These are a traditional cookies made on the Eid and Easter holidays in all middle eastern families, and they are really addicting! A little time-consuming but so worth it.
The name in arabic is “Ka’ak Bl Ajwa“, or “The Ring Ka’ak” , “The bracelet Ka’ak“, while others called it “The Easter Ka’ak“. But the names doesn’t matter as it all refers to a very delicious and special cookies. “Ajwa” is the other name of date paste in arabic.
I like to make these cookies to my family more than any cookie recipe, these are not like any cookies. The nutrients loaded in with the uses of multiple seeds and spices, the milk, semolina, the date filling, make these cookies most nutritious for kids to enjoy as a snack or even as a healthy desserts. you can also make it more healthy and cholesterol free by using olive oil only. Enjoy these cookies with a warm cup of milk or hot tea in the evening or in the morning with your coffee.
My recipe passed from my grand mom to my aunt whom she always make it once she visits us, and whom she learnt me how to make it. My husband’s addiction to these cookies let me wants to try to make it by myself when my aunt can’t come.
Although, it looks very hard and time-consuming to make these cookies, but the beautiful aroma of spices that you can’t resist, make these cookies your greatest and really makes you want to try it again and again.
It’s part of the tradition when making these cookies, that is to me like something dreamy that always takes me in dreams to those days, where I can remember all the women in my family gather around to make these cookies in large amounts, then they share the cookies between them. It’s not all about the joy in making these cookies themselves, but the good times they also share. Their stories that each woman could tell. And their everyday life. Their joys, giggles, besides their problems and complains. To me now, these days is like fairy tales that told by our grands which take me to another world of dreaming, to the most beautiful days I ever lived, my childhood.
Some important tips to make these cookies more successful:
- You have the choice to not to do the first step and omit the addition of semolina, that makes it flour only cookies, and in this case you need to use 2 & 1\4 cups of shortening, any of your choice, and the process is faster that you mix the dough and make the cookies in one day.
- For the use of shortening, I sometimes use butter and olive oil only, or you can use butter only, even the traditional way is to use the olive oil only with 1 tbsp ghee for the flavour.
- The dough should be pliable not dry throughout.
- The proving time is vital to the required results, as it ensures the texture of the cookies is light yet perfectly combined.
- The date paste should be soft and not sticky.
- You can pinch the rings with a cookie tweezer to decorate it, also you can sprinkle some icing sugar on the top after baking and cooling.
- The oven temperature is as important as the position of the tray in the oven, watch the cookies through the glass oven while baking.
- Don’t over bake the cookies as they become hard quickly - watch for that light golden colour.
- The cookies can be stored for at least 3 weeks in an airtight tin or plastic container.
- “Practice makes perfect”: remember this saying if your first attempt is not to the required standard. The making of these cookies is very therapeutic once the techniques is mastered. Be patient.
Spiced Date Ring Cookies ‘Ka’ak Bl Ajwa”
recipe makes around 100 cookies
2 cups(0.75 lb)(340 gm) semolina
8 cups(2.20 lb)(1000 gm)(1 kg) all-purpose flour
3 cups shortening (softened butter, ghee, or oil) preferable if third butter(soft), third ghee or Crisco (melted), and third olive oil
1\2 cup(115 gm)(4 oz) icing sugar
1\2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1\2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp Mahlab , ground (black cherry kernels) (available at Middle Eastern stores)
1\2 tsp gum arabic, ground (Arabic miska)
1\2 tsp cardamom
1 tbsp black Nigella seeds – the black seed
3 tbsp sesame seeds
1\4 cup dried milk powder
2 tbsp ground anis seeds plus 1 tbsp whole seed
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp baking powder(use only baking powder if you like it to crunch otherwise you can add 1\2 tsp dry yeast with 3 tbsp warm water and 1 tbsp sugar, this will make it less crunchy)
1\4 cup of rose-water + orange blossoms
about 1 cup tap water or you can use milk if you don’t like the dried
In a large bowl, add the semolina and the melted ghee or shortening (Crisco is a good choice, I always prefere to use it), mix. Cover and leave for ten hours, or overnight.
Measure flour and spices (all the dry ingredient except the liquids) in the soaked semolina bowl. Add the softened butter and the olive oil mix (you can use corn oil).
Stirring well so that the flour mix soaks the butter, rub with your fingertips. Continue rubbing but not kneading for at least 15 min, this is an important step to get the crunch of the cookies.
Rest for 30 minutes, the mix will be crumbly.
Dissolve the yeast (if you want to use it) in 2 tablespoons water and a dash of sugar. When it rises, add to semolina flour mixture.
Add the rose-water and orange blossom, gradually add the warm water and start kneading to make a soft pliable dough.
Test the dough if it’s ready, take a small piece, knead it in your hands to soften, shape it into a rope and pend it and inclose the two ends to make a ring, if get kracked easily then the dough is dry or it need more kneeding, if the dough looks smooth, then it’s ready. Rest the dough for 1\2 hour .
Prepare the baking sheets, set aside. Using a cutting board (I use a rough surface cutting board, this will make it easy to roll the dough). Take a piece of the dough into walnut size ball, kneed it in your fingers first. And a piece of date filling, roll it into a ball smaller than the dough. Roll each ball into a rope. Flatten the dough with your hand and shape it into a long rectangle. Take the date rope and place it directly on the dough. Seal the dough ends around the date paste to enclose. Roll out the log on the cutting board with the bottom of your palm, back and forth until it thins out to your liking. Cut the rope into individual cookies, each about 4 inches long.
For the date paste:
For this amount of dough you will need:
3 bags of pitted date paste (you can find it from any middle eastern store), or you can use whole date then take off the pitts and either work it with your hand or put it in a food processor to make like a paste.
Add to it:
1 tsp cinnamom
1\2 tsp nutmeg
1\2 tsp cardamom
1\4 cup oil or ghee or soft butter
Mix the paste to combine the spices and the shortening, kneed it well in your hands to soften the dates. You can use the food processor to make it more malleable