The tcherek (sometimes spelled cherek) is a traditional, crescent shaped Algerian cookie stuffed with almonds that have been pulverized into a paste bound with orange blossom water and sugar. After the cookie is baked it is briefly steeped in more orange blossom water, then rolled in toasted almonds. Nomad’s tcherek recipe substitutes confectioner’s sugar for a less nutty exterior, and on the dessert plate ($6) of 4 house-made cookies at the East Village restaurant, what appears to be nothing more than a powdered white doughnut gives way after one crunchy bite to a fragrant, marzipan-like interior. Nomad owner Mehenni Zebentout’s wife Salima actually makes the restaurant’s cookies using family recipes from her native Algeria. She’s graciously provided Gothamist with her tcherek recipe, after the jump.
Salima Zebentout, Nomad
2 cups blanched almonds, lightly toasted and finely chopped (you can use a mortar and pestle if you have one)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
orange blossom water*
3 cups A.P. flour
1 cup melted unsalted butter
orange blossom water
Mix flour and melted butter until the butter is completely incorporated. Add orange blossom water, a little at a time, until a smooth dough is formed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the filling by combining almonds, sugar and cinnamon. Stir well. Add orange blossom water, again, until a moist paste is formed.
On a lightly floured surface roll out half of the dough to a 1/8” thickness. Cut dough into 3” circles using a cookie cutter .
With a spoon, place approximately 2 tsps of almond paste in the center of each piece of dough, in the same way ravioli is stuffed. Brush border of each with orange blossom water (use your finger if you don’t have a brush); fold bottom of dough over filling, wrapping and forming semicircles. Press edges to seal. Shape cookies like crescents and transfer them to a baking sheet, either nonstick or lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes, or just enough to lightly tan the cookies.
Let baked cookies rest. Dip each cookie in orange blossom water, then immediately in confectioner's sugar. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and dust with additional confectioner's sugar. Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days if tchereks aren’t being served that day.
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*Orange blossom water, a good pantry staple, can be found at grocers like Sahadi’s or Kalustyan’s.
Photo: Moira Campbell