Balance that tilts towards more...

Petra Galler’s cookbook Butter, Butter starts with a quote from her father: “Everything in moderation, including excess”.

That saying from her childhood sums up her style of cooking, she says.

“Balance is beautiful, but sometimes balance in baking can be so much better when it tilts towards more - more spice, more flavour, more crunch. Big, bold and bolshy.”

Galler grew up in a Jewish family where preparing food and eating together was deeply ingrained so dinner was always an occasion to be celebrated.

For her food has always been a form of love, at the centre of every family gathering, holiday and celebration.


“Food at its very core is the most nurturing gift you can offer and has the power to really connect people.”

She began working in kitchens as a shy 20-year-old and has spent the past decade working as a professional chef.

“As far as baking goes, I consider myself more or less self-taught; some sort of cowboy perhaps.”

Galler’s aim is to ease people’s anxiety about baking, in the belief it does not need to be scary or tricky. Her recipes are all achievable even for the most inexperienced cook, she believes.

There is a strong Middle Eastern influence in her recipes coming from a trip to northern Israel’s Haifa for a family reunion and travelling to Jordan and Palestine.

“It was on this trip I discovered the joys of [Middle Eastern sweet cheese pastry] knafeh, the power of rose water and orange blossom and spice-spiked syrups.

“It was an absolute sensory overload in the most delicious of ways and since then I have been obsessed.”

These recipes are an extract from Butter, Butter by Petra Galler, Allen and Unwin, RRP $49.99.



Arabian date cookie

Maamoul originated in ancient Egypt and have since been adopted by many places in the Middle East, often being made to celebrate Easter, Eid or, in the Jewish communities, Purim.

Traditionally, they are a shortbread-style biscuit, stuffed with date paste and then pressed into intricately carved wooden moulds before baking.

The filling is fragrant with spices and the dough is divinely flavoured with rose water and orange blossom.

The combination is rather heavenly. I have turned the traditional biscuits into a slice in this recipe but the flavours of the ancient original still ring true.



340g coarse semolina
160g fine semolina
80g caster sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp instant dried yeast
¼ tsp flaky salt
210g  butter, melted and cooled
2 tsp rose water
2 tsp orange blossom water
Zest of ½ lemon

Spiced date filling
600g Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
125ml warm water
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of ½ lemon
¼ tsp almond extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp flaky salt
Icing sugar, to dust


To make the dough, in a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients until combined. Add the butter, rose water, orange blossom water and zest and rub together with your fingertips until the butter is dispersed evenly.

Cover and rest at room temperature for 2 hours; we want to allow time for the semolina to soak up all that gorgeous butter.

Meanwhile get onto the filling. Place the dates and water in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Tip into a large bowl and add all the remaining ingredients, mixing well to combine.

Preheat the oven to 180degC fan-bake. Grease and line a 22cm square baking tin. Divide the rested dough into two and roll out each piece to the same size as the prepared tin. If the dough feels a little too crumbly, add 1–2 tablespoons of water to bring it together.

Place one piece of dough in the bottom of the tin, pressing into place, ensuring it is as even as possible. Spread the date filling over the top using a palette knife and top with the remaining piece of dough.

Using a sharp knife, cut diagonal slices 4cm  apart, cutting all the way to the bottom of the pan. Cut again on the opposite side to make little diamonds.

Bake the maamoul for 40–50 minutes until the top is sandy brown in colour and the edges are golden. Cool completely in the pan before carefully transferring to a serving platter and dusting with icing sugar.


While it may look like a classic biscotti, I guarantee that Mandelbrot is better. It is double baked but, unlike its Italian counterpart, this ancient Ashkenazi treat is far richer in eggs and fats, resulting in a cookie that is softer and more delicate.

Traditionally they are made with olive oil but as expected, I always use butter, which makes for a far more delicious end product.

You can substitute the walnuts with any nut of your preference, and if chocolate doesn’t do it for you, currants or dates work beautifully as well.



390g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp flaky salt
1¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
245g butter, melted and cooled
200g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla paste
¼ tsp almond extract
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
3 eggs
180g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
100g walnuts, roasted and roughly chopped
For dusting
30g caster sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon


In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, mixing well.

Place the butter, sugar, vanilla, almond extract and zests in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on a medium speed until combined.

Add the eggs one by one and mix until thick and pale; about 2–3 minutes.

Working by hand now, add in the dry ingredients and gently fold together until just combined. Add the chocolate and walnuts and mix well. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate until firm; about 1–2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 175degC fan-bake. Grease and line two large oven trays.

Tip the dough out on a lightly floured surface and divide into two pieces. Shape each piece of dough into logs measuring approximately 33cm long x 5cm wide x 2.5cm high.

Place on the prepared trays and bake for 25 minutes until lightly golden. You may need to swap the trays halfway through baking to ensure they cook evenly.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10–15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 130degC fan-bake.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for dusting.

When the dough has cooled, cut them diagonally into 2cm-thick slices; I tend to do this directly on the baking trays with a sharp serrated knife.

Flip the biscuits on to their sides and sprinkle with half the cinnamon sugar. Flip on to the other side and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

Bake the mandelbrot for 20 minutes, flip over and cook for a further 20 minutes until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on the baking trays; they will crisp up as they cool.

Mandelbrot will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container at room temperature.

Baci di dama

These gluten-free sandwich cookies hail from Tortona in northern Italy and are total melt-in-your-mouth heaven. They are delicate, buttery and deeply moreish. You can use any kind of chocolate you want to sandwich them together; Nutella also works a treat.

If you are grinding your own hazelnuts, make sure you roast them first to enhance the flavour. Rub the skins off in between a tea towel as soon as they come out of the oven.
The dough can be kept in the freezer for about a month, so feel free to double this recipe so you have delicious cookies on hand at the drop of a hat.


140g ground hazelnuts
140g rice flour
100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
55g milk or dark chocolate


Grease and line two large oven trays.

Place all ingredients, except the chocolate, in a large bowl and using your fingers, rub the mixture together until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Keep working the mixture until you form a soft dough; this cookie is pretty resilient so you don’t have to worry too much about overworking the dough.\

Weigh out 16g neat balls of cookie dough and place on the prepared trays, 2cm apart. Don’t flatten these down at all. You should end up with 24 balls. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 160degC fan-bake.

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, swap the trays so they colour evenly, then bake for a further 5 minutes.

Allow to cool completely on the trays.

Once you are ready to assemble, melt the chocolate in a small pot, stirring continuously so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.

Dollop ½ teaspoon chocolate on the bottom side of one cookie before sandwiching it with another.

Once all the biscuits are filled and sandwiched, set them sideways on a wire rack until the chocolate is firm and set.