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!

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INGREDIENTS:

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

METHOD:

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.

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Purer Pumpkin Pie (Recipe Post)

Okay, I know you’re sick of being bombarded with pumpkin everything, but the fact is Thanksgiving is going to come around and you are going to need a pumpkin pie to serve. And the truth is, you want some for yourself too. By “you,” I mean me. Anyway, I came up with this recipe that is sweetened only with fruit and is one of the best darn pumpkin pies I’ve ever had. I’m definitely making it again for Thanksgiving.

Okay, I know you’re sick of being bombarded with pumpkin everything, but the fact is Thanksgiving is going to come around and you are going to need a pumpkin pie to serve. And the truth is, you want some for yourself too. By “you,” I mean me. Anyway, I came up with this recipe that is sweetened only with fruit and is one of the best darn pumpkin pies I’ve ever had. I’m definitely making it again for Thanksgiving. Here goes:

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For the Pastry Dough:

155 grams All-purpose flour (or whole wheat, or your preferred blend)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Date sugar (optional)
113 grams (1 stick) Unsalted butter, very cold & cut into approx. 1/2″ cubes
1/4 cup Cold juice (apple, pear, or grape)
1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Ice cubes

For the Filling:

70 grams Freeze-dried apple (or baked apple chips, 100% apple only!)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/8 teaspoon Ground allspice
1 tablespoon Vanilla extract
200 grams Dates
227 (1 brick) Cream cheese (or coconut milk / heavy cream / cashew cream)
3 Large eggs
370 grams Pumpkin (organic canned)

For the Toppings:

Pumpkin seeds, toasted with olive oil and salt
Heave cream (or coconut cream), whipped with vanilla extract

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Make the Crust:

Combine the juice, vinegar, and ice in a liquid measuring cup with a spout.Set aside.
Place the flour, salt, ginger, and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until a lumpy/sandy texture appears. Continue pulsing while slowly adding the cold juice & vinegar (don’t let the ice go in; it’s just there to keep the liquid cold!), just until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, flatten slightly into a fat disc, and refrigerate to chill until nice and firm, an hour to a couple days. Clean and dry the food processor, as you’ll be needing it for the filling!

Once chilled, roll the dough out to a circle, 1/8″ thick. Place in your pie dish and crimp or cut as you wish. (Here’s a Martha Stewart video showing different crimping techniques.) Use a fork to poke holes through the bottom surface of the crust in order to avoid bubbles during baking. Chill the crust while you make the filling.

Pre-Bake the Shell & Make the Filling:

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place parchment inside the chilled pie crust and add pie weights or beans. Bake the shell for 10 minutes, remove the weights and parchment, and give it a light egg wash. Put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes or until it just starts to get a light golden color.

Put the first 6 ingredients in the food processor and process until the freeze-dried or baked apple is a fine powder. Then add the dates and the vanilla and puree until the dates form a chunky paste. Then add the cream cheese and eggs and puree until very smooth. Add the pumpkin and process until combined. Pour the filling into the pre-baked shell and bake at 325°F for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling no longer jiggles. Let cool to room temperature and serve with toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh whipped cream. If you don’t finish it all in one go, cover with plastic or foil and store in the fridge. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Autumn!