Saturday 7 March 2015

Semolina Cookies

One Batch of Dough, Two Delicious Cookies

The same basic dough is used for these Date Bars and Pistachio Cookies. It's a Dan Lepard recipe, given Middle Eastern flavours with pomegranate molasses, rose water and orange blossom water. I made one batch of dough from this recipe, and made a half quantity of the Date Bars and half a batch of these Pistachio Cookies.

I had decided to use semolina for this month's AlphaBakes Challenge (Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker has chosen the letter S), and was trying to decide between a cake  or biscuits when Janie of The Hedge Combers announced that the March Tea Time Treats challenge was for cookies and biscuits. The decision was made for me - I would make semolina cookies which could be an entry for both baking challenges.

Semolina seems to be common in Middle Eastern and Asian cooking, but is less well known in the UK as a baking ingredient. It's sometimes added to shortbread to make it crisper and crumblier, but is best known as the basis for the sort of milk pudding that we all hated at school! Semolina is the coarse centres of durum wheat grains, left after the flour has been milled away. 

I looked at many recipes for semolina cookies, which all looked similar, but they had small differences in the proportions of fat, flour and eggs, so that it was impossible to decide if one recipe was going to work out better than another. In the end I found Dan's recipe and was persuaded by the extra flavours added to the cookie dough. After trying it, I'm sure the dough on it's own would have made delicious cookies.

In the first recipe the dough is rolled out and wrapped around a filling of spiced date purée and in the second, chopped pistachios and a little more sugar is added, and then the dough is just rolled into balls. Both recipes were fairly straightforward - just a little fiddly - and gave good results. One tip I can pass on - if you are going to purée dried dates in a food processor, cut each one in half across the length, to check that the stones have been removed. I found two left in in my pack of dates. Trying to process a date stone could be a costly blunder!

The dough was a little dryer than I expected, and I eventually realised (after it was too late to put things right) that I hadn't added quite enough liquid, as I had used less of the rose water and orange flower water (mine are quite concentrated and I've been caught out in the past by following recipe instructions and finding out I'd used too much) but hadn't made up for the lower volume of liquid.

The dry dough was difficult to roll out and meant that the dough round the Date Bars cracked a little during baking. It was also difficult to incorporate all the chopped nuts for the Pistachio Cookies, but I'm not sure if that was due to the dryness, which made the dough crumbly, or the sheer volume of nuts - probably a bit of both.  At least I know how to remedy the problem - a couple of tablespoons of milk or water is all that is needed next time.

Additionally, next time I will flatten the Date Bars a little before cooking. This wasn't mentioned in the instructions, so I expected that they would flatten naturally during cooking to turn out as in the photograph accompanying the recipe (see the link above). As you can see from the photographs of my Date Bars, this didn't happen!

Both these cookies were delicious, in different ways. The Date Bars were the best - the moist spicy date filling and the crunchy sesame seed coating were a good contrast to the crumbly cookie dough.

However, with the Pistachio Cookies the added flavours in the dough shone through, particularly the rose water, as the pistachio nuts did not have a strong flavour.

AlphaBakes (rules here) is hosted alternately by Ros, of The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline of Caroline Makes.

Tea Time Treats (rules here) is hosted alternately by Janie of The Hedge Combers and Karen of Lavender and Lovage.


Karen S Booth said...

I LOVE cookkies like these Suelle and they make a perfect treat for the afternoon! Great TTT entry, thanks! Karen

Baking Addict said...

Great idea for AlphaBakes this month and I am impressed that you baked not one but two different types of cookies. It's hard to choose a favourite - they both sound delicious. Thanks for joining in AlphaBakes.

Snowy said...

These look good Suelle. Haven't tried baking with semolina, but you've inspired me to try.

Unknown said...

I would happily dive into either (or even better, both!)
Thanks so muc for sharing with Tea Time Treats :)
Janie x

Anonymous said...

Mmm what lovely flavours! I'm particularly intrigued by the pomegranate molasses... we have some but I have no idea how to use it or what to do with it! I'll have to try this.
It's also good to hear to how the dough was a bit crumbly here and there so I'll have an idea of what to expect :)