While I love and cherish my Aunt’s date kleicha, this method of preparing kleicha is more traditional (كليجة تمر العراقية التقليدية). It is just a difference in method, as the ingredients are exactly the same. Where my Aunts are little rods which are good enough to pop in your mouth like chips (and easily lose count of how many you’ve popped), these are made from huge pinwheel rods cut into sizable cookies. It is amusing that there came a time when the oval shape of the cookie achieved from the pressure of the knife cutting into the large rod became hated by the more “upperclass” Iraqis so they opted to cut their kleicha using a string which preserved the circular shape of the cookie. With time, this practice was dropped as the oval shape became all the more beloved in association with tradition and childhood.
I sometimes swap some of the flour for whole wheat flour and love the results.
For the dough:
3 cups flour
1 cup milk, warmed
1 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground mahlab, optional
2 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp black nigella seeds
For the date filling:
2 cups dried dates. seeded
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp powdered cardamom
1 Tbsp ghee
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (optional)
1 egg, beaten, for brushing
To make the date paste, heat the ghee in a pan or pot, add the fennel seeds and the cardamom and the dates. Stir often until the dates soften.
Add the sesame seeds (if using) and stir to incorporate. Set aside to cool enough to handle.
To make the dough, stir the the flour, mahlab, salt, and nigella seeds to equally distribute.
Whisk the yeast and sugar in half a cup of the warmed milk, set aside for 5 minutes to activate the yeast.
Pour the yeast-milk mixture, and the remaining half cup of warm milk, and the melted butter over the flour mixture. Knead for 5 minutes. Let rest and rise for 20-30 minutes.
Alternatively, blitz everything in a food processor and knead in the nigella seeds manually.
Roll out the dough into a large rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.
Place the date paste between two large parchment sheets or clean plastic sheets and roll out to about the same dimensions of your rectangular rolled dough.
Remove the top sheet from the rolled date paste, then invert over the dough. Peel off the other sheet.
Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, then roll each half from the middle long side into two long rods.
Flatten each rod slightly, brush the surface with egg wash, then cut the rods into 1/2 inch pieces.
Place, seam-side down on a baking sheet.
Bake in a preheated 360F oven for 15 minutes, then broil to a golden brown for a minute or two.
Delicious straight out of the oven, or cooled, with a steaming cup of tea.
To freeze, cool completely, place in zip-lock bags, and freeze.
De-frost at room temperature in whatever quantity you want.
Perfect for impromptu guests.