I wanted to make a traditional Ramadan dessert this month, a recipe that called for mahleb, which is an aromatic spice made from the seeds of the St Lucie Cherry (Prunus mahaleb). The stones are cracked to extract the seed kernel, which is ground to a powder before it is used. It adds a lovely flavor of bitter almond and cherry to breads, cakes and biscuits.
I found a perfect date and sesame biscuit recipe called Makroud that is made by Israeli Muslims and Palestinians. There are several variations of Makroud that are also made in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, but this version is not as sweet.
Mr BT and I would like to wish all of our Muslim friends Ramadan Kareem.
(Date and Sesame Biscuits)
Adapted recipe from the Safadi Family of Nazareth in The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey by Janna Gur
500g (3-1/2 cups) whole wheat flour
15g (1/2 oz) fresh yeast
240ml (1 cup) corn oil
120ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 tablespoon mahleb, freshly ground in a mortar
220ml (1 cup) lukewarm water
500g (1lb 2oz) pressed pitted dates
60ml (1/4 cup) corn oil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
450g (1lb) sesame seeds
Place the flour, crumbled yeast and spices in a large bowl. Add the corn and olive oils and stir until well combined. Gradually add the water and knead the dough for 2-3 minutes into a soft smooth dough. Set aside.
Mix the pressed dates with the oil and spices until it becomes a soft, malleable paste.
Divide the dough into balls the size of a fist and divide the date paste into the same number of balls. Both the dough and the date balls may be dripping with oil: this is normal.
Preheat the oven to 220C (425F).
On a large work surface, sprinkle a generous amount of sesame seeds. Flatten a ball of dough into a round the size of a pita. Flatten out a date ball and place it on top of the dough. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top and turn the dough over and roll out to the size of a dinner plate. The sesame seeds will prevent the dates from sticking to the work surface. Turn the dough over again, date side up and roll the dough to form a log shape. Repeat with the remainder.
Cut the logs into 5cm-wide (2-inch) biscuits and place on baking sheets. You do not have to place them too far apart because they do not spread. Bake for 10 minutes until they are golden brown. Serve slightly cooled or store up to a month in a sealed container.