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SAVTA’S DATE COOKIES

For cookie dough:

  • 125g caster (2/3 cup super fine) sugar
  • 225g (1 cup) unsalted butter or margarine at room temperature, diced
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 380g (3 cups) plain flour

For filling:

  • 400g (14 ounces) pitted dates
  • 400ml (14 fl ounces) boiling water
  • 100g (3 ½ ounces) walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Zest of half an orange

For the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the salt and egg and beat until combined, add the lemon juice and beat once more, then add the flour and beat until just combined. Dump the contents of the mixing bowl directly onto a clean work surface and knead a couple of times until you have a smooth dough. Divide the dough into two equal portions, shape the dough into disks and wrap each in plastic wrap or baking paper. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to 3 days. Alternatively, freeze the raw dough for a month and be sure to let the dough thaw before attempting to roll it out.

While the dough chills, make the filling: Start by soaking the dates in boiling water for a half-hour, until the dates have softened. Drain the dates well and squeeze out any excess water. Place the dates, chopped nuts, cinnamon and orange rind in a food processor. Pulse the mixture until you have a rough paste, if you prefer a smoother filling keep pulsing the contents of the food processor until you reach the desired consistency.

To Assemble: Preheat oven to 160°C (350°F), line a baking tray with a piece of baking paper and set aside. Between two sheets of baking paper, or on a well-floured baking mat, roll out one portion of dough into a rough rectangle about ¼ inch thick (about 13 x 9 inches). Cover the dough with half the filling, leaving a bit of a border on all sides. Starting with the long side, roll up the dough jelly-roll style. Place the cookie roll on the prepared baking tray. Using a sharp knife, make shallow indentations every ½ inch along the top of the cookie roll/loaf to indicate where, once baked, you will cut the roll into cookies. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Place second cookie roll on the baking tray alongside the first roll, allowing about 3 inches apart.

Place cookies in the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown. Take out of the oven and cool for five minutes before slicing the cookies along the indentations. Once completely cool, store in an airtight container for 3-4 days. These cookies also freeze brilliantly.

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