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Author Notes: These are both crunchy and moist at the same time. The thinnest pastry is wrapped around finely ground nuts to form triangles that are fried and then dipped in sugar syrup. The pastry stays crisp while the nuts sop up the syrup, resulting in a wonderful contrast of crunchy and soft in each bite, which makes samsa totally irresistible. In Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria, the pastry normally used is warqa or malsuqa, also known as brik, but you can use phyllo. The size of phyllo sheets varies according to the brand. The Greek and Turkish brands are generally larger and thinner than supermarket brands.
Excerpted from the book Sweet Middle East by Anissa Helou (Chronicle Books, 2015). —Anissa Helou
Makes 24 triangles
For the plain sugar syrup:
- 2 cups superfine sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup water
For the filling and assembly:
- 1 2/3 cups blanched almonds, lightly toasted
- 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons rose water
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- 12 sheets brik or phyllo pastry
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
- sunflower oil, for frying
- To make the sugar syrup: Put the superfine sugar, lemon juice, and water in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for 3 minutes, and then remove from the heat. Let cool before using. The syrup will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator; bring to room temperature before using.
- To make the filling: Grind the toasted almonds in a food processor until very fine. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the confectioners’ sugar, orange zest, egg white, and rose water; blend well. Set aside. Put the sesame seeds in a nonstick frying pan and place over medium heat. Toast the seeds, stirring continuously, until golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool.
- Cut one sheet of pastry in half. If using brik, fold the round side over to form a long rectangle. If using phyllo sheets, cut into long strips that are 5 inches (2 1/2 centimeters) wide; fold the strips in half lengthwise and brush with melted butter.
- Place 2 to 3 teaspoons of almond filling at the top of each strip of pastry. Fold the top corner over the filling to form a triangle and continue folding as though folding a flag until the filling is completely encased in the triangle. Tuck the end corner in, place on a plate, and continue filling and shaping the triangles until you use up both filling and pastry.
- Pour enough sunflower oil into a large, deep frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches (5 centimeters). Place over medium-high heat. Check the temperature by dipping the corner of one pastry into the oil; if the oil bubbles around it, it’s ready. (A candy thermometer should register 350°F [180°C].) Drop in about four pastries; don’t crowd the pan, or later, the syrup. Fry the pastries until golden brown all over, a couple of minutes on each side.
- Remove the pastries using a slotted spoon and drop them into the syrup. Turn in the syrup a couple of times and transfer to a serving dish. Repeat the process, making sure the oil doesn’t get too hot. Once you have done all the samsa, sprinkle them with the toasted sesame seeds. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
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