Jeanette Chawki, a Lebanese cooking instructor with the League of Kitchens, over the years has developed several of her own original recipes. Her Ka'ak Bi Tamer (Cinnamon-Date Paste–Filled Cookies), flaky sweets filled with rich, nutmeg- and cinnamon-spiced date paste and topped with nigella seeds (normally found in savory goods), were inspired by a trip to her local Middle Eastern market. Be sure to let the dough rest to give the flour a chance to hydrate to prevent it from crumbling when rolling it out. These are best on the day they're made, and they're the perfect treat to have with a strong cup of Lebanese coffee.

December 2021 / January 2022

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Credit: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Purcell

Recipe Summary test

active:
30 mins
total:
1 hr 20 mins
Yield:
20 to 24 cookies
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Ingredients

Dough
Filling
Topping

Directions

Make the dough:
  • Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in upper third of oven. Stir together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, mahlab, and salt in a large bowl. Form a well in center of mixture. Microwave milk in a small microwavable bowl on high until hot but not boiling, about 40 seconds. Add milk and butter to well in flour mixture. Using fingers, swirl together to combine. Knead dough in bowl until a mostly smooth ball forms, about 2 minutes. (Dough should feel buttery, not sticky, and should hold an indent when pressed.) Set dough aside; let rest 10 minutes.

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Meanwhile, make the filling:
  • Stir together date paste, oil, and 1/2 tablespoon water in a small bowl until liquid is absorbed. (It will be slightly sticky but able to be shaped into a ball.) Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon water if too firm. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg. Divide mixture evenly into 2 pieces (about 3 ounces each), and roll each piece into a 9-inch log. Set aside.

  • Divide dough in half (about 9 1/2 ounces each). Pat 1 dough half into a 9- x 4-inch rectangle on a clean work surface. Place 1 filling log along one long edge of rectangle. Starting on edge with filling, roll dough up into a 9-inch log, enclosing filling. Gently roll log with palms to form a 17-inch-long log. Using a sharp knife or a bench scraper, cut log into 10 to 12 (about 1 1/2-inch-long) pieces on a diagonal to yield diamond-shaped cookies. Place cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and set aside. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Make the topping:
  • Place sesame seeds and nigella seeds in 2 separate small bowls. Whisk egg yolk, 1 teaspoon water, and vanilla sugar in a small bowl until blended. Lightly brush tops of cookies with egg mixture, and dip cookies in seeds to lightly coat, decorating with only sesame seeds, only nigella seeds, or a mix. Arrange cookies at least 1 inch apart on an unlined, ungreased baking sheet.

  • Place cookies in oven on upper rack, and increase temperature to 400°F. Bake until cookies have risen and bottoms are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Turn on broiler to high. Broil until tops of cookies are golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack. Cover cookies with a clean towel, and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. —JEANETTE CHAWKI

Make Ahead

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days.

Note

Mahlab, a spice used in many Middle Eastern baked goods, is made from the inner kernels of black cherry pits that have been ground into a fine powder. Mahlab tastes of bitter almond and cherry. You can find it in Middle Eastern markets or at kalustyans.com.

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