Assyrian Holiday Cookies (Kileche/Kleicha)
Although I call these “Assyrian Holiday cookies,” the truth is they are not exclusively an Assyrian cookie. In fact, they are Iraq’s national cookie; specifically the date filled variety. They are called “kileche” in Assyrian, while they are known as “kleicha” in Arabic. I was originally going to name this recipe Assyrian “Christmas” Cookies, but I decided to call them “holiday” cookies instead. No, I wasn’t trying to be politically correct. I’m the least politically correct person around. No, it’s because we usually make them twice a year; Christmas and Easter. I think it’s because they take so much effort to make. But the fact that we only make them twice a year makes them even more special!
Kileche will usually have three different fillings: date, walnut, and coconut. Date kileche are easy to identify, because the filling is visible. The other two (walnut and coconut) are not as easy to identify. For this reason, we make them in different shapes. If there is extra dough remaining, it’s usually rolled into braids or wreaths. My sister, Beni, loves the ones without filling, but they’re my least favorite. If I’m going to blow my diet, filling definitely needs to be involved. You’ll find that most people have their favorite filling; I prefer the walnut. But truth be told, I wouldn’t kick any of them off my plate! What about you? Do you have a favorite?
But Do I Have the Time?
I originally estimated it would take three hours to complete this recipe, boy was I wrong! I started at 7 AM, and I finished around 2 PM. In my defense, it does take longer to stop to take pictures and write down all the steps for the blog post. Just to be safe, clear the calendar on the day you decide to make them. There are other factors that play into the time required for this recipe. For example, will you have help? I always make them by myself. Sadly, my sisters don’t live close by, and my daughter hates to be in the kitchen. If you can enlist help, I highly recommend it. Making kileche can be compared to making tamales. It’s an all day ordeal, but with great reward! Involve your family and friends, and make it a cherished holiday tradition!
Do I Need Special Tools and Ingredients?
I’m happy to report that you don’t need any special tools or ingredients to make kileche. All you really need is a rolling pin, a work surface, and ingredients easily purchased at your local supermarket. Having said that, there are a few tools that can make your job a little easier. One such tool is called a maamoul mold. This mold is used to make another Middle Eastern cookie, known as “maamoul.” This awesome mold can also be used to form the coconut kileche. Another fun tool, a krinkle cutter, can be used to add a decorative edge to the date kileche. As far as the ingredients are concerned, you might have a hard time finding sativa seeds and rose water. Luckily, they can both be purchased on Amazon. You’ll notice that they are both optional ingredients, but I wouldn’t skip the sativa seeds. They add a wonderful nutty flavor!