Date cookie bracelets, or ka'ak asawer (which translates to bracelet cookies because of their round shape), are definitely a Palestinian staple. You know those smells and flavors that truly transport you into a memory? I used to look forward to Eid mornings as a kid just so I could have some freshly baked ka'ak asawer with my tea, and just the smell of these takes me back to those simpler times. I'll share with you the simplest and quickest way to make these date-filled cookie bracelets, which are always a hit at any gathering.
What Are Aniseeds?
These date cookies have a special flavor and aroma because of the aniseeds. Aniseeds are little seeds that kind of smell like licorice, and you'll usually find them used in lots of Palestinian dishes. You'll usually find them at any store that sells spices and herbs. Aniseeds or anise are called yansoon in Arabic and my mom used to boil them to make tea. They're known to help with stomach aches and digestion.
- Date Paste: Ready-made date paste will probably be at your local supermarket, which is super easy to work with by hand because it has a firmer texture. Or you can make your own as I did by blending around 1 ½ cups of pitted dates with around 2 tablespoons of hot water. This will give you a stickier date paste. The best type of dates to use for this method is softer varieties like Medjool or safawy dates, because they'll blend easily without you needing to add too much water.
- Flour: I've made these cookies with white all-purpose flour and with wholemeal flour. If you prefer wholemeal, use equal parts wholemeal and white flour, because the texture will be off if you only use wholemeal flour.
- Olive Oil: My mom always gets me some extra virgin olive oil which she gets shipped from Palestine, but you can just use your favorite kind of olive oil. You can also use half olive oil and half ghee. I'm personally not a huge fan of the flavor ghee gives these cookies, and I think olive oil compliments them just perfectly. But it's really up to you.
- Anise Seeds: These are definitely the secret ingredient. You'll love the way they make your whole house smell. They also make a great tea when boiled. You can't imagine how many health benefits anise seeds have!!
- Sugar: You'll only need a tiny bit of white sugar for this date cookie recipe. I personally think the dates give it the perfect sweetness already. You can also use brown sugar if you prefer it.
- Cinnamon: The sweet undertones of cinnamon mixed with the nutty flavor of anise is just heavenly.
- Water: To know if your water's at the right temperature, stick your finger in it. If it's around your body temperature, it's perfect.
- Baking Powder: You only need a pinch. It's what gives these cookies their crumbly exterior.
- Salt: I prefer a pinch of sea salt. It deepens the flavor of the dates.
How To Make Ka'ak Asawer
Make these date bracelet cookies in three main steps: make the dough, prepare the date paste, and shape the bracelet cookies (and then bake).
Make the Dough
Start by mixing the dry ingredients. Flour, aniseeds, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add in the olive oil and mix by hand until the flour mixture gets the texture of wet sand.
Gradually add in the warm water and knead by hand until your dough is smooth and shiny (knead for at least 5 minutes).
How To Make Date Paste
Ready-made date paste for ka'ak asawer isn't always easy to find. If you can find it, it'll definitely make life easier. If you can't find ready-made date paste for these date cookies, just blend around 1 and ½ cups of pitted dates with around 2 tablespoon of hot water to make your own date paste. You're going to want to blend the dates very well in order to get a sticky paste. You can also add a tablespoon of olive oil.
How To Shape Ka'ak Into Bracelets
Start by separating your dough into equal portions. This recipe will give you more or less around 20 cookies.
Roll the ball into a log, then flatten with your hand until you get a long oval shape. Make sure to leave around 1 cm of dough on each end, so you'll be able to seal the date cookies without the filling spilling out. You'll figure out exactly how much date paste each cookie needs. Overfilling them will make it hard to shut, and underfilling them will give you a blander cookie.
Pinch the edges well to seal them, then roll into "bracelets", or the date cookie's round shape.
After you roll them into the round shape, press down with your finger where both ends meet to make sure they won't unseal.
Repeat until all your dough is rolled into cookie bracelets. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 ℉ (180 ℃) for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden.
Tips For Making The Dough
- The dough: When you make the dough, make sure you mix the dry ingredients really well before adding olive oil. And then when you do add the olive oil, you want to end up with a texture that's kind of like wet sand. This will make sure the olive oil is evenly incorporated.
- The water: Add the warm water gradually while you knead the date cookie dough. You might need slightly more or slightly less water, depending on the type of flour you use. You should end up with a super soft and easily workable dough. It shouldn't be too tough or sticky or else it'll be hard to shape.
- Allow date cookie dough to rest. For the best ka'ak cookies try to let your dough rest for at least an hour. You can work with it straight away of course, but I found that resting the dough gives you a flakier date cookie.
These date-filled cookies can be stored at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.