Many of the most famous Arabic sweets are only semi-sweet themselves, brought to life with a drizzle (or, if you’re like me, a bath) of sugar syrup with orange and rosewater, called atter, while still piping hot from the oven. Dousing the hot pastry or cake with attir lets the sugar and flower waters infuse every crumb with that signature ambrosial stickiness.
Namoura – this decadently sweet semolina and coconut slice, doused in syrup – is one of those.
Similar to the Sfouf I made earlier, namoura is also baked in a pan greased not with butter, but with tahini. Butter can certainly be used, but tahini adds yet another subtle layer of flavor that simply can’t be beat. And though not all recipes call for coconut, I love a little touch in mine, and included it in this recipe below.
It’s important to note that my namoura is a little different in texture to the traditional kind you’ll find in Arabic sweet shops. I used a smaller dish, which made a taller and therefore denser namoura. Generally, all of the atter syrup is poured on the finished product at once, creating a moist and very tender crumb. I decided to pour half of the syrup, and keep the remaining half for adding later, so each person could choose their level of sweetness.
The result was a slightly coarser, crumblier texture, different to the usual but spot-on with flavor and very satisfying. If you prefer the idea of a softer cake, use all the syrup at once. It will seem like a lot, but it’s worth it.
This recipe should really be called “Namoura, Take 1.” Just yesterday I was chatting with my mom in the US, telling her about my first namoura making experience. She gushed that my auntie Maha is actually the namoura queen, making one of the best she’d ever had (and knowing my mom’s sweet tooth, she had many during her days in Beirut).
So. I’m off to get auntie Maha’s recipe, which I will of course make and share here. Stay tuned.
SEMOLINA AND COCONUT SLICE
WITH ORANGE BLOSSOM SYRUP (NAMOURA)
(or, Yasmeen’s tall and dense and somewhat nontraditional but still spot-on namoura)
For the namoura batter
200g coarse semolina
1/3 cup desiccated coconut (ground, unsweetened)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
125g melted butter
1/2 cup milk
Tahini, for greasing the pan
10-12 blanched almonds, for garnish
For the atter (sugar syrup)
1 cup white sugar
2 cups water
Squeeze of lemon juice (about 1 tbsp)
1 tsp orange blossom water (mazaher)
1/2 tsp rosewater (maward)
Grease a small baking dish (about 8″ x 10″) with tahini, rubbing all over until all sides are lightly covered.
In a large bowl, mix the coarse semolina, desiccated coconut, sugar and baking powder until well combined. Stir in the melted butter, then the milk, until the batter is well incorporated. Pour into the greased baking sheet, smooth over the top, and let it stand for 1 hour before baking.
Blanch the almonds in a mug of hot water for 5 minutes, then peel off the skins. If possible, separate into halves (it’s OK if the almonds are stubborn, it’s not entirely necessary).
Preheat oven to 190 C / 375F. Slice the namoura into diamond shapes: slice a large X from corner to corner in the pan, then slice parallel lines in each direction to make diamonds. Place a blanched almond in the center of each diamond. Bake for 30 minutes.
After 15 minutes of baking, start making the atter. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan, and bring to the boil over medium heat. Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for 7-10 minutes until thickened and syrupy enough to coat the back of a spoon well. Remove from the heat and add the orange blossom and rose waters.
When the namoura is baked and golden brown, remove from the oven and immediately pour the syrup evenly over the surface. You can either use half of the syrup and save the rest for pouring (crumbly texture), or use it all in one go (softer texture).
Let stand 5-10 minutes, then serve. Store for up to 1 week in an airtight container.
Audio pairing: Thievery Corporation, “Lebanese Blonde”