Basboussa by Ahmad

“In Arabic, sweetness and beauty merge”

I collected this story from Ahmad, a 26-year-old Egyptian asylum seeker in Geneva. A few weeks later, he left Switzerland and I lost his track. He was therefore unable to read the lines that follow.

In Cairo, I worked in a large pastry shop called “La Douceur de Damas”, whose name refers to the refinement of the country of Cham, this ancient region which included the current states of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel.

I was first a handler then I also joined the pastry. I learned how to prepare basboussa, a very popular cookie. It is made with wheat semolina, sugar, grated coconut, almonds, pistachios, crushed peanuts and beef fat (Samnea). This sweetness is then imbibed in what is called Arabian honey, a syrup made from water, honey, sugar, orange blossom and orange zest.

To obtain a most authentic basboussa, a very precise and fundamental mixture is necessary, but its composition is kept secret by the manufacturers who produce it in the country. I therefore propose a more artisanal recipe which can be easily transmitted.





2 hours




Mass :
200g of extra fine semolina
2 tbsp white flour
1 packet of baking powder
2 tbsp grated coconut
1 tbsp hulled almonds
2 tbsp sugar
100g soft butter
1 yogurt
2 tbsp cold milk
2 tbsp orange blossom water

Sugar syrup :
1/2 glass of sugar
1/2 glass of honey
1 glass of water
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp orange blossom water
Orange zest


  1. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Add the butter.
  3. Add the yogurt and milk.
  4. Mix without kneading.
  5. Put the dough in a previously buttered mold, 2 to 3 cm thick.
  6. Flatten by hand.
  7. Pre-cut squares with a knife.
  8. Place an almond in the center of each piece.
  9. Put a side for 30 minutes at 40°C, using the oven.
  10. Preheat your oven to 180°C.
  11. Cook until the top turns bright.
  12. Right out of the oven, pour generously with syrup, the semolina loves it.
  13. Put a side for two hours then gently unmold each piece. If it’s too dry, add syrup or hot honey.

Whether day or night, the basboussa is suitable for any time and goes well with a mint tea.

In Arabic, sweetness and beauty merge. Tasting a basboussa is a unique and personal journey. There is a sensual relationship between the recipe, the one who makes it and the one who enjoys it. So I find difficult to taste the basboussa that a stranger is preparing. I’m afraid of being disappointed without this privacy !