Semolina date cookies (kaak bel-ajweh)

March 28, 2011  •  Category:

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.


  • 1 1/2 cups of fine semolina flour (300 g.)
  • 1 1/2 cups of farina or cream of wheat (300 g.)or more semolina (coarse)
  • 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)

NOTE: The recipe can be made with just fine semolina or semolina and regular all-purpose flour. 


  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.



41 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. meriem says:

    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.

    • Joumana says:

      @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.

  2. A Canadian Foodie says:

    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.

  3. Belinda @zomppa says:

    The dates add the most perfect sweetness!

  4. Claudia says:

    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. Tom @ Tall Clover says:

    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. domi says:

    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. Oui, Chef says:

    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 says:

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

  9. Aldy says:

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

    Great post 🙂



  10. Rosa says:

    Such pretty cookies! I bet they taste heavenly.



  11. Ivy says:

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

  12. Peter says:

    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.

  13. Nuts about food says:

    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.

  14. Joanne says:

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

  15. Cherine says:

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

  16. Katerina says:

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

  17. TheKitchenWitch says:

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

  18. Min {Honest Vanilla} says:

    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 😛

  19. Devaki says:

    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

  20. sweetlife says:

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

  21. weirdcombos says:


    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,

  22. Priya Mahadevan says:

    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 🙂

  23. Nadji says:

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

  24. Magic of Spice says:

    These are so lovely…adore the filling.

  25. tinytearoom says:

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

  26. Mike says:

    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

    blenders and food processors

  27. FOODESSA says:

    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,

  28. Caffettiera says:

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

  29. Lentil Breakdown says:

    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!

  30. Lora says:

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

  31. Jo says:

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

  32. Fatima says:

    Hello Joumana,

    Is there a way to make the ma’moul recipe gluten free!

  33. Eina A Majid says:

    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?

  34. suad says:

    I made these cookies, my kids loved them, i put them for school as a healthy snack. We, palestinians, call it Ka’ak bi 3ajweh.

  35. Joumana says:

    @suad: Yes, I remember I had a Palestinian friend who called them ka’ak be ajweh. Glad your kids loved them!

  36. Sossy says:

    The recipe was spot in both in ingredients and the directions. Thank you for sharing I remember these cookies from my teens and it has a nostalgic value for me. I made it and am still enjoying them daily.
    Question; would you know how many calories is each?

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