The other day I entered a home and was informed that I would be making kleicha (sometimes a similar version is called ma’amoul). Now first of all, I had no clue we were baking. Second, I don’t even know how to pronounce kleicha, let alone make it! And so I replied, “Okay, let me wash my hands.” Then the kleicha experience began…. If you never heard of kleicha, this is when you will be hearing what it is. If you never baked with someone from the Middle East, you are about to learn how that goes as well.
Kleicha (pronounced clay cha) – a type of biscuit, or cookie, that comes in an assortment of shapes and can be filled with several different fillings; common ingredients include cardamom, rose water and dates; most often served on Eid
- Step One – Dough: To begin making kleicha, mix the ingredients that will end up becoming your dough. Now, this process was started before I arrived, so I’m providing a similar recipe here, in case anyone is brave enough to make some. When I discovered I’d be making kleicha (which I continuously repeated inside my head, attempting to pronounce my creation correctly), this is what was already on the table: Here we have the dough, date paste (silver bowl) and ground walnuts (small white bowl). My instructions, “Get this ready.” Translation, “Pull off sections of the dough, roll it until it is very thin, a little thicker than paper.”
- Step Two – Shape Biscuits: We then used a variety of kitchen tools from the ever so useful cup (perfect circle cutter) to some contraption that I do not know its name (if you do, please state it in the comments section; if you don’t, still leave a comment J ). Here is what this step looked like: I enjoyed this step because you can become so creative with the shapes you form. You can put the date paste on the dough like sauce on a pizza (just work with me here folks) and then put another layer of dough on top. Next, you cut strips and then twist them like a party streamer (again…just go with it). Finally, you can loop them into circles, or hearts, like we did here: You can use the nameless thingy and form the common balls and ovals, or you can stretch your imagination (or a friendly YouTube video) and make anything you desire. We used the specialty tool to shape the walnut biscuits. The instructions were, “Put it in your hand and put in the nuts. Then you make ball and put it in here (tool). Then go like this (banging tool against table) and there.” Translation, I put a circle of dough in my hand (thus the lack of a picture), spooned about 1 teaspoon of the ground nuts in the center, bring the sides of the dough up and pinch together at the top to make a ball. Then you press this into that tool until it is firmly inside (or you will get a puzzled look when your biscuits have no fancy design on top) and then turn it upside-down and tap the edge on the table until the dough falls out.
- Step Three – Bake the Biscuits: After traying up the biscuits, it was time to bake them. I was told, “Turn on the oven.” Reply, “To how many degrees?” Response, “Just turn it on.” Translation, “Oven on means we are cooking. Oven off means not cooking. Degrees are irrelevant.” Check out this picture and find what interesting shapes/objects/creatures you can see (add it in the comments section): After they had been baking for a few minutes, I was told, “Take them out in five minutes.” Translation, “Take them out in one minute.” Proof of this translation – I was told five minutes. I then walked one yard and grabbed a water bottle. At that moment I was told, “Take them out.” Clearly Middle Eastern clocks run differently than those in America. (ha ha) The biscuits were transferred into a large bowl to cool down. After they cooled down, we placed them on a serving tray:
That ends my adventure of learning what kleicha is and how to make it. I’m eager to make them again one day! Hopefully you got to learn about a new recipe from a different country, along with key tips on interpretation while cooking in a Middle Eastern kitchen. 🙂
Ahmeli… that cultures can learn from each other in many settings, including the kitchen.
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