Cumin & Emmenthal Mantecao. Algeria.

There are some family favorites that sometimes remain decades-long secret recipes, like they’re some sorts of CIA classified information or the like. One day, your grandma finally agrees to offer you the privilege of being the one who is going to detain the recipe from now on, and everybody around you – family, friends, friends of friends, friend’s relatives, strangers at your friend’s party, strangers at your own party – suddenly loves you… And they all try to steal the recipe. Some of them even try to force a bit of alcohol inside you, hoping that a drunk moment will decrease your vigilance, and hoping that the minute you are about to pass out you then give away the treasure without even noticing.

Mimi's Mantecaos Emmenthal and Cumin -

That will never happen to me, lol. I know how to keep my secrets. Oh yes I do! But, there’s a time in life when one must think about others ‘s happiness too, and now is the time I think, now is the time for me to give out my grandmother’s recipe of the delicious and long longed-for Emmenthal and Cumin Mantecaos. 

Dough of the Mantecaos Emmenthal and Cumin -

Mantecaos normally are sweet biscuits that are half shortbread and half fondant, with a crumbly texture (obtained with a dough that looks like the picture above, kneaded by hand and crumbled with fingertips). They are usually sprinkled over with cinnamon. Years ago, my grandma shook her mind, thought about offering her guests more aperitif options rather than more dessert on the table at the end of a meal, and turned the sweet biscuit recipe into a savant savory version of the traditional mantecao (which, by the way, originates from both Andalusia in Southern Spain and Northern Algeria).

Mantecaos Emmenthal and Cumin -

I have tried the recipe with more of this and less of that, but in the end, I shall give two main advices. Do not concede any gram of cheese; more is better, less is useless. Then when you come to “cumin time”, do not use cumin only to color up your mantecao, be generous because the spice does it all; but if after baking and first tasting you think the cumin flavor is still a bit off, don’t hesitate to sprinkle more cumin over the mantecao, it does not matter if it is not cooked. Voilà!

Mantecaso Emmenthal and Cumin by


  • 300 grams of flour
  • 250 grams of grated Emmenthal cheese
  • 250 grams of melted butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 bag of baking powder
  • salt and pepper
  • cumin



  1. In a big mixing bowl, use your hands to combine all the ingredients except cumin.
  2. Only if necessary, adjust with a bit more flour. After kneading, the dough must look like the picture above, and have a greasy feel (sorry…).
  3. Preheat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius. Take the baking tray out first, and cover it with a baking sheet.
  4. Form little balls of dough by rolling them in your hands, no more than 1 inch large, a bit smaller is even better.
  5. With one finger, you’re now going to dip in the cumin spice bag and then lightly push your finger against the ball, in order to let the cumin “print” on the dough and to flatten a bit the dough at the same time.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes at 200 degrees.
  7. After 10 minutes, leave the mantecao inside the oven and decrease the temperature at 160 degrees. Do not open the oven door to accelerate the temperature adjustment.
  8. Keep baking for another 15 minutes.
  9. Take out of the oven and immediately transfer to a metal box covered with kitchen paper.
  10. Work another batch and repeat with the remaining dough (I made 3 batches in my oven, one after another).

Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi. © 2017 All Rights Reserved. 


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