Mozzified’s Shaina Shealy shares a recipe inspired by her time in Bethlehem.
I recently stayed in Bethlehem for several nights with a woman named Najla. Najla started a small business with a Jewish Israeli in which they aggregate traditional Palestinian embroidery for a Jewish Israeli market. Najla’s hands never stop cooking, sewing, embroidering, cleaning, preparing. Everything in her house, from olive oil soap to sheep’s milk cheese to embroidered cushion-covers and table clothes, she cultivated with her own hands. For breakfast, we ate olives that she picked and cured herself, green leaves she collected from the Jewish Israeli’s front yard and sautéed with onion and garlic, and kaak ma’amoul that she made late at night.
Kaak ma’amoul are traditional Palestinian date-filled, sweet cookies. I had eaten them before, but the way that Najla made them without sugar in the dough was a lighter twist — perfect for breakfast or a teatime snack.
Kaak Ma’amoul Recipe
Prep time: 1 hour
Makes 20 – 30 cookies
Najla’s kaak ma’amoul are simple: dough – white flour, oil, water and fennel seeds – wrapped around spiced date puree. I recreated them as soon as I got back to my kitchen. I added plenty of orange zest and juice and few extra spices. I also substituted whole-wheat flour for white flour.
*note: Most kaak ma’amoul is made with sweet, yeasted dough (sometimes with semolina in addition to wheat flour). This is not the traditional version of the recipe.
- 2 ½ C whole wheat flour
- 1 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 tbs orange zest
- 2 tbs fennel seeds
- 1 tsp sea salt
- *try adding flax seeds to the dough for an extra boost of omegas
- 1 cup dates, pitted
- ½ tsp cardamom, ground
- ½ tsp cloves, ground
- ½ tsp cinnamon, ground
- juice of one medium orange
Mix the flour, oil, water, orange zest, fennel seeds and salt with a stand mixer or knead with your hands until dough is smooth and stretchy.
Put dates, spices and orange juice in food processor and blend into a smooth paste
Heat oven to 375. Divide dough into 25 – 30 balls (1 ½ in each). Divide paste into the same number of balls, but keep each ball half the size of the each dough ball.
Roll each dough ball into a 4 x 1 inch rectangle. Wet hands, and roll paste ball into thin log. Place date log into dough and fold dough around it (like a tube). Roll the log/tube in your hands until smooth. Fold the dough log into a circle and seal it into a closed ring by pinching the ends together (you may have to use some water to get it to stick).
Place circles on baking sheet and cook until golden, around 25 minutes.