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Where to buy Syrian sweet bread "maarouk" this Ramadan.
Ramadan is around the corner, and Just Bakery Atlanta is opening a food truck in Oak Grove, just in time.
At the Oakhurst Farmer's Market on Saturday morning, sat a ring shaped loaf of bread, inside a transparent plastic bag on the Just Bakery Atlanta (JBA) table. It was unlike the loaves of sourdough and multigrain to its right, and the M&M cookies and chocolate brownies to its left. The loaf ring was sprinkled with white and black sesame seeds, and through slivers of openings I could see the hint of a filling.
"What's this?" I asked Ganga Rai, who's been working at JBA for the last two years.
"Maarouk. It's a Syrian bread...the recipe comes from one of my co-workers from Syria," she said. At the bakery, Ganga works alongside other bakers from her native Nepal, but also with folks from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Syria. Together they make American classics like blueberry muffins, sourdough bread, and cheddar scallion scones, but some of the treats, like maarouk, reflect their diverse backgrounds. And they have fun. She learned to bake on the job and she enjoys her colleagues. "We eat together...sometimes we even go sailing together," said Ganga.
The bakery has been growing in popularity since its founding in 2017, with its cookies and breads popping up at many Atlanta area farmers markets. But next month (April 5th!), will mark the first time it will have a regular five days a week presence in the same spot - a food truck outside of the Oak Grove United Methodist Church (1722 Oak Grove Rd NE, Decatur, GA 30033). Maarouk will still be available at the farmer's markets, but expect to find different items at the food truck! Details here.
In Aleppo, maarouk starts appearing in bakery windows and grocery stores as Ramadan approaches - a sign that the holy month is about to begin. The dough is flavored with mahlab, the powder of a cherry seed that grows in the region and the filling is often made out of dates and nuts. The result - a fragrant, moist, lightly sweetened bread that pairs perfectly with tea.
I picked up one loaf of maarouk, some peanut butter cookies that Ganga told me had a "hints of curry powder" and a gluten free blueberry almond cake.
So whether you're looking for maarouk for iftar in a few weeks (Ramadan starts April 2nd), or just have a craving for a monster cookie (made with M&Ms, peanut butter, and oats), stop by JBA's new food truck in Oak Grove. You'll not only be satisfying your sweet tooth, but be supporting one of the many businesses that helps make Atlanta feel a little more like home for people who've moved here from all over the world.