The Recipe - Iraqi Date Rolls

Iraqi Date Rolls

As Asraa Ghazal from Alkut, Iraq, taught Lindsay Sterling in Portland, ME, September 2013

Makes 24
Active time: 45 min
Total time: 3 hours

1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup luke warm water
2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1/4 tsp vanilla sugar (or use 1/4 tsp vanilla mixed into the oil)
1/2 tsp freshly ground green cardamom
25 dates
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp white sesame seeds
1 egg
1 Tbsp nigella seeds

Mix active dry yeast, 1/2 tsp sugar and luke warm water together in a small dish.

Into a large mixing bowl, add flour, 2/3 cup sugar, vanilla sugar, and oil. Rub contents of bowl between your hands in a circular motion so the texture turns to rough corn meal with some pea-sized pieces. Add milk and yeast and mix with your hands until the contents become dough that pulls cleanly off the sides of the bowl. Add more flour if dough still sticks. Knead in ground cardamom, form dough into a ball, and leave in bowl covered with plastic wrap and a towel over that. Let rise in a warm location for 1-2 hours. (You can stick dough in fridge if need to finish later. You can also freeze the dough).

Preheat oven to 350. Pull dates open with your fingers and remove pits. Knead date meat with butter and sesame seeds until it makes a smooth mass. Really work it. Break date mass into 6 pieces and roll them as you would Playdough into cylinders, about 1/4 inch in diameter and 12 inches long if possible.

Once dough has risen, drizzle oil on clean counter and roll out dough into a large cricle about 1/8th inch thick. At the top of the circle, roll a date piece so it is surrounded in dough. Nestle another date piece next to the roll and roll again. Cut the date roll off from the rest of the dough and repeat this process until you have combined all the dough and date cylinders into rolls. Trim the ends of the rolls on a diagonal, and press rolls down to slightly flatten.

Score the top of the rolls diagonally about every 1/2 inch for decoration. Scramble egg in a small dish and brush egg onto the top of all the rolls. Sprinkle nigella seeds on the egg wash. Cut across rolls on the diagonal, parallel to your end cuts, about every inch to make bite-sized pieces. Place pieces on baking sheet and bake until tops are golden, about 20 minutes.

Asraa keeps a big batch in the freezer to have them on hand when guests come over. Reheat in oven and serve with tea or coffee.

Copyright Lindsay Sterling 2013