Rawia Bishara was born into a food-loving Palestinian-Arab family in Nazareth. In 1998, she opened her restaurant Tanoreen in New York, as a tribute to her mother and to reinterpret her imaginative Middle Eastern cooking. She kindly agreed to share her Date Cookies recipe with us. You can find more recipes in her great book “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar – The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking”.
Ingredients to make 3 ½ dozen cookies:
For the Dough:
- 750g plain flour
- 1Kg unsalted butter, melted.
- 1 tablespoon dried yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon mastic
- 1 tablespoon mahlab
- 500ml orange blossom water or warm milk
For the Filling:
- 1.5Kg Medjoul dates, pitted
- 3 tablespoons corn oil, butter or ghee
- 2 tablespoons rose water (optional)
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of ground cloves
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- Icing sugar, for dusting
Tip from the author: You might notice that the dates you buy are a bit tough or dry in places. To soften them, place the dates in a frying pan over a very low flame and mash with a wooden spoon or spatula as they warm. If you like a sweeter cookie, you can add additional sugar to this dough. I prefer to use less since I find the dates to sweet enough.
- Put the flour in a large bowl, add the melted butter and knead with your hands until the butter is completely absorbed into the flour. Make a well in the centre of the bowl and add the yeast, sugar and 2 tablespoons hot water. Leave to sit for 1 minute. Add the mastic and mahlab to the flour mixture. Add the orange blossom water to the yeast mixture and knead it all together until it forms a soft dough. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
- Combine the dates with the oil, rose water, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a large bowl. Knead with your hands until the mixture has the consistency of a soft paste.
- Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
- Place about 3 tablespoons of dough in the palm of one hand and use the other palm to roll it into a ball. Make an indentation in the ball with your finger. Spoon 1 ½ tablespoons of the date mixture into the indentation, then bring the edges of the dough up around the filling. Pinch the edges allaround to seal in the filling. Flip the cookie over into the other hand, seam side down and gently press until the seam side is flattened. Place the cookie on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough.
- Bake until the cookies are golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. The cookies can be stored at room temperature for 2 days; they will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Before serving, dust liberally with icing sugar.