I’m currently in Dubai visiting my dad and so I thought it fitting to bake something from my Sweet Middle East cookbook. The date-filled pastries worked out better than I had anticipated, given that the semolina flour I used was the wrong sort-the result of a very late night shopping trip. The recipe calls for fine semolina, where as I just used ordinary semolina, which meant the pastries were unfortunately a bit grainy in texture. The taste however made it well worth the effort. So, without further a do, I shall write out the recipe I used.
1 2/3 C (400ml) water
1 3/4 C (350g) organic cane sugar
1/3 C (100g) honey
Pinch of saffron threads
1 C (240ml) warm water
2 1/2 C (450g) fine semolina
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 C (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 C (225g) pitted dates
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Grated zest of 1 orange
Sunflower oil for frying
To make the syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and honey and bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Dinner for 3 minutes, remove from the heat, and let cool to room temperature.
To make the pastry:
Crush the saffron threads between your fingers or in a small mortar with a pestle. In a small bowl, combine the saffron with the water and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the semolina, salt, and baking soda; mix well, then make a well in the centre. Add the olive oil and the saffron water and stir with your hand or a spatula to incorporate the wet and dry ingredients. Knead in the bowl by hand until you have a smooth, malleable dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
To make the filling:
While the dough is resting, in a food processor, pulse the dates until coarsely chopped. Add the olive oil, cinnamon, and orange zest and process until the mixture forms a smooth paste, about 1 minute, scraping down the bowl as needed. Divide the filling into 12 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a cylinder about 2 cm thick and 5 cm long and set onto a plate or baking sheet. Cover with cling wrap.
Lightly oil a baking sheet (or use nobestick baking paper). Place a wire rack over a second baking sheet.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Roll one ball of dough into an oval about 10cm in length, 5cm wide, and 12 mm thick. Place a filling cylinder along the length of the dough oval, centred over one half. Fold the other half over, enclosing the filling. Using your fingers or the fine-holed side of a box grater, flatten the filled dough to an even 12 mm thickness. Using a chef’s knife, trim the ends, and then cut the dough at an angle into diamonds with about 2.5cm sides; you should be able to cut 4 diamonds. Lay them on the oiled baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
Pour enough sunflower oil into a larger, deep frying pan to reach a depth of 5cm. Place over medium heat. Check the temperature by dropping in a piece of dough into the oil; if the oil bubbles around it, it’s ready. Drop in as many parties as will comfortably fit without overcrowding.
Fry the pastries until golden all over, 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
Remove the pastries using a slotted spoon and drop them into the syrup. Turn a few times in the syrup to coat them well, and then transfer to the prepared wire rack to allow the excess syrup to drain off.
Fry and coat the remaining pastries in the same way, making sure the oil does not get too hot. Let cool on the rack to room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
I found this recipe quite easy to follow as it has very clear, detailed instructions. Do read the section regarding rolling the dough carefully however as I found it a bit confusing at first.