Chewy Iraqi Almond Cookie (Hadji Bada)

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Hadji Bada from Jake Cohen

A few years into dating, Alex and I combined families for Passover seder, where I cooked a feast with his aunt Diana, spanning all the staple dishes from both the Ashkenazi and Mizrahi sides—minus gefilte fish, much to my mother’s chagrin. Our Manischewitz-stained apple charoset sat next to their charoset of date syrup and crushed walnuts. Platters of braised brisket alternated with beet kubbeh and tahdig. It was the ultimate blending of cultures, fusing our families and traditions. But the highlight of the evening for me was the arrival of Alex’s ninety-something-year-old great-aunt Doris, who I had yet to meet. She entered the dining room holding a folded piece of paper for me with her recipe for hadji bada, Iraqi almond cookies, scribbled on it, knowing I was on the hunt to learn family recipes to make for Alex. 

It’s the gift that keeps on giving since this recipe has become a staple sweet for any occasion. Likened to French macarons without the meringue, they sport a combo of almond flour, egg whites, rose water, and sugar that bakes into chewy clouds of floral sweetness. To add a little pizzazz, I threw in some cinnamon to give warm snickerdoodle vibes when paired with almond. Adorned with a single almond on top, they’re as easy to make as they are to eat—plus, they just so happen to be gluten-free. 

  • Duration
  • Cook Time
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  • 24 cookiesServings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups finely ground almond flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  •  2 large egg whites
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rose water, plus more for rolling 
  • 24 whole raw almonds

Preparation

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper. 

2 In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, cinnamon, and salt to combine. 

3 In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites, sugar, and rose water until foamy. (Note: You’re not making a meringue.) Stir in the almond flour mixture until a smooth dough forms. 

4 Fill a small bowl with room-temperature water and add a few drops of rose water, then use this water to wet your hands to prevent sticking as you roll the dough. Roll the dough into tablespoon-size balls and place them on the prepared sheet pans, spacing them 2 inches apart and placing 12 balls on each pan. Push an almond into the center of each ball of dough. 

5 Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, for about 15 minutes, until the cookies have spread out and their edges are golden. Let cool completely on the pans, then serve.