Date-Filled Semolina Cookies (Makroud)
These crunchy fried sweets stand up to soaking in a fragrant honey syrup, adding moisture and lightening the dense pastry
Yield: makes 2 dozen
Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
- 3⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1⁄8 tsp. saffron threads, crushed
- 2 1⁄4 cups vegetable oil
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
- 2 1⁄2 cups (14 1/2 oz.) fine semolina
- 3⁄4 cup (5 1/4 oz.) sugar
- 1⁄2 cup honey
- 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. orange blossom water, preferably Carlo
- 4 oz. pitted dates, preferably deglet noor
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1⁄8 tsp. ground cloves
- 1⁄8 tsp. ground black pepper
- Finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
- 3 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
- Make the dough: In a large bowl, combine 1⁄4 teaspoon salt with the saffron and 1⁄2 cup warm tap water and let stand for 5 minutes to allow the saffron to steep. Add 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil and the butter and stir in the semolina until a smooth dough forms. Knead the dough briefly in the bowl, divide in half, wrap each half in plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Make the honey syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar with the honey, lemon juice, orange blossom water, 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until slightly reduced, about 20 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat, pour into a large bowl, and let cool completely.
- Make the filling: In a small food processor, combine the remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt with the dates, olive oil, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, orange zest, and 2 tablespoons water and purée. Divide the filling in half and scrape each half into separate zip-top plastic bags.
- On a clean work surface, unwrap 1 piece of dough and roll into an even 12-inch rope. Using your thumb, press along the top of the rope to flatten the middle, creating a moat of dough with high sides. Snip the corner of 1 of the plastic bags and pipe the filling into the middle of the moat. Using your fingers, bring the sides of the dough up and over, pinching to enclose the filling. Roll the rope back and forth and elongate into an 18-inch rope. Flatten the rope slightly until 3⁄4 inch thick and, using a paring knife, trim the ends and cut on a diagonal at every inch so you have twelve 1-inch-wide diamonds measuring 3 inches lengthwise. Transfer the diamonds to a parchment paper—lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
- In a 12-inch skillet, heat the remaining 2 cups vegetable oil over medium-high until an instant-read thermometer reads 350°. Working in 4 batches, add the diamonds to the oil and fry, flipping once, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, lift the diamonds from the oil and submerge in the honey syrup for 10 seconds. Lift the diamonds from the syrup, transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Transfer the pastries to a large serving platter and pour any remaining syrup around the pastries on the platter. Store any remaining pastries in an airtight container, covered in the remaining honey syrup, at room temperature for up to 2 days.