- Prep time 9 hours
- Cook time 45 minutes
- makes 100 small cookies
Ka’ak and ma’amoul are quintessential holiday cookies around the Arab world. This recipe takes a traditional Palestinian variation and uses mulled wine spices to give it a festive flair. For ease of preparation, it is also formed into finger cookies rather than the traditional bracelet shape.
Note: Mulling spices can be found in most grocery stores this time of year. Simply grind into a fine powder and use. If unavailable or if you don’t have a grinder, substitute with ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, ¼ teaspoon ground allspice, and ½ teaspoon freshly grated orange zest. —Reem Kassis
a scant 1 1/2 cups
(250 grams) fine semolina (or substitute semolina flour)
(250 grams) all-purpose flour
plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (125 grams) softened unsalted butter
unhulled sesame seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons
warm water, plus more if needed
vegetable or olive oil, plus more for greasing
(450 grams) date paste (can be found in any Middle Eastern grocery store)
ground mulling spices (see Author Notes)
- For the dough: Combine the semolina flour, all-purpose flour, butter, and oil in a large bowl. Rub the ingredients between your palms until the mixture resembles wet sand. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight (or several hours) to allow the semolina to soften and fully absorb the butter and oil.
- When ready, add the sesame seeds, cinnamon, aniseed, baking powder, yeast, sugar, and salt to the semolina mixture and gently rub together with your hands. Add ½ cup warm water and gently knead for 1 to 2 minutes, until the mixture starts to come together but is still a little crumbly. Gradually add the remaining ½ cup water, 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time, and knead gently, about 30 seconds, until you can take a clump of dough in your fingers and it holds together. You may not need to use all the water, or you may need a couple extra tablespoons. What you are looking for is a clump of smooth, tacky (but not sticky) dough to come together easily and not fall apart when you try rolling it. Cover and let rest while you prepare the filling.
- For the filling: Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and grease with oil. Set some more oil aside in a small bowl to grease your hands as necessary.
- Put the date paste, 1 teaspoon oil, and spices in a medium bowl and knead slightly with greased hands until evenly incorporated.
- Grease your hands and divide the date paste into about 10 portions (about 47 grams each). On a flat surface, roll each into a roughly 15-inch-long string about ⅓ inch wide. You can work with shorter pieces if that's easier. Place on the greased baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap, then set aside.
- For the cookies: Heat the oven to 425°F and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment.
- Divide the dough into 10 portions (about 94 grams each) and take one out, leaving the rest covered to avoid drying. Roll it into a sausage shape about 15 inches long and about 1 inch wide. Using the tips of your fingers, gently press to flatten it to a width of about 1 inch. Take one of the date strings and place it on top of the dough. Pinch the dough around the date filling to completely enclose it and roll it on a flat surface into a longer, thinner sausage shape, about 25 to 30 inches long and ⅔ inch wide.
- With the tip of a sharp knife, slice off the ends at an angle, then proceed to slice at about 2- or 3-inch increments, also at an angle. You should get about 10 cookies per roll. Transfer the cookies to parchment-lined baking sheets (about 20 cookies per baking sheet) and repeat until the dough and filling are done.
- Bake until golden in color, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool for at least 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling, then transfer to an airtight container. They will keep for 2 to 3 weeks at room temperature or 3 months in the freezer.