Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kleacha (Eid Celebration Date Filled Pastry)

As the Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting comes to an end the Eid celebrations begin.

Usually the last week of the month is filled with holiday baking, but many people begin serious Eid preps around the last ten days, organizing their houses, decorating, buying gifts and lots of baking and menu planning!

Kleacha is a traditional cookie, it has a date filling (and some filled with nuts and such) and it's very popular in Iraq, Kurdistan and other parts of the Arab world. Ma'moul or Ka'k is a similar but more flakey pastry that also has a filling and then formed in an intricate mould and dusted with powder sugar, recipes vary by country and region.

What I remember about Kleacha is that it's a Eid staple. Around Eid time people bake big batches of them and store them away. Most of the time there is too much to bake for a conventional home oven so us kids would borrow some trays and take them to the bread baker down the street or in the local neighbourhood market and ask him to bake them for us in his big oven.
Mother would give us a small dish of beaten egg and we'd egg wash the cookies at the baker's before he bakes large batches at a time.

My sister and I would hang out there supervising until they were done.

On Eid when guests pop in for greetings and short visits to exchange gifts you serve them some kleacha along with tea or coffee, candies and roasted nuts.

The cookies also keep well and can be frozen and defrosted when needed.

Everyone has their own recipe, but this is my mother's recipe, some people like the hint of spices and some omit it as well as the sesame seeds in the dough.

It's not a complex recipe at all, and it's just a matter of prepping the fillings and dough beforehand.

Date Cookies (kleacha)

Dough ingredients:

6 cups flour
1 tsp salt

Optional ingredients:

1/3 cup sesame seeds (roasted/toasted)
1 tsp cinnamon ground
1/2 tsp all spice

Mix the above in a big bowl. Add in and mix until it is resembling crumbs:

1 1/4 cups oil (or instead 3/4 cup melted butter and 1/2 cup oil)

In a small bowl proof the yeast:

1 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water

When foamy in 5 mins or so mix a little warm milk (below ingredient) into it and dump the yeasty mixture it into the dough.

Begin adding the warm milk below little by little until it looks like a good dough.

1 1/2 - 2 cups warm milk

Allow the dough to rise for two hours.

Filling ingredients:

Date paste or pitted whole dates from the bulk store (a large bag)
Walnuts, chopped up, mixed with some sugar to sweeten
Shredded coconut, mixed with sugar to sweeten

Prepare date filling by putting 4 cups pitted dates into a pot add 1/8 cup oil, 1 cup water and 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional) then bring to a boil until it turns into a soft sticky paste. Set aside to cool flattened out on a plate.

Roll dough into a thin layer (about 1/8 inch) into a big square.
Spread the date mixture all over.
Roll it up like a cinnamon roll, but tightly and slice 1 inch pieces.

Lay them on the tray, the same way they were sliced (unlike cinnamon rolls which are laying on their sides).

Wipe the tops with beated egg then bake until browned on preheated 375 Oven until dough is cooked and they are golden brown.


Anonymous said...

Awesome! proper instructions for making Iraqi kleacha. we just made some last week for Eid using my mother's recipe, they look just the same, except she uses baking powder. Thanks for a nice website, I hope to see more Iraqi recipes here too :)

Somer said...

How many pieces does this make? more than 2 dozen?

Amatullah said...

Somer, it makes a whole lot, there is 6 cups of flour in the recipe. I'm not sure exactly how much it makes but usually it's the amount we make to cover the holiday season with this variety of cookie and then we make a few other kinds on the side. We share them with family and friends. These kleacha's also freeze well, so if you make extra just freeze it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this klecha recipe! They look delicious :) I'm about to make a kurdish style dinner for my Finn friends. But is it possible to make a gluten free klecha dough? Can I use gluten free flour? I have celiac disease.

Amatullah said...

You could give it a try with a gluten free flour blend. Let me know how it turns out :)

Anonymous said...

Made these yesterday using your recipe. They turned out very well, especially considering it was the first time I made them! My (Iraqi Kurdish) husband seemed to enjoy them as well, he already ate just about half of them!

In his defence, I didn't make the full 6 cups, but I cut the recipe in half as I feared ruining too much ingredients should I mess up somehow. Fortunately that didn't happen and next time I'll definitely make the full 6 cups.

I've helped make these cookies with my mother in law and my sister in law for Eid in Kurdistan 2 years ago, but my memory was a bit rusty, so I was glad to have this to remind me. Thank you very much for this recipe, it was a great help!

Amatullah said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with me! I loved hearing about your experience making kleacha!

Anonymous said...

Finally I made this with gluten free flour! I used only 5 cups of flour and added a little bit of psyllium into yeast and milk and set it aside for 10 minutes before mixing it up with other stuff. Turned out great and the filling was delicious. Thanks for this lovely recipe.

Amatullah said...

How wonderful! Thanks for the update. Glad it turned out. Hopefully other gluten free bakers can refer to your comments and give it a try.

Naat said...

Are the walnut and/or coconut optional for the fillung? Should they be mixed with the date paste?

Amatullah said...

Naat, they are separate fillings. The walnut is coarse ground with sugar added and the coconut is also shredded with sugar added and used as a filling in the perogie half moon style pastry so that it doesn't fall out. The date is used for the roll.

Anonymous said...

Hi im making these again the full amount I made only half last time. You said they can be frozen do you freeze before or after cooking? Thanks

Unknown said...

Hi I have two questions please. First if ask what kind of oil would I use if I wanted to use oil and also what do you think is best to do, use all oil or mix like you suggested? I would like to know exactly how you make them so nice can code out good as well hopefully. Is all oil good it is it better to do oil and butter? I can't wait to try these, please respond as soon as possible. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Hi Bella. I love the recipe. But I have a question. You say butter or oil or both if you want, but I would like to know exactly what you do. What is the best way that you recommend? And also what kind of oil would I use? I would like to try these add soon as possible. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Do you use the same dough for the half moon kleichat joz or is it different?

Also, is the filling for the kleichat joz both walnuts and coconut or just one of them?

Amatullah said...

Erin, yes it's the same dough and the other two varieties other than date are either coconut with sugar OR walnut with sugar. I can imagine you could do other varieties too. Pistachio? But those are the traditional ones I've had there.

Best of luck!

Amatullah said...

Fatima, we use oil and other recipes use butter, we never had butter in iraq but if you use a little of each you get a bit of richness from the butter but tenderness from the oil so that's why i wrote it that way. I'd use 3 quarters oil and the last 1/4 butter.

Hope you enjoy the recipe! Sorry for not replying earlier. I was pregnant at the time and totally avoiding food, for pretty much the entire term.