This week I bake my first recipe from the “Sweet Pastries” chapter of A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent. When introducing this chapter Greg says, ” Baking this collection of recipes is like taking a pastry course at a culinary school. After making all of them, you’ll be equipped to handle just about any pastry recipe that comes your way.” Flicking through this chapter I come across Baklawa, Apple Strudel, Puff Pastry Squares with Lemon Buttercream and I know that this statement is not made lightly. Certainly within one chapter there is a world of pastries that I look forward to making and eating with high anticipation! But I start with Date Babas. This recipe looks simple enough – pastry wrapped around a date filling – and it is simple but the taste! The flaky pastry with a hint of rosewater encase a filling of blended dates. As with the Kahk I made previously, this is a recipe of Greg’s childhood made by his Granny. As I have said before Granny was some cook! These are delicious! These will be a regular in my home.
Pay particular attention to how the pastry is made in the food processor which I have quoted directly from Greg’s recipe for the precision that is needed. I think this method results in a very flaky pastry because the butter is not over processed into the flour instead there a little bits of butter scattered through out the pastry. Perfect!
Makes 30 pastries
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks or 170g) cold unsalted butter. cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon rose water
1 pound (450g) pitted dates, check for pits
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg. lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water for egg wash
sesame seeds for sprinkling
Put the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process for 5 seconds. Add the butter and pulse 5 or 6 times to begin cutting the butter into the flour. Combine the water with the rose water. As you pulse the machine rapidly, add the liquid to the dry ingredients in a steady stream, then pulse about 30 times until you have several large clumps of dough. Remove the dough and knead the pieces together briefly. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour or over night.
Make the filling by first cleaning out the bowl of the food processor. Insert the blade add the dates and pulse several times until the dates are finely chopped. Add the butter and process to a paste. Stop and scrap the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once pureed there may still remain a few small pieces of date but this is fine. Divide the filling into 30 portions and roll each into a ball.
Line two baking trays with non stick paper and preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
Now to shape the babas, divide the dough into 30 equal portions and roll each into a ball. This dough is beautiful to work with but if you need add a little flour to your work surface or your hands.
Shape the dough ball into a cup extending up the sides to fit in a ball of filling. Wrap the dough up and around the filling complete encasing it.
Set the babas seam side down on the baking tray and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Continue with the remaining dough and filling. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds before baking in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool on the baking sheet.
Babas keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for about 1 week – if they last that long!
Take a bite to reveal the rich filling of dates. The hint of rose water is barely detectable just enough to have the eater, (is there such a word?) wonder about the exotic flavour.
These gorgeous morsels are a classic Iraqi cake and one bite will transport you on that magic carpet across the world.