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.
- Place semolina and farina (cream of wheat) in a large mixer bowl. Mix 30 seconds to combine the two.
- Add the melted butter and mix until the dough is sandy and crumbly.
- 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:
- 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!
- 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).
- Place another piece of wax paper on top of the dough and using a rolling pin, flatten the rope.
- 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.
- Cut 4 inch sticks in the dough and take each stick and close the extremities by pinching them together.
- Place the formed crowns on parchment-lined baking sheets. Pinch the top if desired with a fork or tongs.
- Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20 minutes or longer until the cookies are dry and crisp, but still pale golden in color.
- Cool and sprinkle with a bit of powdered sugar. Keep in a tightly closed box or jar.
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