It’s been a few weeks since I’ve made dessert, and even longer since I’ve made cookies. I was feeling pretty ambitious this past weekend with a lot of time on my hands and poo-poo’ed the idea of doing something lame like drop cookies (WAIT, I didn’t’ really mean that… I LOVE drop cookies! Who doesn’t? Bad people, that’s who. And I’m not bad people. Moving on…). I came across what looked to be a pretty tasty little delight on this awesome Libyan food blog, so I figured I’d roll up my sleeves and give it a whirl. Magroodh, or date-filled semolina cookies, are an important part of every Eid, or festival, on the Muslim calendar, particular Eid-al-Fitar or “The Feast of Breaking the Fast” that marks the end of Ramadan. And, since I am preparing to “break the fast” of Lent next week, I figured the time to make these was now (well, next week would have been better, but that messes up my plan a bit, so this week it is).
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not big on fruit desserts (I’m still working on the details of this manifesto), but since dates are pretty much one of the four food groups in Libya (olive oil, dates, grains and milk), I needed to give them proper deference. Also, these cookies significantly different from any other traditional fruit cookies I’ve ever had or made for the following reasons: (1) They are made with mostly semolina (2) There is no sugar in the dough itself (3) The fat is olive oil rather than butter and (4) They contain no eggs. Whoa. Way to push me out of my baker’s comfort box. Bring it- I love a challenge.
The recipe I found came from here, and I’ve made one major change. Rather than using rose water, I used citrus flavors instead. After a call to Mama Buddha, it was determined that mixing the rose with the orange would be too overpowering and it was better to just pick one and stick with it. Also, I couldn’t find orange blossom water and used orange juice instead.
For the dough
1 ½ cups semolina
½ cup flour
½ cup blood orange olive oil (regular olive oil is fine)
¾ tsp baking powder
½ TB orange juice added to about 1 cup warm water to knead the dough.
For the filling
1 ½ cups date paste (puree dates in a food processor)
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ TB blood orange olive oil
¼ cup sesame seeds
For the syrup
2 cups boiling water
1 ½ cups sugar
½ TB lemon juice
1 lemon slice
1 TB orange juice
1 TB honey
1. Prepare the syrup by simmering all the ingredients for approximately 30 minutes until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Set aside to cool and add 1 TB honey.
2. Make the dough: Mix semolina, flour, baking powder, and oil. Cover and leave to rest for about one hour.
3. Cut the date past into small pieces, and need it with some olive oil until it is soft. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and sesame seeds, and knead them all together.
4. Roll out the date paste into long ropes.
I know what this looks like, but try not to think about it. Focus.
5. Divide the dough into two portions. Take one portion and add the orange water until the dough is smooth and easy to shape (the dough is a bit sandy). Form the dough into a furrow shape.
6. Wrap the date roll into the dough.
7. Cut the roll into small pieces at an angle.
8. Bake at 425F until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
9. Take the cookies out of the oven and pour the syrup over the warm cookies. Turn them every 15 minutes, allowing them to soak up the syrup. After about 30 minutes, drain the excess syrup from the pan. (This part I actually didn’t find to be odd- this is how you make baklava- as you’ll see in a few months)
The finished product
10. Sprinkle the cookies with sesame seeds and allow them to reset overnight before serving.
To me, they actually taste a lot like Fig Newtons, which I actually love and have fond memories of eating with Grandpa. My teammates at work, Grape, Eggplant and Peaches all seemed to enjoy them, so I consider this challenge a success.