Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Even centuries ago, Middle Eastern pastries and confections tended to avoid the sweet–sour combination, which was considered appropriate only for meat dishes. As a result, the sole fruit regularly used in sweet preparations has been the very sugary date. Mixed dried fruits, however, are cooked together as fruit compote, khoshāf.

Some of the medieval pastries have survived to the present: zulābiyā (also called mushabbak, meaning “lattice”), qaؓā’if; aşābi‘ Zainab (or related names meaning “lady’s fingers,” such as şawābi‘ al-sitt), and luqam al-qādī. Puddings are still popular: muhallabiyya (usually thickened with cornstarch), rizz bi-ḥalīb (rice pudding, which has medieval antecedents), and mughlī (a nut-enriched cross between a pudding and a custard). See pudding. At one point in the late Middle Ages, a crumbly butter cookie evolved under the name ghurayba (literally, “the little extraordinary thing”). Borrowed in Turkish, it was pronounced kurabiye, the name by which it has become known in the West through its Greek spelling, kourambies (pl. kourambiedes).