As Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Fitr this weekend, Brenda Abdelall will make one of her Egyptian family's oldest dessert recipes: kahk. This Middle Eastern pastry is a crumbly shortbread cookie stuffed with dates and honey and topped with powdered sugar. A sweet and buttery treat, kahk is best enjoyed with chai or espresso.
In fact, kahk is so delicious that the recipe has not only stood the test of time but is also embraced across traditions. Etchings were found on Pharaonic temples of people making kahk, and Christians in Egypt prepared the same cookies to celebrate Christmas and Easter, according to Abdelall, the founder of midEats.
While Abdelall's recipe for kahk yields about 40 cookies, kahk is traditionally prepared in even larger quantities with the help of extended family. "It's like an assembly line with everyone taking turns," she explained. The Eid cookies are then packed into boxes to share with friends and neighbors.
With social distancing measures in place this Eid, Abdelall and her family, who live outside Washington, will celebrate a little bit differently. "This Ramadan has been a huge juxtaposition from our usual packed, busy schedules," she said. Instead of going to the mosque for Eid prayers, they'll pray at home. And instead of sitting down to eat at their favorite brunch spot, they'll be picking up curbside.
Abdelall's sons still plan to exchange Eid presents with cousins, but this year they'll meet in the driveway. "My kids keep saying it's not going to be the same — and it won't be — but we have felt this Ramadan more intimately as a family and it's really refreshing," Abdelall said.
Find the recipe for Egyptian stuffed shortbread cookies below. If you can't find date paste at your store, Abdelall suggests adding a handful of dates and nuts of your choice to a food processor and pulsing until the mixture forms into a sticky paste. (See video tutorial here)
Recipe: Egyptian Stuffed Shortbread Cookies (Kahk)
Makes approximately 40-45 cookies
- 1 stand mixer
- 2 baking sheets
- Cookie scoop
- 1 roll parchment paper
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 1/2 tbsp. sesame seeds
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
- 1/3 cup milk
Date Stuffing (Agwa):
- 1/4 cup date paste
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
Honey Sesame Stuffing (Agameya):
- 1 1/2 tbsp. butter
- 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
Make the Dough:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, powdered sugar, a pinch of salt and baking powder. Add sesame seeds and vanilla extract. Add to the stand mixer.
3. Add the butter to the stand mixer. On low speed, blend the butter into the dry ingredients. Add milk and blend on medium until a soft dough forms.
4. Using a cookie scoop, make tablespoon-sized balls and lay them spaced apart on the baking sheet. You should have enough for about 40-45 cookies.
Prepare the Honey Sesame Filling:
1. In a small pot, melt the butter. Add 1 tbsp. of flour and toast until a golden color appears. Then add the honey and sesame seeds. Stir constantly until the mixture just starts to bubble.
2. Remove from heat. Add 1/4 cup of flour, and stir until well mixed. Place into a bowl and set aside.
3. Once cool, if the mixture is too sticky, you can add some additional flour 1 tsp. at a time. You want to be able to roll small balls the size of a macadamia nut for stuffing into the cookies.
4. You should have enough to make at least 30-40 small balls of agameya.
Prepare the Date Filling:
1. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Add the date paste and the cinnamon. Stir around until well incorporated. Remove from heat.
2. Once cool, roll small balls the size of a macadamia nut and set aside. You should have about 25-30 small balls of date filling.
Stuff and Bake the Cookies:
1. With the palms of your hand, roll each ball of cookie dough until smooth. Press gently with your thumb into the center of the ball.
2. Place one of the fillings into the indentation. Gently pull the sides of the cookie dough around the filling and roll again with the balls of your hand until smooth. (See video below for a tutorial) Gently flatten. You can use a small moon cake mold or a wooden ma'amoul mold to decorate the cookies. You can also use a fork to create a cross-cross pattern, while being careful not to pierce the dough.
3. Repeat this step with both the agameya and agwa until you finish the cookie dough. You will likely have extra filling leftover.
4. Place on the cookie sheet, at least 1inch apart.
5. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.
6. Remove from oven and cool.
7. Dip each cookie in a bowl of powdered sugar. Enjoy with a cup of tea or Nescafé.
8. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 5 days.