Darya has a wonderful blog and I especially like her Middle-Eastern recipes as they are so new to me and always delicious. Last year she posted a recipe for Iraqi date cookies that I put on my list of recipes to try. I wish I had tried them sooner, because they are awesome. They are fragrant with great flavor and texture and what is even better, they are not very sweet at all because all the sweetness comes from the date filling. The dough is easy to make and easy to handle, so I will definitely make these again. Merci, Darya!
Use good quality dates for this such as medjool dates, as that will make all of the difference.
Did you notice the beautiful serving bowl? It was made by my friend and ceramics artist Odette.
Makes 24 cookies
For the dough
1/2 tsp dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
160 ml (2/3 cup) lukewarm water
375 grams (2 1/2 cups) flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground aniseed
1/2 tsp whole nigella seeds
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
160 ml (3/4 cup) sunflower or grapeseed oil
For the filling
450 grams (1 lb) pitted medjool dates (about 500 grams/1.1 lbs gross weight)
60 ml (1/4 cup) water
1 tsp cacao powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp whole aniseeds (I used ground aniseed)
2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 tsp orange blossom water
1 sachet powdered saffron (or 3 threads, toasted until brittle, and then ground with a pestle and mortar)
1 egg yolk
Combine dry yeast with lukewarm water and sugar in a bowl and stir to mix.
Combine the flour with the spices.
Whisk to mix.
Put the spiced flour in the food processor together with the oil.
Process until it comes together.
Add the water and yeast mixture.
Process until well mixed.
Place the dough in a bowl and cover. Allow to rest for an hour. Due to the small amount of yeast, it won’t rise very much.
Meanwhile, prepare the date filling. Pit the dates and chop them roughly.
Put the dates in a saucepan with 60 ml of water. Cook over low heat, stirring…
…until the dates have turned into a thick puree.
Toast the sesame seeds.
Add the sesame seeds and spices to the dates.
Stir to mix.
Combine the egg yolk and saffron powder in a small bowl.
Stir to mix and allow to rest while you shape the cookies.
Divide the dough and the filling into two equal portions. Take the first half of the dough and roll it out on a floured work surface to a rectangle of about 30 * 20 cm (12 * 8 inches). To roll out dough into a rectangular shape, make sure to roll out also on the diagonal.
Cover two thirds of the dough with the first half of the date filling, leaving one third and a small border bare.
First fold the bare dough over the filling.
Next fold in the other flap.
Cut this into 12 cookies of 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide. Repeat with the other half of the dough and the other half of the date filling.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Arrange the cookies on a baking sheet covered with oven paper. Brush the tops of the cookies with the egg yolk mixture. (Darya says to bake them for a bit first, but I thought it was easier this way.)
Keep going until you have glazed all of them.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 200C/400F (30 minutes for fan forced, 40 minutes without fan) or until they are nicely browned.
Serve warm or at room temperature. I don’t know if they will keep, because they were all finished the same day.
I served the cookies for dessert at the end of a dinner party. It is probably not very Iraqi to have wine with them, but the Italian Verduzzo passito (from withered grapes) was an outstanding pairing. I think most passito-wines will work very well.
Rabbit in piquant sauce is a great Italian dish that can be prepared either sous-vide or on the stovetop. The piquant sauce with tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, anchovy, rosemary, capers, and parsley is delicious and has great depth of flavor.