Iraqi Kleicha (Date Cookies)
Kleicha are Iraq's national cookie (specifically the date filled variety). They are called kileche in Assyrian, and kleicha in Arabic. Kileche come in three varieties: date, walnut and coconut filled. The date variety is rolled into a pinwheel shape, while the walnut and coconut versions are enclosed inside the middle of the dough. Kleicha/kileche are usually only made during holidays, specifically Easter and Christmas among Eastern Christians.
For the dough
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cardamon (see notes below)
1/2 cup milk 120ml, warmed
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried instant yeast
6 tbsp coconut oil , melted
For the filling
1 cup dried dates 140g (weight without stones, pieces is fine)
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp water (approx)
Mix together the flour, salt, cumin and cardamon. Add the sugar and yeast to the warm milk, stir then leave it around 5 minutes to activate.
After 5 min, add the milk mixture along with the melted coconut oil to the flour mixture. Stir well, then tip onto a surface and knead a couple minutes. It will feel a little greasy, don't worry. Put the dough in a bowl, cover and let rise in a draft-free place for approx 30 min.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Put the dates, cardamon, fennel seeds and coconut oil in a small pan and warm over medium-low heat until the dates soften and the mixture starts to stick together as a bit of a ball. Add some water to thin to a jam-like consistency, a tablespoon at a time as it will depend on how soft the dates were.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Lay a layer of cling wrap/film or parchment on your work surface and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Tip the dough onto the lined work surface and roll the dough into a rectangle, around 1 1/2 times as long as it is wide and approx 1/4in thick. Dab the date filling onto the top and spread all over the dough leaving a strip without any on the two shorter ends.
Lifting up the cling wrap/film or parchment, roll from one of the short ends and form a roll. Finish by having the other end on the bottom so it seals together.
Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the roll into slices, either approx 1in thick or thinner, as you prefer. Carefully transfer the slices to the baking sheet, standing on end if thicker, squashing slightly, or else laying flat if thinner.
Bake for approx 15 min until lightly brown. Delicious served warm from the oven but also good cold.
Make sure your date filling is a jam-like consistency so you can spread it easily.
If you let the dough rise for more than 30 min it will keep rising and you’ll get thicker cookies. So allow to rise more or less depending on your preference.
Roll the dough out on parchment or cling film/wrap to make it easier to roll up.
Dab the filling in small lumps in order to spread from more evenly, rather than putting one big lump in the middle and trying to spread it.
Cut slices with a serrated knife to avoid squashing it together too much. Wipe the knife between cuts to take off the excess date mixture.
Either cut them thicker, approx 1in thick and stand them up on the tray to bake, or cut them thinner and lay them flat.