Damascus is known for creating the best barazek that are typically bought in tin boxes with other delicious sweets that the city is famous for. They’re made from butter (or ghee), flour, sugar, milk, and ground mahleb – a spice made from ground cherry stones. The dough is then coated with honey syrup, sesame seeds, and pistachios. My family used to get these bite sized cookies from a sweet shop called Semiramis and I distinctly remember them having a very deep golden color with a serious sesame flavor. Lately I’ve been itching to try my luck in making them from scratch, so I tried my best to recreate the same texture and taste here: The buttery crunchy texture of the thinly spread baked dough is contrasted with chewy toasted honey sesame seeds on one side and pistachios on the other side. —Tania Bakes
Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring until honey dissolves (Around 3 minute).
Remove from heat and let it cool down.
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar (or use your hands).
Add ground mahlab and baking powder and mix.
Add yeast and flour and mix until homogeneous. Gradually add the milk to form a smooth hard dough (you might use less milk to avoid a tender dough).
Cover dough in plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 325°F (160°C) and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Pour enough honey syrup on a medium sized plate just to cover the surface and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top (don’t use all the sesame, just enough to cover the syrup). Place the chopped pistachios on another shallow plate.
Shape about a teaspoon of dough into a ball and flatten slightly with the palm of your hands.
Dip one side into pistachios, flip and press the other side with the sesame mixture using your fingers to press the dough into a flat disc.
Place the cookies sesame side up on the baking sheet about an inch (2 cm) apart.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating halfway, until the edges are a deep golden color.
Store in an air tight container up for up to two weeks or freeze for up to 2 months.