Ras-el-hanout is a Moroccan spice mix comprising ground spices, dried roots and leaves, although there is no one exact blend or recipe – each source differs in its quantities and ingredients. However the overall fusion provides a strong, aromatic spice which has heavy floral tones. While it is typically used in tagines or with strong meat such as lamb, there are only so many tagines one can make before asking the question “how are we going to get through an entire jar of this stuff?” The sweet floral undertones, which, in my personal blend acquired in a bazaar in Tangier, have a somewhat liquorice hint, lend themselves to a sweet dish, too, if used correctly. While I am not usually the biggest fan of these kind of flowery spices in sweet bakes, I’d heard that white chocolate was a good pairing for the North African spice blend. Taking a risk with the flavour, I didn’t fancy taking many chances with the base recipe itself, so this one is an adaptation of Sarah Keiffer’s foolproof pan-banging cookie, easily the most delicious and perfect cookie recipe out there (check it out on thevanillabeanblog.com). I have swapped out her white granulated sugar for demerera as I found the darker, caramel flavour lent itself better to the spice, and upped the vanilla to keep the cookie sweetness going over the top of the heady aromas.
280g plain flour
0.5 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
0.25 teaspoon salt
225g unsalted butter
200g demerera sugar
90g caster sugar
50g soft brown sugar
2 teaspoon ras el hanout
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon water
1 bar (150-170g) white chocolate, in large pieces.
2-3 handfuls cashew nuts, halved or coarsely chopped
Pre-heat oven to 180ºC. Line two baking trays with baking parchment.
Sift the flour, bicarb and salt into a bowl and set aside.
Weigh out the sugars into a bowl and add in the ras el hanout. Combine well.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft and smooth. Add in the spiced sugars and beat on a medium to high speed until pale and fluffy – a couple of minutes.
Add the egg, the vanilla, and then the water, beating continuously. When well combined, gradually add in the flour/bicarb mix. Beat slowly until just incorporated.
Using a spatula or spoon, mix in the chocolate and the nuts.
Divide the dough into even balls – around 10-12. Each dough ball should weigh roughly 100g. Place the first 4 balls (or three if your baking tray is on the smaller side – they need a lot of room to spread) onto a baking tray and leave this in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Remove from freezer and place in the oven for 10 minutes. While cooking, place your next 4 into the freezer. After 10 minutes of cooking, take the tray from the oven, gently lift it and drop it down onto the counter with a bang, to create ripples on the cookie surface. Place back in the oven for two minutes, then repeat this process until the cookies are golden on the outside, but still soft and raw-looking in the centre (around 15-17 minutes total cooking time).
Transfer baking sheets onto a wire rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from their baking parchment. Sprinkle with sea salt to finish if desired.