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.
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!
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
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…