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January 15

Saint of the day:
St. Macarius



The Story of Saint Macarius

St. Macarius was born in Lower Egypt. A late tradition places his birthplace in the village of Shabsheer (Shanshour), in Al Minufiyah Governorate, Egypt around 300 A.D. At some point before his pursuit of asceticism, Macarius made his living smuggling saltpeter in the vicinity of Nitria, a vocation which taught him how to survive in and travel across the wastes in that area. St. Macarius is known for his wisdom. His friends and close kin used to call him Paidarion Geron (Greek: Παιδάριον Γέρων,which when compounded as Paidiogeron led to Coptic:Pidar Yougiron) which meant the “old young man”, i.e. “the young man with the elders’ wisdom." At the wish of his parents Macarius entered into marriage, but was soon widowed. Shortly after, his parents died as well. Macarius subsequently distributed all his money among the poor and needy. He found a teacher in an experienced Elder, who lived in the desert not far from the village. The Elder accepted the youth, guided him in the spiritual science of watchfulness, fasting and prayer, and taught him the handicraft of weaving baskets. A while later, a pregnant woman accused him of having defiled her. Macarius did not attempt to defend himself, and accepted the accusation in silence. However, when the woman's delivery drew near, her labor became exceedingly difficult. She did not manage to give birth until she confessed Macarius's innocence. A multitude of people then came asking for his forgiveness, but he fled to the Nitrian Desert to escape all mundane glory. As a hermit, Macarius spent seven years living on only pulse and raw herbs. He spent the following three years consuming four or five ounces of bread a day and only one vessel of oil a year. While at the desert, he visited Anthony the Great and learned from him the laws and rules of monasticism. When he returned to the Scetic Desert at the age of forty, he became a priest. The fame of his sanctity drew many followers. The community, which took up its residence in the desert, was of the semi-eremitical type. The monks were not bound by any fixed rule; their cells were close together, and they met for Divine worship only on Saturdays or Sundays. He presided over this monastic community for the rest of his life. For a brief period of time, Macarius was banished to an island in the Nile by the Emperor Valens, along with Saint Macarius of Alexandria, during a dispute over the doctrine of the Nicene Creed. Both men were victims of religious persecution by the followers of then Bishop Lucius of Alexandria. During their time on the island, the daughter of a pagan priest had become ill. The people of the island believed that she was possessed by an evil spirit. Both saints prayed over the daughter, which in turn had saved her. The pagan people of the island were so impressed and grateful that they stopped their worship of the pagan gods and built a church. When word of this got back to the Emperor Valens and Bishop Lucius of Alexandria, they quickly allowed both men to return home. At their return on 13 Paremhat, they were met by a multitude of monks of the Nitrian Desert, numbered fifty thousand, among whom were Saint Pishoy and Saint John the Dwarf.

The Legend:
They say that as Macarius was praying one day, a hyena crept into his desert cave and began to lick his feet. Finding the monk slow to comprehend, the hyena gently tugged at his tunic and tried to draw him towards the door. Still puzzled, Macarius followed her until they came to her own cave. The hyena left him standing outside while she went in and fetched her cubs, which had been blind since birth. Now understanding her purpose, Macarius prayed over them, and soon was able to return the little cubs to their mother, with their sight restored. Some time later, Macarius was back at prayer in his desert cave when the hyena entered once more. This time, she held in her mouth a very large sheepskin, which she dropped at the monk’s feet. Macarius smiled tenderly at her, and gratefully added it to his bedding.





makarios hyena.png




Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great, Scetes, Egypt




Mafroukeh Truffles


Mafroukeh Dough:

  • 1 cup (114g) unsalted pistachios,
    shelled, lightly toasted & cooled*

  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar, divided

  • 1/4 cup (57g) unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup (80g) semolina, medium grind*

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water

  • 1 teaspoon rose water


  • Chopped pistachios, for the "cake" variation

  • Ground pistachios, for the truffle variation

  • Edible dried rose petals*

To Serve: (Optional)

  • Rose & orange blossom water sugar syrup


The Filling:

  1. Prepare the ashta cream as per the recipe instructions and cool it completely. Once cool, transfer it to a piping bag with the end snipped off to expose a 1cm opening. (See Below)

  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Pipe 1 teaspoon sized dollops of ashta all over the sheet. Lightly wet the tip of your finger with water, then press on the peaks to flatten so that they're more round.

