It’s the old saying that food connects people – friends, families and even strangers. These Lebanese Easter cookies lead me on a journey to another local person, passionate about producing and sharing food.
With Easter just around the corner, I was reminded of these beautiful hand-made Easter cookies that make a weekly appearance at the local farmers market. On this occasion, I decided to pluck up the courage to talk to the vendor about the cookies.
Although the stall was brimming with eager customers waiting for her smoky baba ganoush or hummus, (both of which I love), Afife generously took time to explain where I could find a recipe and some tips and tricks.
She also invited the blog team to her home to pick up the hand-carved moulds* which make the beautiful imprints on the cookies. As we came down the driveway, the most amazing smell of spices filled the air. We knew we had come to the right place. While picking the moulds we had a great chat on topics ranging from problems with her kitchen layout, to the importance of food traditions being passed down from one generation to the next.
I feel lucky to have had the rare opportunity to connect with a warm hearted foodie who finds pleasure in sharing food and knowledge from her own culture. At the same time, while holding the wooden pieces, I can’t help but to feel a connection with those who lovingly carved the moulds. Thanks Afife.
2 cups Semolina flour (fine)
½ cup flour standard ‘all purpose’
½ cup Caster sugar
200g Butter (melted)
1 tsp of orange blossom water or Rosewater (we halved the ingredients and used both flavours)
1 ½ cups of flour (for kneading through main mixture)
120 ml boiling water
400g Fresh dates de-seeded
1 cup Pistachios (shell removed and coarsely ground in food processor)
¼ cup sugar
1tsp Rose water
1 tsp Orange blossom water
1. Add dates and water into a small saucepan. Cook low and slow, until they start to break up and form a sticky paste. Set aside to cool.
2. In a medium bowl mix the pistachios and sugar, slowly add the rosewater and orange blossom water mixing as you go. Set aside.
3. To a large mixing bowl add the Semolina flour, ½ cup flour, castor sugar and combine. Add the butter, milk and rosewater or orange blossom water, mix well.
4. Sprinkle the remaining flour onto a clean bench, turn the dough mixture out and knead until combined (you may need to add a little boiling water to soften).
5. Roll the dough into small balls (you may need to experiment here depending on the size of your moulds) we ended up with balls of about 26g or around 3.5cm in diameter.
6. To form the hole in centre for the filling, push your thumb into the dough ball and rotate the dough around your thumb with your other hand, pushing your thumb deeper while thinning the wall section as you go.
7. Place a small portion of filling into the hole, form the dough around the filling so there are no gaps.
8. Press the filled dough ball into the mould, then turn the formed cookie out onto a floured bench. (Don’t be shy, give the head end of mould a good strong wack against the bench to remove the cookie)
If you do not have moulds just form the dough into a cookie shape, creating your own pattern on top with a fork.
9. Place the formed cookies on a baking sheet and bake at 200 ºC for 16 minutes, until lightly browned around the bottom edge. If using more than one tray switch to fan bake and drop the temperature to 180ºC.
10. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar and your favourite cup of tea or coffee.
*we were lucky enough to get some moulds from Afife, you could try your local Middle Eastern food market.