Semolina date cookies (kaak bel-ajweh)

This is the other pastry that would make its appearance in our house for the Easter holiday,  kaak b’ootah (aka kaak bel-ajweh); this one was my favorite because of the sweet date filling.

My grandmother would sit at the tiny kitchen table and would shape these by hand with brass clips. I would use tweezers or any clip that would allow you to pinch the dough gently yet not puncture it. You can also use a fork and just leave poke marks all around the kaak. (I used  tongs that grab the coals on a hookah).

These cookies have a symbolic significance, as the crown shape was meant to represent the crown of thorns that Christ wore while on the cross.

They are sweet from the dates and the light sprinkling of powdered sugar.

The dough and the date filling  have  no added sugar.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups of fine semolina flour (300 g.)
  • 1 1/2 cups of farina or cream of wheat (300 g.)
  • 225 g. (8 ounces or 1 cup)of melted butter
  • 3 ounces) of rose water (plus more to add the next day)
  • 1 ounce of orange blossom water (plus more to add the next day)(total of about 100 g. more if needed)
  • DATE PASTE: 9 ounces of date paste (275 g.)
  • 2 Tablespoons of softened unsalted butter (30 g.)
  • 1 teaspoon of rose or orange blossom for the date paste if needed (to give extra moistness)

METHOD:

  1. Place semolina and farina (cream of wheat) in a large mixer bowl. Mix 30 seconds to combine the two.
  2. Add the melted butter and mix until the dough is sandy and crumbly.
  3. Add the rose water and orange blossom water and mix some more until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl, adding more rose water or orange blossom if necessary, a tablespoon at a time. Place in a ziploc  bag and set aside for a few hours or till the next day.

The next day:

The dough may be stiff; place in the bowl of a mixer or food processor and gradually break it up adding some orange blossom and rose water  until the dough is smooth and moist and malleable. Add the liquid one or two tablespoons at a time. (I used 4 tablespoons total). In some cases (depending on humidity) you may not need to add the extra waters.

Making the kaak:

  1. Place the date paste and butter in the work bowl of a food processor. Run the machine for a few seconds until the paste has incorporated the butter and is smooth and shiny.  If needed, add a teaspoon of rose or orange blossom to the paste. Transfer to a bowl and get to work!
  2. Place a long sheet of wax paper on the work surface. Take a lump of semolina dough and form a rope 1/2 inch in diameter, almost as long as the paper (less a few inches, as rolling it will stretch it).
  3. Place another piece of wax paper on top of the dough and using a rolling pin, flatten the rope.
  4. Form a thinner rope of date paste and place in the middle of the semolina dough. Now enclose the semolina dough around the date paste and rolling it back and forth seal it well.
  5. Cut 4 inch sticks in the dough and take each stick and close the extremities by pinching them together.
  6. Place the formed crowns on parchment-lined baking sheets. Pinch the top if desired with a fork or tongs.
  7. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20 minutes or longer until the cookies are dry and crisp, but still pale golden in color.
  8. Cool and sprinkle with a bit of powdered sugar. Keep in a tightly closed box or jar.

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36 Comments

  1. Posted March 28, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Oh merci Joumana pour la recette, j’en avais mangé à la fête de l’école de ma fille (réalisés par une maman libanaise) et je les ai trouvés excellents! Nous avons également une variante sumilaire en Algérie. Je note ta recette pour la tester bientôt, Mais que ce que c’est le “cream of wheat”?? Je te souhaite une très belle soirée.

  2. Posted March 28, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Outstanding tutorial and a beautiful cookie. Looks so difficult to make, but you just made it so doable thought the photo essay. Thank you, Joumana. I am still in the throws of conference planning. Did make bread Sunday. Hope to get back to “normal” life soon. I would love to cook with you.
    :)
    Valerie

  3. Posted March 28, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    The dates add the most perfect sweetness!

  4. Posted March 28, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    I love the symbolism behind these. Sweetly appropriate for Easter – plus that sweet date filling is such a delight. I am always attracted to the recipes that truly mark a holiday.

  5. Posted March 28, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Joumana, these look amazing. I may have to try it with other fillings too, say dried figs or dried apricots. Another winning recipe for your generous home. Thank you.

  6. Posted March 28, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Bonjour Joumana, un drôle de travail pour faire ces délicieuces couronnes, tu as dut y passez des heures. Bisous et passe une belle journée

  7. Posted March 28, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Wow…. a delicious sounding recipe, and terrific photos showing exactly how to make these lovely treats. The in-laws will be here for Easter, they’ll be blown away when they see these on the table. – S

  8. samir
    Posted March 28, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    beautiful cookies…delicate and not too sweet..you ever use mahleb in the dough?

