Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and alongside the famous Ka’ak Al-Quds or Jerusalem Bread, you’ll see stacks of flower shaped bread stuffed with dates called Khubez Al-Maa’rook.
1 cup warm whole milk
½ cup warm water
½ cup granulated sugar
2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
3½ cups all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon ground fennel
1½ teaspoon ground anise
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon mahlab
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla powder*
2 teaspoons softened butter
13oz (370g) Baking Dates (I love the Ziyad Brand Baking Dates)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tablespoon whole milk
**You may need a little more or less depending on the flour you’re using, where you live, the temperature etc.
**To use Vanilla Extract instead, simply add 1 teaspoon to the wet ingredients.
In a large mixing bowl, combine milk, water, sugar and yeast. Mix and allow to rest for 5 or so minutes or until the yeast is activated.
In another bowl, combine flour, spices, salt and vanilla powder. Mix thoroughly. Begin adding the dry ingredients into the wet and knead for a few minutes until well combined, add in the softened butter and knead until you have a nice round ball of dough.
Transfer to a large, clean bowl. Feel free to butter it if you’d like. Cover and allow the dough to rise for an hour and a half or until double in size.
While the dough is rising, prepare your date filling. Add cinnamon, cloves, and oil to the date paste mix well (always best to use your hands), set aside.
Divide the dough into equal size balls (slightly smaller than a tennis ball), cover and allow them to proof for another 30 minutes.
The traditional shape of these pastries resemble flowers with petals and a hollow center like a donut.
I found that the easiest way to shape them is to take one ball of dough and roll it out into a very long hotdog shape (about 10-12inches) and then flatten it to a little less than 1 cm. Take the date mixture and shape into a “snake” or “pencil”. Lay the date “snake” into the center of dough lengthwise. And then fold over the dough and pinch and roll so that the date mix is no longer visible. Fold one end to the other to create a circle (donut shape), give it a good pinch so the circle doesn’t open up and then using a sharp knife, cut slits into the dough. See photos below.
Gently shaped dough to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Combine egg and milk and mix thoroughly. Brush the tops of each flower with the egg wash.
Bake at 375°F for 15-20 minutes or until the tops and bottoms are golden brown. Enjoy warm.