Kleacha (Iraqi Date Cookie)

Kleacha (Iraqi Date Cookie)

I am so proud of this cookie. First off, it’s delicious. The dough is crumbly and buttery and the date filling provides a satisfying chew and sweetness. The interior swirl created from the date and dough is just stunning. Each region of the Middle East has at least one signature cookie that uses dates. This is the Iraqi version.

I can just imagine my Uma Nazhat and Nana Badriya, neighbors when living in Iraq, making these in their home kitchens and serving these special cookies with tea when they’d have company over.

Well, the other day, we were up for the challenge of making these and had the next generation of cooks show us how. Luckily, Zina, Uma Nazhat’s daughter, and our mom, Mama J, were present to show us how. We had a recipe that our Nana passed down to us, but of course, not everything she did to make these tasty cookies made it down on paper. As usual, so much of their baking and cooking is by feeling, tasting and adjusting accordingly. And so, while waiting for the dough to rise, we noticed it seemed to still appear sticky and not as springy as we had hoped. Alas, Zina was there to the rescue and was able to tell us that just to add a little water as she had seen her mom do before. Crisis averted! It then magically turned into mound of luscious, springy dough. Hooray!

We had so many helping hands in creating these cookies. One special guest was there who has witnessed these cookies being made so many times in the past, our Jido (grandfather in Arabic)! He was able to tell us that we were on the right track and also helped with putting the egg wash on the cookies. We love you Jido!

Jido making kleacha!

We hope you enjoy eating and making these cookies as much as we did!

Kleacha (Iraqi Date Cookies)

Ingredients
  

Dough

  • 8 cups flour
  • 2 packages (0.5 oz) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 5 cups butter
  • 1 tsp sugar

Date filling

  • 39 ounces baking dates*
  • 1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tsp ground fresh cardamom pods

Egg wash

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 0.5 tbsp water

Instructions
 

Dough Preparation

  • Activate yeast by adding warm water, sugar and yeast to a bowl or large cup. Allow to activate for at least 5-10 minuets. You will see the yeast mixture rise. 
  • Melt butter and allow to cool.
  • In a large bowl mix flour and cooled butter. 
  • Mix in the activated yeast mixture and then start to knead the dough. The dough should be kneaded for about 10 minutes. **
  • Shape the cough into a large ball. Place in a large greased bowl and cover. Store in a lukewarm place for the next 2 hours to allow the dough to rise. 

Date Filling Prepreation

  • Cut the date filling into large chunks and then add the vegetable oil in a microwave safe bowl 
  • Place mixture in microwave for about 4-5 minutes. Allow to cool a little to handle with your hands. Add ground cardamom to date mixture.
  • Once cooled knead the date mixture until smooth.

Assembly of Kleacha

  • Preheat oven to 390F/200C. 
  • Flour the surface of your table. Remove the size of about 3 softballs from the dough mixture. Roll out into a rectangle. The size will roughly be about 22″ x12 “, and about 0.25” thick. ***
  • For the date mixture, remove about 1 softball size from the mixture. Place ball onto a large plastic wrap on you table, about the size of your rectangle for the dough. Start flattening the date mixture by hand onto the plastic wrap. 
  • Now, place another plastic wrap of similar size on top of the date mixture. Roll out the date mixture with a rolling pin until about the size of your rectangular dough piece. the thickness should be about 1-2 cm thick. 
  • Once your date filling is rolled out, remove the top plastic and place the non-plastic side onto dough. Gently press and smooth date filling into dough. Then remove the remaining plastic wrap. 
  • The dough and date filling should be almost the same size. If not, cut the extra dough edges as needed. 
  • Starting at the long end of the rectangle roll dough with the date filling. Roll slowly and tightly, until the shape of a long cylinder is achieved. 
  • To seal, gently roll a rolling pin over seam of cylinder. 
  • Moving down the length of the cylinder, cut about 1-1.5″ pieces. You can make straight cuts, or cut on a slight diagonal if you prefer that shape. 
  • Place cookies on a sprayed cookie sheet, separate each cookie by about 0.25″. Gently poke the top of each cookie 1-2 times with a fork. 
  • Whisk water and egg yolks to create egg wash. Add a thin layer of the egg wash to the top of each cookie. 
  • Bake for about 20-25 minutes until slight golden color achieved. 

Notes

* Baking Dates/Date Paste. We use the Ziyad brand which can be bought in Arabic grocery stores. Each package is 13 ounces, so we used 3 packages for this recipe. You can also make your own date paste if your feeling adventurous!
** After the dough is kneaded, it have a nice spring when pushed and feel smooth. If it feels sticky or is not smooth add 0.5 tbsp of water at a time, until the dough achieves a smooth and springy texture.
*** The size of your rectangle does not need to be exact. The more important thing is that your date filling and dough should be about the same size. For a video tutorial on how to assemble kleacha check out our instagram stories @threeteaskitchen.



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