addictive ajwa [date stuffed shortbread cookie]

Sadly, today is the last day of my summer break. Very sadly. Tomorrow as I head off to uni, I know I’ll be missing all the moments I had in the kitchen during my holidays. And definitely wishing I had experienced some more. I learned, however, that although I’ve bookmarked, discovered or written down 10s and 10s (if not 100s) of recipes to do during the 3 month holidays, I won’t always feel like cooking. To make the most of this last day, I managed to squeeze in 2 more recipes. Mini pizza scrolls, using my naan pizza base recipe, and a repeat of that delicious Ramadan sweet treat, Ajwa. Date Stuffed Shortbread Cookie Ajwa. YUM!

Truth is, the first time I had made this as an upper working hand (not child doing the simple things) was when my grandma came last year from Syria. I tried it again later in December/Jan (can’t remember) but it was almost a complete fail because I used self-raising flour instead of plain flour….because the pantry was out of the plain. The baking powder gave the ajwas a bit of a bitter/sour aftertaste, and the shortbread cookie cracked during baking, making the date stuffing a little bit very much brick-like and hard.

...guess what... not this time! The filling was so soft!

Today, I got a recipe and quartered it to make 25 ajwas. Below is the quartered recipe, and after it is the original. Word of warning I haven’t tried the original recipe, but plan on doing so in the very near future. Update: I tried the full recipe and posted about it here – it works a charm! :)

Yields: 25

Ingredients:

Ajwa dough (1/4 recipe)

2 cups plain flour

1/2 cup + 1/2 tbs softened cubed butter

1/4 cup icing sugar (interchangeable with caster)

1/4 cup warm water, minus 2 tsps

1/4 tsp yeast

Date filling (1/4 recipe)

1 cup pitted dates, firmly packed

1 tbs softened unsalted butter

Ajwa dough (full recipe – yields about 100)

8 cups plain flour (1kg)

1 3/4 cups softened cubed butter (400 g)

1 cup icing sugar (interchangeable with caster)

1 cup warm water, minus 4 tsps

1 tsp yeast

Date filling (1 recipe)

500 g pitted dates

1/2 cup softened unsalted butter

 

For added flavour: 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon or ground cardamom to the dough or dates

 

Method:

Sift the flour into a large bowl and rub in the softened butter until the mixture has the consistency of very coarse crumbs.

Add the fine sugar and yeast and mix to combine. Add any additional spices you desire for added flavour.

Gradually add in the water until the dough comes together into a soft ball.

Should probably point out that you should use your hands, not processor.
Just to make life harder ;) 

Leave the dough aside. Here, preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Meanwhile, finely dice the pitted dates with a sharp knife, then place into a microwave safe bowl.

Microwave on high for 15 – 20 seconds, until they soften.

Add in the softened butter and knead with a fork until the dates cool slightly and can be worked between your hands.

Knead the dates (they should be very buttery) and dice through again with a sharp knife.

Roll the date filling into small balls, ones slightly smaller than the size of your ajwa mould.

Take a small piece of dough and flatted in the palm of your hand.

Place one date ball in the centre and wrap the dough around it.

Roll it to form a smooth surface, press it into your floured ajwa mold and bang the edge of the mold against the edge bench to drop the ajwa into your hand. Use a teatowel to reduce the noise of the banging.

Pop it on a greased baking tray.

Traditional chefs press the sealed off end with flaked pistachios – this is optional however. Just wanted to point it out :)

Continue to fill the dough with dates and pressing them into the mould until you’re done!

Ajwa moulds are traditional. The ones I have are my late grandpa’s – they’re over 15 years old, but are as new (he was a master at the work he did i.e. at the bakery – not making ajwa moulds).

In case you don’t have a ajwa mould, you can pop the ajwa balls into the oven just as they are. You can use a grater, tart tin, chocolate moulds, spiky tongs or any carved surface to create fancy patterns on the ajwa dough before popping them into the oven.

Pop the baking tray into the oven for 20-25 minutes – just until they’re golden brown.

I assure you, the entire house will smell heavenly!

To check if your ajwa is done, turn it upside down. If the bottom is a golden brown colour, then remove it and leave aside to cool.

Optional: place the ajwas under the broiler for a few minutes, for a deeper colour up the top.

Arrange in a serving plate and munch on with your favourite tea.

You can also sip some Turkish coffee with these…

Devour!

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24 thoughts on “addictive ajwa [date stuffed shortbread cookie]

  1. Hi Fatimah, These look delightful. That is a nifty little gadget you have used. How lovely to have and to use your Grandpa’s moulds. Good luck in your studies at Uni.
    All the best,
    Florence x

  2. These are just beautiful Fati! And they look so delicious. I also love that you used your Grandpa’s moulds…that’s particularly touching for me. Best of luck at the university. Isn’t it a bummer when summer comes to an end; although I think these cookies would help me to feel better about it. :)

  3. I too love the mould! The ajwas look fabulous.

    Go have fun at the Uni! I am dying to go back to those days of carefree learning and studying, but can’t yet. Have fun now. You will miss it later:)

  4. Thank you for introducing me to something new. I’m always scouring cookbooks and I’ve never seen an ajwa mould before. Your cookies are just beautiful and filled with one of my favourite fillings — dates! Good luck at uni!

  5. What a cool mould – I don’t have one of those, but I’ve seen similar things before… I think my mother has one which makes similarly sized things in a semi-circle shape with a horse-shoe design on top. If I got my hands on that I could use that as well. They look so beautiful. So fun to learn about things I’ve never heard of before!

  6. These are prize winning shortbreads! Package them and sell them and I’ll be first buyer! Love the hidden treasure inside in the form of a date. Delicious! The mold is so cool.

  7. Thanks for popping in and leaving a comment. :) will be good at uni and I promise to put up posts during the term :)
    Glad everyone likes the Ajwas and the mould. Today I made the full recipe and it worked quite a charm. But I added my own twist to it which I’ll post about in the coming days. :)

  8. Pingback: Little Hands A Big Help In the Kitchen « Profiteroles & Ponytails

  9. Pingback: addictive ajwa [date stuffed shortbread cookie] | kleemel7's Blog

    • Eid Mubarak Maha.
      I’m so happy they worked out for you! I wish I still had the time to make eid sweets. I really miss doing that! Maybe next Eid I will restart the sweet making yet again!
      Eid Mubarak.

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