Tasty date filled cookies, this Egyptian Ara'eesh recipe can be made plain crunchy or soft. A perfect snack anytime of the day.
This is a childhood love, Ara'eesh is found in all pastry shops in Egypt and it was one of my dreams - since we landed here- to recreate it in my own kitchen.
My oldest used to take those to school in Egypt when he was just 4 years old and he used to call them circles :). Back then his school bus passed by him at 6:15 am, the poor guy was not even awake not to mention breakfast. So my late dad figured out that he would buy him "those circles" so he can nibble on them in the school bus. And YES, in case you are wondering, school busses in Egypt pass by kids at their homes not waiting for them at stops.
Aara'eesh is usually filled with Agwa, Turkish delight or is left plain. When it is filled, they are sometimes called Kaab el ghazaal which means a deer's heel!! I know ... weird and I still cannot figure out the connection .Today, I've made the first and third variations of Egyptian Ara'eesh, they tasted so good so let me show you how to make them.
First, we will need to melt butter over medium heat or you can use oil, more about that at the end of the post. Mix dry ingredients with hot butter then when it has cooled enough mix with hands.
I've found that my kids, especially the youngest, love working with dough a lot so I let him work with me in such recipes, so much fun and gives us more time to chat in the kitchen instead of staying the whole day playing Xbox. So back to the recipe, add warm milk and knead the dough until it is firm.
Let the dough rest in a warm place for two hours. Then cut into 6 equal parts. For the plain ara'eesh, roll each part to form an 11 inch log , trim the ends then cut each log into 8 pieces.
If you are going to stuff it, then we will make a rectangle instead of a log.
Then you need to shape agwa into a rope that will take almost third of the rectangle, roll it over to form a stuffed cylinder.
Then cut into 8 equal pieces.
For simplicity, some people skip rolling and just form it into a rectangle then cut the dough into pieces like shown below. But the rolled one is the traditional shape of ara'eesh.
Brushing the top with some egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds.
Bake and enjoy the wonderful world of ara'eesh with a cup of tea or coffee.
For the butter/oil and water/milk dilemma here is my two cents:
Using butter makes it super tasty but soft, using oil makes it crunchy but not as tasty.
Using water makes it lighter and using milk makes it richer.
I've experimented with different combinations and sent out test samples as well. Older people like it soft and buttery, kiddos like it buttery too. For me, I like it the way I used to buy it in Egypt. So what I did was use half the fat butter and the other half oil, for the liquids I used milk.
So, you might wanna start experimenting too as a way for having fun with the kids in the kitchen, or make it my way and call it a day.
Well, that's it for today's recipe. I hope you'll try ara'eesh and tell me what do you think... see you on soon.
- Maamoul is a traditional Middle Eastern cookie made usually filled with date. It has a soft texture and a delicate flavor.
- 4 cups AP flour.
- ¼ teaspoon salt.
- ½ cup butter unsalted.
- ½ cup vegetable oil or melted butter.* Note1
- ½ cup milk or water.* I've used milk.
- 1 Tablespoon dry yeast.
- 1 teaspoon sugar.
- 2 Tablespoon sesame seeds.
- optional: one or more of the following.
- 1 teaspoon anise seeds.
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds.
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds.
- For garnishing: more sesame seeds.
- For stuffing: If you are going to fill all the araeesh you’ll need a batch of agwa recipe.
- In the mixer bowl combine flour, salt, yeast, sesame seeds , your optional add ons and sugar and mix well,
- Melt the butter and add oil to butter then pour over the flour, make sure the mixture is not hot.
- Mix together until flour is completely incorporated.
- Warm up the milk and pour gradually over the flour until the dough comes together.
- Turn the dough into a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 5 minutes,
- Cover the dough and let it rise for two hours.
- Preheat oven to 325F.
- Divide dough into 6 equal parts.
- If you are going to make a plain araeesh then roll the section into an 11 inch long log then cut into 8 equal parts.
- If you are going to stuff it with agra then roll each into an 11 inch long , with almost 4mm thickness, rectangle. Roll agra into smaller cylinders placing into the center of the dough then roll the dough over to contain all agwa. Divide into 8 equal parts.
- Place on a Silpat lined baking sheet, brush with egg and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes until bottom gets nicely browned, then broil for one or two minutes till it has browned nicely.
- Let it completely cool on a rack.
- Store in an airtight container for 2 weeks.
Can i freeze the ready-to-be-baked pastry or should i bake it first and then freeze. It's too much work to make fresh the day of 🙂
I haven't tried it doreen but I do not see why not.
I have made these cookies 3 times and each time they are so good. The dough can be a bit finicky to work with but my husband who is Egyptian loved them! I love that they aren’t very sweet and my family that are diabetic can enjoy them as well. Thank you
Carrie, thank you so much for your comment and feedback. I am so happy that you liked them.
Looks so good! Can't wait to try it. I've never been to Egypt but I love Middle Eastern sweets. Nearly swooned the first time I went into a Syrian baklawa shop with nothing but pastries.
Syrians are masters in food.. I find the Levant cuisine to be the most flavorful. Thank you so much. I hope you'll like the recipes here.
Can I use instant yeast instead of dry?
Yes Grace use it.
Thank you for this wonderful recipe Amira. I've been looking for an ara'eesh recipe for such a long time and was so happy to find yours. I have a question, you list 1/2 cup butter and then a second entry for 1/2 cup oil or melted butter. Does this mean it is a full cup of fats?
I made it with 1/2 cup of oil/melted butter, but the dough seemed too dry.
Looking forward to making it again.
Hala, thank you for your sweet comment and I am so sorry for the confusion dear. Yes you are right the recipe calls for a total of one cup usually people use 1/2 cup butter and half oil. I've used 3/4 cup butter and 1/4 oil. I hope this helps. Let me know if you need anything more.
I am just making these now - thrilled to find this recipe as I used to work in a natural food store (The Real Food Company) in San Francisco in the 1980's and 1990's. We used to get these cookies from a local bakery - can't remember their name - they just called them "Sunshine Cookies." I was addicted to them. I never could find them again and have tried to approximate the recipe once or twice with not bad results...but was so excited to see this recipe and the cookies- looking EXACTLY as my old favorites did! One thing puzzles me, though - really just ONE TEASPOON of sugar in the dough recipe? That just doesn't seem like very much, especially if you are not filling them with the date paste (which I AM doing, because that's what I am used to.) I have to admit I added more sugar. But maybe you can explain it to me!
Oh Suzanne, sunshine cookies seems just the right name for these beauties... I love them. Anyways, I hope these will bring good memories to your heart. For your question, in Egypt we are used to them either filled or not filled. Usually the not filled ones are eaten with savory things like cheese. May be that's why the sugar is not that much. I hope this answers your question. Let me know how it went with you. much love ♥.