  9. Joumana
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    @meriem: le “cream of wheat” est aussi appelé farina chez nous; c’est la semoule mais moulue de manière plus épaisse.

    @Samir: I have used mahlab in the dough in another dough recipe with milk and a dash of yeast, this time I wanted to use my grandmother’s recipe, and she never did, only maward and mazaher.

  10. Posted March 29, 2011 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Oh-My-Word, I’m loving these cookies. They look adorable! I’d love to try this recipe.

    Great post :)

    Cheers,

    Aldy.

  11. Posted March 29, 2011 at 2:49 am | Permalink

    Such pretty cookies! I bet they taste heavenly.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  12. Posted March 29, 2011 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Joumana these sound delicious, the pattern is very beautiful and I like what it symbolizes.

  13. Posted March 29, 2011 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Love these olden desserts with the family history and tradition. NAtural sweeteners like dates are often overlooked and it’s a pity – they are tastier than sugar.

  14. Posted March 29, 2011 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    I am so happy you posted step by step pictures because it was a mystery to me how you could fill those lovely rings and I was confused as to how the tweezers came in the picture. I love the idea of unsweetened dough to complement the sweetness of the filling.

  15. Posted March 29, 2011 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Oh I LOVE holiday food traditions! The date filling in these sounds divine and they look absolutely adorable…so perfectly shaped!

  16. Posted March 29, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Those cookies are my favorite, but I never made them!!
    Yours look wonderful!

  17. Posted March 29, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Beautiful little treats Joumana, I like the fact that you didn’t add any sugar in the feeling. It makes it lighter and healthier!

  18. Posted March 29, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Even I, who avoids dates, was charmed by these cookies. So pretty!

  19. Posted March 29, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    This looks adorable :) How lovely that Easter is coming! I’ve not even figured out what to bake yet (procrastination), something easy preferably with my limited baking skills :P

  20. Posted March 29, 2011 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Just stunning Joumana – and so very very unique! I love everything about it and come to think of it, I have come to the conclusion that I love the flavor and ingredients in lebanese cooking. Period.

    Once again you explain this to us novices beautifully :)

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  21. Posted March 29, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I love baked goods that hold meaning and tradition, a perfect sweet treat for easter,
    have a great week
    sweetlife

  22. Posted March 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Joumana,

    These cookies look so delicious I like the fact that there is very little sugar. I love the sweetness of dates, besides the flavor they have low glycemic index making this cookie a healthy choice! I am going to try my hand on this when I get my kitchen back!
    Thanks for sharing,
    Heg

  23. Posted March 29, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I am happy to have stumbled upon your blog – Look forward to learning more about a new cuisine – please do stop by my blog when you have a moment – I have a mix of veggie dishes from many cuisines and hope to add more to my repertoire from you :)

  24. Posted March 29, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Merci pour les précisions en gr.
    Un biscuit que j’aime énormément.
    En déguster un ou deux: c’est le bonheur.
    A très bientôt.

  25. Posted March 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    These are so lovely…adore the filling.

  26. Posted March 30, 2011 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    these look lovely. I love that there is a deeper meaning to the cookies. yum.

  27. Posted March 30, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    I love baked goods! These look delicious and your photos make preparation look easy. Baking this weekend? Yes I am and this is the recipe!
    ————-
    Thanks and Regards
    Mike

    blenders and food processors

  28. Posted March 30, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Symbolic, adorably prepared and absolutely scrumptious I’m sure!
    These are certainly going to have to be tried for my Italian sweet table too ;o)
    They are, in my opinion…perfection!

    Ciao for now,
    Claudia

  29. Posted March 31, 2011 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    I’ve eaten them often but never ventured to make them. Thanks for the detailed tutorial.

  30. Posted March 31, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    I would love to have a whole spread of all the different pastries you’ve featured on a table in front of me. That would be something!

  31. Posted April 8, 2011 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    These are just gorgeous cookies. Thanks for the recipe and tutorial!

  32. Jo
    Posted May 5, 2011 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    Thanks heaps! My grandma make these for me all the time.

  33. Fatima
    Posted June 13, 2011 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Hello Joumana,

    Is there a way to make the ma’moul recipe gluten free!
    thx.:)

  34. Joumana
    Posted June 13, 2011 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    @Fatima: Yes, use gluten-free flour.

  35. Eina A Majid
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Hi! Love ur blog. I’m planning to bake these cookies. But just wondering about the cream of wheat. Is there another name to it or a substitute to it?

  36. Joumana
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    @Eina: Yes, it could be replaced with coarse semolina or you could make the cookies with all semolina.

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