How better to start off a sweet New Year than with a mouthful of sweet pastries from Mansoura, a Heliopolis (Cairo) pastry shop transplanted to Brooklyn and catering to the palates of Syrian and Egyptian Jews. However, Point of No Return has it on good authority that since Mansoura stopped using samna (buffalo milk) or butter so that desserts could be eaten after meat or chicken meals, the taste has suffered, but its ka3aks, apricot paste rolls with pistachios, rolled konafa with pistachios and Egyptian bassboussa remain second to none. Feature in the New York Times (with thanks: Viviane, Alain):
For nearly six decades, Jews from near and far — especially those of Egyptian and Syrian heritage — as well as gentiles who appreciate a good pistachio treat —have flocked to Mansoura Pastries on Kings Highway. The kosher shop, with its glass counters of chocolate-covered orange peels and date-filled cookies called ma’amoul, is especially popular during the Jewish holidays.
Benjamin Douek, 68, an investment banker, trekked there recently from Scarsdale to pick up shortbread-like graybeh with his wife, Bunny, 66. He has known about the pastry shop since childhood. “Growing up in South Carolina, my father used to talk about Mansoura,” he said, “from the old country,” referring to the bakery’s previous iteration in Cairo.
At the front counter, Josiane Mansoura, 63, an owner, traced the history of the family business, all the while segmenting rows of glistening baklava. The ancestors of her late husband, Alan, ran a bakery in Aleppo called Mansoura during the 18th and 19th centuries, she said. By 1910, Alan’s grandfather had moved to Cairo and had opened another Mansoura, a bakery-turned-cafe, which would count King Farouk among its clientele.
In the 1950s, as animosity toward Jews grew in Egypt, the family fled to Paris, later settling in Brooklyn in 1961. There they planted their Mansoura flag, yet again. It would soon become a fixture in the burgeoning Sephardic neighborhoods around Ocean Parkway. Today, Ms. Mansoura and her sons Jack, 29, and David, 41, can be found sweating in between a FireMixer and sheet pan racks, shaping and cutting sweets like Turkish delight and basbousa, an orange blossom-tinged semolina cake.
“We make only what people like,” Ms. Mansoura said. “Rich stuff.”
These flavors were what Aviv Mosovich, 45, sought out when he first moved to Brooklyn from Israel 14 years ago, nostalgic for home.
“She uses the right products,” said Mr. Mosovich, a private chef, about Ms. Mansoura’s handiwork. Retrieving a package of cheese sambousek (small pies) from the wheezing refrigerator, Mr. Mosovich joked, “I don’t say good things for free stuff.”
The shop has customers all over the world. Ms. Mansoura can be found chatting on the phone in some combination of English, Hebrew, French or Arabic, scribbling orders for, say, a wedding in Argentina, or a medical conference in Minnesota.