Recipe Post: Kleicha (Iraqi Date Pastries/Cookies)

kleicha iraqi date cookie by Fruitcake Farmstand. Sweetened with fruit & no added sugar.Over the course of a recent week, I researched, executed, and adapted recipes from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. I know that I didn’t change the world or relieve anyone’s suffering by baking in my kitchen, but it was important to me to get better acquainted (albeit minimally) with the cultures of these countries, partially through their cuisines. Many of the recipes I referred to I found on blogs written by people who had grown up in one of these countries and emigrated elsewhere. They wrote of their love for their respective native countries and their cuisines, and of their disappointment with the turmoil that grips many of them.

A few of the recipes I tried out adapted easily to my Fruitcake techniques. I’m posting my favorites, starting with Kleicha.

Kleicha (Iraqi Date Pastries) (Adapted from The Iraqi Family Cookbook Blog, Make Cupcakes, Not War, & Maryam’s Culinary Wonders)

These delicious pastries (most blogs refer to them as “cookies,” but I think it’s more apt to call them pastries) resemble a cross between a cinnamon roll and a rugelach. And amazingly the original recipe doesn’t call for sugar in the first place–only dates–so it was very easy to adapt!



For the dough:

460 g (3-1/3 cups) All-Purpose Flour
244 ml (1 cup) Whole Milk
8 g (2 teaspoons) Active Dry Yeast
80 ml (1/3 cup) Flavorless vegetable oil such as grapeseed
150 g (11 tablespoons) Unsalted Butter, melted
1 tspn Ground Cardamom
1/2 tspn Salt
1/4 tspn Mahlab or a couple drops of Almond Extract
1 tspn Nigella Seeds or Black Sesame Seeds

For the filling:

250 g (1-1/2 cups) Medjool Dates, pitted
14 g (1 tablespoon) Unsalted Butter
1 teaspoon Ground Cardamom
1 teaspoon Sesame Seeds
Optional: 3/4 teaspoon Fennel Seeds

For egg wash: 1 Egg Yolk


Make the dough:

Heat the milk to 105°F-110°F–just warm when you test it with your finger. Do not overheat or the yeast will not survive! Put the milk in a glass measuring cup and add the yeast and a pinch of date sugar (if you have it). Let sit 5-10 minutes until you see some bubbles on top–evidence that the yeast are alive and active (Here is some more info about how yeast works, if you’re interested).

While you wait for the yeast to wake up, use a small saucepan to melt the butter with the vegetable oil. Once it’s hot, add the cardamom and nigella or black sesame seeds and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant (See here for more info on blooming spices). Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Measure the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer (have the dough hook attachment ready), and add the yeast/milk mixture and the butter/oil/spice mixture.

Knead with the dough hook (or by hand) for 3-5 minutes.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or loose plastic wrap and let rest for one hour.

Make the filling:

While the dough rests, make the filling. Again, melt the butter in a small saucepan and once hot, add the spices and heat a moment until fragrant. Remove from heat. Put the pitted dates in your food processor. Add the butter and spices and puree until smooth.

Roll the dough & filling:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare egg wash: in a small bowl or glass, mix an egg yolk with an equal amount of water. Get a pastry brush out.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces and use a rolling pin to roll the two halves into two rectangles of about 6 in. by 18″ (The dough should be about 1/8 in. thick). Next, remove the filling from the food processor and divide it into two equal portions. Place the first half between two large pieces of plastic wrap and use the rolling pin to roll the filling out into a rectangle the same size as the dough rectangles. Carefully flip the filling onto one of the pieces of dough. Repeat for the second half of the filling.

Roll each rectangle, long edge to long ege. Then cut the rolls into 1/2-in. to 1-in. pieces. Arrange them, spirals facing up, on sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Allow at least an inch of space between each kleicha.  Brush the top of each pastry with egg wash. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden in color. By then, your kitchen is going to be smelling amazing. Let the kleicha cool, and then enjoy with some tea or coffee!

Kleicha Iraqi Pastries / Cookie by Fruitcake Farmstand. Sweetened with fruit & no added sugar.

Lucuma Powder


How have I never heard of lucuma powder until today? I was at Whole Foods looking at the “superfoods” section (namely the mulberries), and this powder I’d never heard of, marked “alternative sweetener” caught my eye.


After buying a bag of and doing some research, I’m happy to learn that the powder is made from whole fruit dried at a low temperature, so it would appear it might be a perfect addition to the fruitcake pantry! This is an exciting discovery. I’m looking forward to trying it out in a recipe as soon as possible. Given that the fruit’s flesh is described as rather dry, I’m hoping that it will work well in cakes.

For more information on lucuma & lucuma powder, see this article.

Nonfat Dry Milk Powder (NFDM)

No, it’s not a fruit, but early in my experimentation with eliminating cane sugar from recipes, I discovered that I’d need something other than fruit to help take on the structural role that refined cane sugar (sucrose) plays in dessert recipes, especially for cakes and cookies.

Nonfat Dry Milk Powder, for use in fruit-sweetened recipes (refined sugar free)
Organic Nonfat Dry Milk Powder

I found a helpful friend in nonfat dry milk powder, which instantly became a staple of the Fruitcake kitchen. Nonfat dry milk powder (NFDM) consists mostly of protein and sugar. Like fresh milk, its sweetness comes from lactose, which is much less sweet-tasting than cane sugar. Its flavor is definitely milky with a hint of something extra–caramel? nutiness, as in a brown butter? It’s a cozy, sweet flavor you’ll recognize if you ever drank Carnation Instant Breakfast or ate Astronaut Ice Cream.

There’s a long history of drying out milk in order to extend its consumable life. In the 13th century, Marco Polo noted that sun-dried skimmed milk was carried by Mongolian soldiers. The predominant drying method nowadays is spray drying, which consists of a few key steps: Fresh milk is skimmed and preheated, then a major part of the water in it is evaporated off by boiling in a vacuum (which means the boiling temperature is much lower than it is with normal air pressure). The concentrated milk is then sprayed as tiny droplets into hot air, which quickly dried them so that by the time they land, they are forming a pile of fine, dry powder.

NFDM has served me well in surprising ways. When sweetening with fruit, the challenge lies largely in avoiding the addition of a ton of water to a recipe. So finding natural, organic products that have already had most of their water content eliminated is extremely helpful. Dried and freeze-dried fruits fall into this category, and I’ve found them very useful, but they mess terribly with the structure of, say, a cake. I’m not a chemist, but I believe it’s the high protein content in NFDM (versus the high fiber content of dried fruit, which lends itself to chewiness) that gives strength and stability to back to a recipe from which cane sugar has been eliminated. As scientific as all of this sounds, let’s not forget that NFDM brings along with it that wonderful sweet, nutty, milky flavor mentioned above. In addition to cakes and cookies, milk powder’s flavor and texture of course work beautifully in dairy desserts like custards, ice creams, and cheesecakes, adding a sweetness that enhances their dairy flavor rather than overpowering it.

For more information, see the NZIC’s “Milk Powder” article.