I am not sure whether the term el menenas is French or hails from some other language. Sharon Tyler Herbst says the cookie recipe is of Egyptian origin, and I am inclined to take her word for it. Based on the little bit of internet research I have been able to do, which I will admit is minimal, there is no readily available trace of the origins of the cookies’ name. I have not had much time for baking cookies or poking around after lost etymologies in recent days.
I baked these orange flower-almond cookies in late February after returning from New Mexico. They are gone — the recipe only makes a few dozen petite pastries — but we remember them fondly. The almond was represented in paste form, and with two mouth surgeries in the space of two and a half weeks, these were the only sweets Kate could eat that were not in pudding or ice cream form. The cookies got a little hard over time, but they were free of pesky chopped nuts that can find their way into wounds left by teeth extractions and other minor surgeries, and so she ate most of them.
For all my bitter complaining over the taste of rosewater, I have to say orange blossom water is a whole other animal. Its scent is more delicate than that of rosewater, and I do not feel like I am eating a delicacy laced with a grandmother’s perfume. It is delicious with cinnamon and almond, and the combination hints at exotic places to my Western Hemisphere, rather pedestrian tongue. Which is entirely fitting with the mysterious name: el menenas.