If I had to think about a staple holiday cookie that reminds me of home, then ghraybeh is quite literally the first thing that jumps to my mind, and specifically date filled graybeh; yes ghraybeh, the Lebanese shortbread cookies with an interior date mixture. Eventually, ghraybeh comes in different forms and shapes.
The key to making a good ghraybeh is to use clarified butter instead of butter. Clarified butter has no milk solids, which makes it great for almost all Middle Eastern sweets – it can bare higher cooking temperature without burning. —Hadia Zebib Khanafer
unsalted butter, use a good quality (to be clarified)
all- purpose flour
dates, use the best quality
orange blossom water
mastic gum crushed with a pinch of sugar, optional
First off, you need to clarify the butter: In a small saucepan heat the butter over low heat until it is melted. Remove from heat. Skim the white foam off the surface as it appears on top. Set aside for 10 minutes. You will notice the milk solids fall to the bottom. Strain it through a wire sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth to get rid of the milk solids. Now your clarified butter is ready.
To make the date filling: Pull open the dates and remove the pits using a serrated knife.
Transfer the dates to a food processor and add the oil, orange blossom water and mastic gum, if used, and blend to get a paste.
Roll the date into small balls roughly the size of a grape, if the dates are sticking to your hands rub your hands with a little oil. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400 °F. Position the baking rack in the middle of the oven.
To make the cookie dough: In a large bowl combine together the clarified butter and powdered sugar. Add the flour and baking soda, and mix well with the tips of your fingers.
The mixture will first crumble, continue kneading until you have until you have a smooth malleable dough
Divide the dough into equal balls, roughly the size of an apricot.
Make a hole in the center of each ball, with your finger fill the hole with a date ball. Seal the hole patching the dough together and roll it to a ball. Repeat as necessary.
Place the date filled balls on a sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving some space between one another.
Bake about 12 -15 minutes to a creamy color. Keep an eye on your oven, they shouldn’t brown. Cool them on the sheet pan, then transfer them with a spatula to a serving dish.