There are certain foods that signal Ramadan and are pretty much consumed during that month and forgotten the rest of the year, like atayef and sambousa. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, I think they make these dishes extra special. One of the desserts that is an immediate sign of Ramadan for me are mshabak. It reminds me of Jerusalem, as the white and pink strings of mshabak were always the first signs of Ramadan for me, and they always bring back fond memories.
Every culture has their versions of desserts made of fried dough, like doughnuts, awameh, churros, beignets, just to name a few. They are always crowd pleasers, because come on, who doesn't like sweet fried dough? For me, mshabak reminds me of another childhood dessert, funnel cakes, and just as funnel cakes are mainly reserved for carnivals and amusement parks, mshabak is usually consumed in Ramadan. This crispy dough dunked in fragrant syrup is perfect for that hit of sugar we crave after a day of fasting.
Making the dough and syrup are very easy, you just want to make sure your yeast isn't expired, which is why we mix our yeast on the side. Make sure it begins to bubble before adding it to your flour mix, otherwise your dough will not rise. If it bubbles do not form on the surface of your yeast mixture, your yeast is old and will not work for this recipe. You want your batter to be somewhat thick, the same thickness as American pancake batter, pourable, but not completely watery. Once your batter rises, it is time to pipe it into the oil. This is what some would consider challenging, but it is really a matter of practice. Just like the first pancake is usually the test pancake, the same goes for your first mshabak. Using a squeezy bottle or something like an empty ketchup bottle is best, as it gives you the most amount of control, you can use a Ziploc with the corner cut off. You want to be somewhat quick when piping the batter, and don't worry about the shape, they are meant to look a bit chaotic! Remove from the oil and dip these straight in normal syrup or go the traditional route and make some bright pink with the addition of food colouring. These are especially delicious served warm with a cup of mint or sage tea. Enjoy the sugar high!
1 cup plain flour
1 cup corn flour
1 ¾ to 2 cups warm water
1.5 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
Squeeze of lemon
Orange blossom or rose water (optional)
Red food colouring (optional)
- To make your dough, mix together the yeast, sugar and half a cup of the water and let sit for 5 minutes until it begins to bubble.
- In a large bowl, mix together the plain flour and corn flour, add the yeast mixture, and gradually add in the rest of the water. You should have a pancake batter consistency. Cover and leave to rise for an hour.
- To make your syrup, add the sugar and water to a pot and heat on medium high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and once it comes to a boil, lower heat to medium heat and let simmer for 5-6 minutes.
- Add the squeeze of lemon and let simmer for a minute or two. Remove from heat and leave to cool. You can add orange blossom or rose water at this point if you like.
- If you'd like to have colourful mshabak, you can prepare two bowls of syrup, and add a little red food colouring to one.
- To fry, place your batter in a squeezy bottle or a Ziploc with a corner cut. Once your oil is hot, pour your batter carefully, making a circle with random lines of batter. These should look rustic and freeform. Once they are golden on one side, turn over. Then remove from the heat and place straight in the syrup. Dunk them well, either in the plain syrup, or half in the plain and half in the red syrup. Place on a serving platter.
- Serve with a cup of hot tea and enjoy.