Bake

Baba Tamar (Date Cookies)

November 26, 2021
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Photo by MJ Kroeger Prop Stylist: Alya Hameedi Food Stylist: Kate Buckens
Author Notes

My father, approaching 80, retired from decades of work as a diamond dealer and jeweler a few weeks before the pandemic began. Bound to his home and alone with his memories, he finally had time to think about his past. Dish by dish, he began revisiting his life story in the kitchen. With the help of his sisters in Or Yehuda and Ramat Gan, in Israel, he attempted re-creating his mother’s recipes, spending months recipe-testing and developing his own versions of each dish. Soon, he was delivering care packages of freshly baked pastries to relatives and colleagues who were mourning tragic losses—and mailing others to us, his family scattered around the world.

This Hanukkah, my father—who is still in the kitchen—has decided to bake traditional Iraqi date cookies called baba tamar. They’re round, with dough on the outside and dates tucked inside, and covered in sesame seeds. They’re sweet, but not too sweet. They remind him of Iraq—a land that, when he lived there, was well known for its palm trees and their luscious dates—and of his mother, who transformed them into holiday pastries. We cannot wait to receive his shipment of these cookies in the mail. We’ll eat them as we light our candles.
Sarit Kattan Gribetz

  • Prep time 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • makes About 30 to 35
Ingredients
  • Dough
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (250 milliliters) lukewarm water (for dissolving sugar and yeast)
  • 2 tablespoons instant or active dry yeast
  • 8 1/3 cups (1,000 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 (heaping) tablespoons vanilla sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup (250 milliliters) lukewarm water
  • Filling
  • 1,000 grams date paste (or finely chopped, pitted sweet dates)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Glaze
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Sesame seeds, for sprinkling
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a bowl, dissolve the sugar in the lukewarm water, then add the yeast, gently moving the bowl around to combine. Wait 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture is cloudy and bubbly.
  2. In a second bowl, mix the flour and salt together, then stir in the yeast-sugar mixture, vanilla sugar, and whipping cream. Stir, gradually adding the remaining cup of water as you mix, for about 3 minutes.
  3. Knead the dough by hand on a floured surface for 10 to 12 minutes. Then, place it in a bowl that’s been greased well, adding some oil to the top of the dough. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm spot for 1 hour. After an hour, remove the dough and knead for 1 to 2 minutes (to get rid of any air pockets that might have formed). Return to the bowl and let stand for 25 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.
  4. While the dough is rising, mix the date paste and canola oil, then warm the mixture in the microwave for 2 minutes. Mix them again and form 30 balls out of the date mixture (about 1 ½ tablespoons each). Heat the oven to 350°F.
  5. Once the dough has finished rising, divide it into 4 equal pieces and cover them with a smooth towel. Make 8 to 10 small balls of dough from each piece (roughly 30 grams per ball), slightly flatten them, and place them between 2 towels (one below and one above). Let them rest for about 15 minutes.
  6. One by one, take a dough ball and slightly flatten it on your work surface; then, slightly flatten a date ball and place it in the center. Cover the date ball with the dough, pinching together so the date paste is covered, then flatten the pastry so that it is coin-shaped, about 6 centimeters in diameter. Place the finished pastries on a baking sheet with a silicone lining (use as many trays as you need).
  7. Combine the eggs, water, salt, and sugar for the glaze. Brush the pastries, poking the pastry 3 or 4 times with a fork (to let air escape while baking), then sprinkle them with sesame seeds.
  8. Bake the pastries for 18 to 20 minutes, until they are golden. At the 10-minute mark, rotate the tray(s) so that the pastries bake evenly. After removing the pastries from the oven, place them between towels as they cool. Serve right away or at room temperature. Store in a sealed container or in the fridge.

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