Growing up in a Middle Eastern home, dates were something my family always had around. The medicinal properties that my grandmother claims this humble fruit holds are endless, but I was never one who needed any sort of convincing to eat these sweet, chewy nuggets. I did find out, though, that there is archeological evidence of date cultivation since 4000 BC, to which my grandmother simply responded with the Arabic equivalent of, “I told you so.” I want to dedicate this entry to my grandmother because I drew inspiration for this challenge from her date-stuffed semolina cookies that I grew up eating.
I didn’t tweak the recipe for the pastry too much. I used the zest of a lemon instead of an orange because I thought it would go better with the lemony undertone of the ground cardamom. I also didn’t use vanilla beans because, let’s face it, even though I already graduated, I’m still living on a college student budget.
The recipe for the dough was great. I loved that cardamom was already included in the recipe because I felt that it went well with my Middle Eastern theme.
This is a shot of the dough after four turns and I absolutely loved how you could see the specks of cardamom and the laminated butter running throughout.
Of course, the braid part of the challenge flew right over my head and so I opted to make individual portions by cutting out disks using the rim of a small drinking glass. This was not a great idea when it came around to eating the little things because I never felt guilty about having one more piece. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m munching on a piece and telling myself that a visit to the gym will be necessary tomorrow.
Since I know that dates might not be everyones cup of tea, I used the scraps to make star-shaped pastries with a strawberry jam center. Because I know EXACTLY how it feels to be that kid unpacking the “weird food” during lunch while Timmy gets to build his Pizza Lunchables and enjoy his chewy chocolate chip cookies. Anyway, I digress.
The star-shaped pieces tasted good, but I had my eyes set on the prize – the medjool date, Danish-inspired pastry.
The secret to the date filling is to throw in a couple teaspoons of butter so that the filling doesn’t dry out in the oven. Other than that, the filling is nothing more than pure dates that have been pulsed in the food processor.
(yields approx. 12 servings)
Modified from Sherry Yard’s recipe
- 1/2 tbsp. dry yeast
- 2 tbsp. whole milk, lukewarm
- 35g. sugar
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 tsp. cardamom, ground
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, chilled
- 2 tbsp. fresh orange juice
- 250 g. flour + 40g.
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 stick of butter
- 10 medjool dates, pitted
- 1 tbsp. butter
Putting them all together
- Combine the milk, yeast, sugar, lemon zest, cardamom, vanilla and egg using a paddle attachment.
- Switch to a hook attachment and add the 250g. of flour and salt gradually and mix until a dough is formed. Combine 1 stick of butter with the remaining flour until just throughly combined.
- To make the filling, process the medjool dates with 1 tbsp. of butter until smooth and set aside.
- Roll out the dough into a long sheet and cover 2/3 of it with the butter mixture. Fold so that you have alternating layers of butter and dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Repeat this process 4 times, making sure to refrigerate after each step.
- Roll out the dough one final time and cut out into small disks.
- Top half the disks with a small amount of the date mixture and seal using the remaining disks.
- Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Note: For a nice shiny golden brown finish, brush the top of each pastry with an egg wash (an egg with a tsp. of milk or water).
One of my best friends from high school, Yuliana, was visiting this weekend so I was happy to share the fruits of this challenge with her (and my roommates, of course). Raquel also went to high school with us and so we all had a fun weekend talking about how OLD we all are and how crazy it is that high school was so long ago.