M'hanncha - Moroccan Snake Pastry

You will need a serving platter that is perfectly (or nearly) flat for this pastry, as a curved platter might distort the shape of the pastry as it sits and would make slicing it more difficult. I just used a cutting board. I also added pistachio nuts on top with the powdered sugar.
Servings 8
Author New School of Cooking


  • 8 ounces moist dried figs (soak overnight in water or tea, drain before using)
  • 7 ounces almond paste cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon anise seed optional
  • zest of 1 lemon very finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 15 sheets filo the sheets should be 17 inches long, if possible, room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and lukewarm
  • powdered sugar and candied lemon zest for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan with some melted butter. Unfold the fila and lay it out on the work surface. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel to prevent it from drying out.
  3. To prepare the filling, trim the hard stems from the figs and discard. Place the figs, almond paste, anise seed, lemon zest, sugar and honey in the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture is very finely chopped. It should not be ground to a homogenous paste. Set aside.
  4. Place the egg yolks in a small bowl and stir, just to blend.
  5. To assemble the snake pastry, place a fila sheet on the work surface, with one of the long sides toward you. Brush the surface lightly with melted butter. Place another sheet of fila on top and brush lightly with melted butter. Repeat with one more sheet of filo dough. Take a fifth of the fig mixture and make a long, even mound with it on the fila, about one inch from the edge nearest you, that extends all the way out to the two short edges of the dough. Fold the bottom of the fila over the filling, then proceed to roll it up, jelly roll fashion, to within one inch of the opposite long edge. Do not try to roll it very tightly or the fila will crack. Brush a small amount of egg yolk along the top edge, then continue to roll the dough on top of it, so the seam side is down. Arrange the roll, seam side down, along the outer edge of the buttered cake pan. Brush the inside of the roll with a light coating of egg yolk.
  6. Note: I found it easier to start from the center of the pan and work out.
  7. Prepare 4 more rolls as directed above, then place each one in the cake pan, extending the coil by attaching the new roll to the end of the last roll with a dab of egg yolk. Again, brush the inside of each roll with egg yolk so that as the rolls coil around and touch each other, they will adhere to both the roll behind them as well as in front of them - this is very important when slicing the pastry for serving.
  8. Brush the final roll with egg everywhere except the bottom before you put it in the pan, as the last roll fits snugly and there will not be room to add the egg later. The last roll should curl tightly around itself, filling the center of the pan. Brush the top of the pastry evenly with the remaining egg yolk. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a lovely golden color. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely.
  9. To unmold, run a thin sharp knife around the edges of the pan, loosening any fila that may have stuck. Gently set a plate upside down on top of the cake pan, then, holding the pan and plate together, flip the two over. The pastry should slide out onto the plate.
  10. Note: If the pastry sticks to the bottom of the pan, place the pan in a hot oven or over a burner for a few seconds, just long enough to warm and loosen the butter and egg, then try turning it out again.
  11. Place your serving platter upside down on top of the pastry, then flip the two over so that the pastry is right side up.
  12. Dust the top of the snake very lightly with powdered sugar. Use a thin, sharp knife to cut wedges of the pastry, transferring each to a plate using a pie wedge or cake server.
  13. Store at room temperature, lightly covered with plastic wrap or foil, for up to 4 days.

Recipe Notes

Snake Pastry with Apricots, Almond Paste and Orange:

The bright flavor of dried apricots are a perfect pairing with the sweet, slightly bitter essence of almond paste. Try to find the tart, California dried apricots for this recipe. If your only option is the Mediterranean or Turkish variety, reduce the sugar in the recipe to 1 tbsp. Otherwise, follow the recipe above, substituting 8 oz. dried apricots for the figs and the finely chopped zest of 1 orange for the lemon. Omit the anise seed altogether. Garnish with candied orange zest.