Hi Y’all! It’s been a year since I committed to the idea of Yalla Sweets and I wanted to share with you all the culmination of that work. Here’s the first ever Yalla Sweets menu (just in time for the holidays)! This menu is a testimony to this blog and the years I spent learning to cook and bake and reconnect with the memory of my mother and the food I grew up eating. It’s a combination of nostalgia and Middle Eastern-inspired treats that are MY nostalgia. It is my goal and hope that these sweets bring you and the people you share them with real joy.
The Process of Trying Something New
So, one of the reasons why I love baking so much is that there is so much opportunity to create amazing flavors. I hear so often from people that they love to cook but can’t get down with baking because there is less room for error. If there is anything I’ve learned from these last many, many months, it’s that baking has PLENTY of room for error, and it is in the grey area that you discover some pretty tasty flavor combinations.
Once I finally felt comfortable enough with the traditional versions of some of the sweets I was learning, I decided to start dreaming up other flavor ideas to try out. I tried dipping my ghraybeh cookies in dark chocolate and sprinkling chopped pistachios on top. I’ve added chopped up cinnamon sugar candied pecans to my ghraybeh batter in the past and I highly recommend doing that with pretty much any cookie you make.
At the moment, I’m working on trying to merge traditional Middle Eastern flavors with flavors and textures I enjoy in other types of sweets. If you haven’t guessed by now, I have a massive sweet tooth. I LOVE sugar, but as I get older, I’m not able to eat it all the time the way I wish I could. What that means for me, and ultimately you guys, is that I have to work extra hard to create desserts that are worthy of the extra sugar intake. Palestinian desserts weren’t my favorite thing ever growing up because I wanted chocolate and hydrogenated oils in my sweets. Nuts and syrups and pastries and doughs were just not on my radar when I was a kiddo. Don’t get me wrong; I ate them anyway. And I ate them often. I just dreamt about eating an Oreo while I shoved a dozen pieces of Burma in my face hole.
These days, Namoura is proving to be my favorite thing ever. Even more than cookies and cake. And that’s saying something. Since the batter for namoura is pretty bland pre-baking and syrup pouring, there is a lot of room to work with new flavors. This past week, I experimented by adding shredded, unsweetened coconut to part of the batter. With the other half, I decided to make a batch of cinnamon-sugar walnuts (the same you find in desserts such as katayef, baklava, and kaak) and throw them on top of the namoura before baking. Both tasted great, but need tweaking in terms of texture and amount. I’m very excited to try the other ideas I have floating around in my head. I just need more taste testers!
I also tried out a recipe I found that married pistachios and chocolate together in cookie form. I threw in some brewed coffee and cardomom to up the flavor factor. Not a bad pairing of flavors, but the cookies themselves were just a bit too flat and heavy for me liking. I enjoyed the flavors though, so I just need to find a better medium to bring them together.
Overall, I’m having a lot of fun working with different flavors. I got a small bottle of lemon-infused sea salt flakes and can’t wait to find a reason to use them. If you know anyone in the Houston area who is willing to taste test in exchange for feedback, send ’em my way!
History & Mission of Yalla Sweets
Yalla Sweets (and Hi! I’m Back!)
I know it’s been a couple of years since I’ve posted on this site, but I’m thrilled to see that it’s proven to be a useful resource for folks interested in Palestinian cuisine. Though I haven’t been documenting my culinary adventures, rest assured that I’ve been working away in my little kitchen.
One of my biggest dreams, and one I’ve pushed aside for years and years, has always been to work with and create sweet treats that people can’t help but crave. I started baking in college because I was broke but still wanted to give thoughtful gifts to friends during the holidays. I figured tins of homemade cookies were the way to go, and I was right!
When I started this project oh so many years ago, I was more focused on the savory side of Palestinian cooking. I still learned to cook a few signature sweets, but my goal was to learn to cook meals the way my mama made them. It was a life-changing project and I’m so thankful that so many of you connected with the stories and memories. I hope some of you had success making a meal or two from this blog and I hope you and your families enjoyed every bite.
These days, my focus is solely on all those lovely desserts my mama and aunts made when I was a kiddo. You can find Middle Eastern sweets a lot more readily around Houston than you can home-style Palestinian (or Middle Eastern cuisine in general, really) food, but I honestly haven’t found a dessert I just can’t live without. So, I decided to teach myself how to make a handful of my mama’s recipes.
Over the last several months, I’ve been immersed in learning how to make namoura, ghraybeh, yansoon cookies, katayef, and loads more. I’ve been baking cakes and cookies and tarts and pies. And I have loved every darn minute of the learning process. I’ve been experimenting with butters and flours, textures and flavors and I THINK I’ve finally figured out my oven’s sweet spot. I’m interested in keeping the traditional recipes from my family alive and well, but I also want to take those base recipes and make them my own. And I have.
What does all this mean? It means I’ve gotten pretty okay at churning out tasty little sweet things and I want to share them with you all!
Yalla Sweets is the result of a lot of hard work and a lot more hard work to come. It’s where you can go to get mini namoura cakes in all sorts of flavors (traditional namoura is ready to go; flavor variations are in the works!), ghraybeh, rock cookies, pistachio butter cookies, and lots more. My mama had a fantastic recipe for M&M cookies and I’m quite fond of Rice Krispie Treats (and other marshmallow-y cereal treat variations). It’s heart and soul and while I know eating tons of sweet, sugary things all the time isn’t the greatest plan, when you do make the choice to treat yourself, I hope you’ll consider splurging on something I’ve made.
If you want to get an idea of the kinds of things I make, feel free to follow my accounts on instagram for more info:
I’ll be posting a bit more often with updates, new menu items, and stories from my kitchen. I hope you’ll enjoy this new project as much as the journey that brought me here.