery store. It's made from untoasted 
sesame seeds, and is a cooking oil rather than a strongly flavored 

The recipe tells you to mix flour and oil and leave it to rise--if 
that's all you use you will have a long wait. I conjectured that the 
author took it for granted that a dough had water. After checking with 
Charles Perry that "rise" really meant rise and not sit, I further 
conjectured that sour dough was assumed, and normally do it that way. 
As you can see, the more detailed recipe in al-Warraq confirms my 
guesses. Also rose water in scented sugar--I hadn't guessed the other 


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