  3. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and transfer to the freezer until fully frozen and solid; about 1 hour, no longer than 2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare the mafroukeh dough.

Mafroukeh Dough:

  1. In a food processor, pulse together the pistachios and 2 tablespoons (25g) of the sugar until very finely ground. Be careful not to over-process the mixture, to avoid turning the pistachios into pistachio butter.

  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-high heat until melted. Add in the semolina and stir until all the grains are well coated with the butter. Continue sautéing until just begins to smell fragrant; about 2 more minutes. It should barely change color.

  3. Add in the water and the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (125g) sugar and stir to combine; mixture will be very loose.Continue cooking the mixture, stirring continuously, until the semolina has absorbed all the moisture, is no longer loose, comes together in one mass and pulls cleanly from the sides of the pan, about 3 minutes. Mixture should resemble mashed potatoes in consistency.

  4. Add in the ground pistachio mixture, both the orange blossom and rose waters, and stir until well combined and homogeneous.

Cake, One Layer:

  1. Transfer to a serving platter and spread into a 2-cm thick, about 9-inches circle (or any shape you prefer), and let cool completely (at room temp or in the fridge) before topping with the ashta.

  2. Once cool, spread the ashta all over the top. Use as much or as little ashta as you like; I use all of it. Then garnish with chopped pistachios. Keep refrigerated until serving time. Serve cold or at cool room temperature.

Mafroukeh Truffles:

  1. Transfer to a bowl, and refrigerate until cooled to room temperature or colder; about 30 minutes. Once cool, be sure not to stir it again, as this soften the dough and makes too sticky.

  2. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Once cool, use a tablespoon-size ice cream scoop (or a measuring tablespoon), to scoop dough balls onto the baking sheet.

  3. Using your thumb or finger, make a deep indentation into each dough ball.

  4. Take the ashta balls out of the freezer and working quickly, peel the frozen ashta from the baking sheet and place one inside each indentation of every dough ball. If you're working in a warm kitchen, you might want to keep the frosting scoops in the freezer, taking only one by one as you work, to prevent them from softening.

  5. Gather the dough over the ashta balls to completely cover them. Roll the dough into smooth balls, making sure the ashta is completely wrapped inside and nothing is peaking out.

  6. Roll the mafroukeh truffles in ground pistachios to coat. Top with dried rose petal, if available. Place in mini cupcake liners if desired and arrange on serving platter. Keep refrigerated until serving time. Serve cold or at cool room temperature.

  7. Both mafroukeh variations will keep well in the fridge, well covered, for 2 days. For the truffles, it is best to coat them with the outer layer of pistachios, on the same day they're served.

Ashta Cream


  • 1 cup (237ml) whipping cream

  • 1/2 cup (118ml) whole milk

  • 2 tablespoons (15g) all purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons (14g) cornstarch

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

  • Optional flavoring of your choice such rose or orange blossom water, vanilla or ground mastic


  1. In a medium saucepan, off the heat, whisk together the whipping cream, milk, flour, cornstarch and sugar, until well combined and the flour and cornstarch have dissolved completely without any visible lumps.

  2. Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, whisking constantly until the mixture forms large bubbles over the surface and reaches a full boil. Continue to cook for about 30 more seconds, until the mixture becomes very thicken. Add in any flavoring of your choice or leave plain.

  3. Pour into a bowl and press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 1 hours or up to 3 days.

  4. Stir with a spoon to loosen up before using. If you prefer a looser consistency, give it a quick whiz in the blender until smooth.

  5. Asha will keep in the fridge, well-covered for up to 3 days. It does not freeze well.

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