Date Filled Ghraybeh/ Ghraybe
If I had to think about a staple holiday cookie that reminds me of home, then ghraybeh is quite literally the first thing that jumps to my mind, and specifically date filled graybeh; yes ghraybeh, the Lebanese shortbread cookies with an interior date mixture. Eventually, ghraybeh comes in different forms and shapes. I had previously shared a ghraybeh recipe on the blog. Here I tweaked the ratio of sugar and reduced it by half, since these ghraybe cookies are filled with dates, just to balance the sugar income.
When we were on our way to the south visiting my in-laws in Lebanon, Ramzi and I stopped by sweetshops in Saida (Saidon). There are oriental sweetshops on every street, and Saida has the reputation for being home to some of the best Lebanese sweets, and one of the most celebrated desserts is Ghraybe/Seniora alongside maamoul. Seniora and Ghraybeh are eventually almost the same! It is fun to see the same shortbread dough can used to make varied shapes and types of cookies.
We finished our visit at “Al baba Sweets” where we munched on “ghraybe” and “maamoul mad bil ashta”, both were so compelling, and we couldn’t stop until we ate every bit of our generous plates. “Al Baba” makes a wide variety of ghraybeh. Brimming with different forms presented in wide round trays – made plain, filled with dates or pistachios. Really these are seriously difficult to resist.
Date filled ghraybeh are buttery and crumbly with a soft date center, they are somewhat similar to maamoul with dates, but the flavors are of a different variety, ghraybeh is a shortbread while maamoul’s main ingredient is semolina.
The key to making a good ghraybeh is to use clarified butter instead of butter. Clarified butter has no milk solids, which makes it great for almost all Middle Eastern sweets – it can bare higher cooking temperature without burning.
In my humble opinion, there is a world of difference, between the store-bought canned clarified butter (samneh) and the one you make at home. The store-bought samneh has a pungent smell and flavor that is too strong for my taste, so if you are anything like me, make your own clarified butter – the process is simple to make. Be sure to use a good butter quality.
To clarify the butter: In a small saucepan heat the butter over low heat until it is melted. Remove from heat. Skim the white foam off the surface as it appears on top. Set aside for 10 minutes. You will notice the milk solids fall to the bottom. Strain it through a wire sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth to get rid of the milk solids. Now your clarified butter is ready.
Now your clarified butter is ready.
You can use samneh (ready clarified butter) from Middle Eastern stores, but then reduce it to 450 g instead of 500 g of butter
The cookies will be a bit soft when they first come out of the oven, so be sure to cool them on the sheet pan. Once they are firm enough, transfer them to a serving dish. The cookies are perfect for someone with egg allergy .
There is nothing better than a deliciously crumbly shortbread cookie. And trust me the homemade Middle Eastern morsels are certainly a treat!
Keep in an air-tight container and they will last for up to two weeks
I hope you enjoy the date filled ghraybeh if you make them.
And now let’s get started!
First off, you need to clarify the butter:
- 500 g/ 1 lb. 2 oz. unsalted butter, use a good quality (to be clarified)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 4 cups flour
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 750 g. /26 oz. dates, use the best quality
- 2 tablespoons orange blossom water
- ½ teaspoon mastic gum crushed with a pinch of sugar, optional
- 1 teaspoon canola oil
- First off, you need to clarify the butter: In a small saucepan heat the butter over low heat until it is melted. Remove from heat. Skim the white foam off the surface as it appears on top. Set aside for 10 minutes. You will notice the milk solids fall to the bottom. Strain it through a wire sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth to get rid of the milk solids. Now your clarified butter is ready.
- To make the date filling: Pull open the dates and remove the pits using a serrated knife.
- Transfer the dates to a food processor and add the oil, orange blossom water and mastic gum, if used, and blend to get a paste.
- Roll the date into small balls roughly the size of a grape, if the dates are sticking to your hands rub your hands with a little oil. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400 °F. Position the baking rack in the middle of the oven.
- To make the cookie dough: In a large bowl combine together the clarified butter and powdered sugar. Add the flour and baking soda, and mix well with the tips of your fingers.
- The mixture will first crumble, continue kneading until you have until you have a smooth malleable dough.
- Divide the dough into equal balls, roughly the size of an apricot.
- Make a hole in the center of each ball, with your finger fill the hole with a date ball. Seal the hole patching the dough together and roll it to a ball. Repeat as necessary.
- Place the date filled balls on a sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving some space between one another.
- Bake about 12 -15 minutes to a creamy color. Keep an eye on your oven, they shouldn’t brown. Cool them on the sheet pan, then transfer them with a spatula to a serving dish.
- Garnish with ground pistachios, optional!
1 cup is 250 ml /8 fl. oz