Tuesday, May 6, 2008
The empress of all cookies
In my very early childhood, my grandmother used to come out from New York with giant cardboard boxes full of food she'd made or brought to make. She'd get off the airplane with pounds of frozen lamb, with barrels of olives, and with these goraybe cookies.
I don't remember any of it, but my mom tells the story well, and the few memories I do have of this grandmother are all pleasantly mingled with an overwhelming sense--that reduction of scent and memory--of food.
I have seven different versions of this recipe, all hand-written, all from different great-aunts, second cousins, or grandmothers. The ingredients are all the same, but the batch size and ratios are different. At some point this summer, I'd like to compare the recipes.
Goraybe (also sometimes spelled Ghoraybe) has just three ingredients: butter, sugar, and flour. But the butter is clarified and the recipes call for both powdered and superfine sugars. The effect is incredible. The cookies are dense but delicate with a texture that falls into that space of perfection between the poles of soft and brittle. The nuttiness of the clarified butter (you brown the milk solids just enough to give the butter the flavor) balances the sweetness to produce what I think is a totally transcendent cookie experience.
These cookies are so good that, when I was sixteen, I crashed my car after a platter of them spilled on my passenger's seat and I tried to pick them up while driving. I learned an important lesson that day: Before driving, always put the cookies in a container that seals.