Date and cardamom cookies
Traditionally served (in our house) over Easter and Christmas, this date cookie is a massive favourite of mine and I love having it with a cup of English breakfast tea! Kleicha are made with a walnut or date filling—both are equally delicious. The date paste can be found in most Middle Eastern stores in 1kg blocks.
600g plain 00 flour
200g butter, melted
7g dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp nigella seeds
3 tbsp sunflower oil
600g date paste
1 tbsp ground cardamom
First, make the pastry. In a food mixer, add the flour, melted butter, yeast and sugar. Next add ½ tsp salt, making sure it is placed as far away from the yeast as possible.
On a low setting, mix the ingredients together. You are looking for almost a pizza dough texture. Gradually add the water gradually and if you feel the mix needs more, then add it. When you feel it is close, add the nigella seeds. Once blended, push the dough with your hand—there should be a spring in the dough and it should feel moist.
Place in a bowl, cover with a towel, and leave to rest for 40 mins to allow the yeast to activate.
Now make the date filling. Heat the sunflower oil in a large saucepan then add the date paste. It will seem hard at first, however as the pan heats up, the dates should begin to soften. Add the cardamom powder and keep stirring—you are looking for a soft texture that can easily be rolled.
Take some greaseproof paper and place a quarter of the date paste on top. Cover with another piece of greaseproof paper and roll out the paste into a rectangular shape. It should be easy to shape/mould. Set aside.
Take your risen ball of pastry and divide it into 4 pieces.
On a floured surface, roll one piece of pastry into a rectangle shape. The longest part should be vertical to you, the shortest part horizontal.
Take your date rectangle, peel away the top layer of greaseproof paper and flip on top of the pastry rectangle. Remove the other sheet of greaseproof.
Next, shape your cookies by rolling the pastry up to enclose the date mixture. Start from the top and work your way down—you want a tight roll. Now slice into 1-2” pieces, brush with beaten egg and bake in the oven for 20 mins at 180C. You are looking for a golden colour and the smells should be wonderful.
Repeat this process for the remaining three batches, using 150g date paste for each ball of pastry.
Make yourself a cuppa and enjoy!
Recipe: Philip Juma
Image: John Holdship