Martha's drawing inspiration from the Middle East for her cookies in the latest episode of "Martha Bakes." Each treat incorporates classic Middle Eastern ingredients, some of which might already be in your pantry, like tahini and cardamom, while others you might have to pick up at a spice shop, such as mahleb and mastic (more on these later!). Bonus: All three cookies are nut-free, which means you can make them for bake sales or gift them to anyone on your list. Get an early look at the recipes below, and don't forget to tune in this weekend.
A batch of these treats will make you forget all about peanut butter cookies. The tahini in the batter, plus the sesame seeds encrusted on the outside, give the cookies a rich, toasted flavor that's utterly irresistible.
Date-Filled Shortbread Cookies (Ma'amoul)
The yeasted dough for these shortbread cookies is flavored with mahleb, a Middle Eastern spice that comes from a sour-cherry tree and is reminiscent of marzipan, and mastic, the dried resin of a Mediterranean tree with a refreshing pine aroma. Pureed Medjool dates amped up with cinnamon, anise, and more mahleb are then dolloped in the center. Best of all, the cookies look as good as they taste, thanks to the special ma'amoul mold Martha uses.
Iranian Rice Cookies
No mold needed for these beautifully patterned treats—the unique texture is achieved by imprinting the dough with a meat mallet. And what a dough it is! Rice flour is teamed with rose water, freshly ground cardamom, and brown butter, yielding nutty, fragrant cookies.
"Martha Bakes" season 9 airs on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings).